Taking the long way home

The train line between Curitiba and Morretes was completed in 1885 and counts today among the top tourist attractions the region has to offer. After having been told countless times to take the train, we finally did so thanks to a speedy last minute hike-run up to the Marumbi station.

While in the first minutes, we were just very happy to sit, we spend the next 90 minutes marveling. The train ride really is spectacular and I can not only recommend it but would urge you to do so soon: Even to the untrained eye, the rail tracks appear as old as they are, the bridges have become a fertile ground for all kinds of plants and the whole set-up seems shaky to say the least.

This observation was confirmed by the fact that the train needed a whopping 3 hours for the 50 kilometers from Marumbi and goes particularly slowly at switch points. In the city, we saw cyclists being faster than the train. Though, to be honest, none of this tarnished our joy of simply sitting, looking out of the window and enjoying a very relaxed ride home.

Caminho do Itupava – worst Wanderweg ever

The Itupava trail is a historic path connecting the coast to the highlands of Paraná. For the best part of 200 years, right until 1873, it actually was the only one. Today, the traffic thunders along the highways and while a few hundred thousand Curitibanos choose to go this way to spend a long weekend on the beach, we picked the third of the three days to hike the old one.

The morning started early enough with a bus at 7:26 to the outskirts of the city Quatro Barras, and from there a taxi to the appropriately named Borda do Campo – the edge of the field. Or in our case: the forest.

The hike started easy and we made good progress while hoping for the fog to dissipate. Which it did around the same time that the proper, historic trail started: Stones, carried and laid by slaves almost 400 years ago. Slavery has fortunately long gone but the stones remain, polished by thousands of feed, burst through by trees, disappearing in mud, and grown over by moss.

While the nature in these areas is fantastic – we saw toucans, lots of other birds, frogs and the trees are each an ecosystem on their own – the trail itself is not very enjoyable. As we found out the hard way, the slippery stones offer little to no stable ground to walk on and the steep, downhill parts of the hike became quickly dangerous.

Being forced to descend carefully, it took us much longer than expected to cover the 16 km distance before we finally hit the gravel road again. This left us with an optimistic 25 minutes and still 2 km uphill to cover to the Marumbi train station where we had to catch our ride home. I was as pleased as exhausted when we made it.

All in all, was it worth doing the Itupava trail? Yes. Would I do it again? No.

Morro do Canal – hiking in Paraná

When googling for hikes around Curitiba – fazer trilha – one of the first I came across was the Morro do Canal. Morro meaning as much as hill or top. At 1370 meters high, it’s the last top of the Marumbi mountain chain; or in other words, the closest to Curitiba, being within a mere 45 minutes drive.

Not knowing what expected us, we had invited a friend along. Luckily for us, this friend really loves hiking. While first part of the path is laid out extremely well, including via ferrata style iron chains and food steps, the second part is slightly more adventurous.

OsmAnd served us again extremely well, indicating each, ever so slight, diversion of the trail. It also helped us to actually find the beginning, “It should be to the left here”; and there it was hidden behind some high grass. And, it made the decision ‘left or right’ easier whenever the blue little plastic band that was wrapped around branches, failed to show up at the decisive moment.

What OsmAnd hadn’t showed us, was the seven meter abseiling, secured only by two ropes. Let’s say that we managed and that I was happy that this would remain the only one. The rest was mainly finding our ways through the dense Atlantic rain forest, avoiding ankle-deep mud, snacking on bread and salami while enjoying the view, and generally being glad of having used sunscreen. In other words: A perfect 6 hour hike for a Sunday.

Not the average rabbit hole

After deciding to leave Vila Velha and see if we could not make better use of our time and the weather elsewhere, we first drove into Ponta Grossa for a quick lunch and a glance on our map.

The close-by national park dos Campos gerais attracted our interest, especially the Buraco do Padre - the priest’s hole. 18 km on asphalted road and 5 on non-asphalted later, we parked our car on close to a field populated by some cattle.Barren land
The dry, spare landscape did its best to provide the perfect contrast to what was going to come. After some more meters across a lovely stream,

Streaming

there was a sudden opening and already we found ourself at the bottom of a hole 30 meters wide and some 50 meters deep with a waterfall coming straight out of a golden spot.

A kind of magic not only because of its beauty. The way as well as the ground of the hole were clean, despite being an obviously popular location for a Sunday afternoon walk. I know that I’m sometimes very critical when it comes to the indiscriminate polution of common ground in Brazil. The more I was delighted to see this wonderful place, visited by many people who – by and large – are taking care of it.

PANO_20140803_150226Maravilhoso!

Vila velha

or as it could be called: protecting nature from the people.

Vila velha is a small natural park about one hour northwest of Curitiba. Having seen the pictures online as well as the weather forecast, we decided to see it for ourselves.

If only that would be so easy. The first thing you have to do when arriving at the park, is to sit through a 10 minute video, explaining what there is to be seen and how a visitor should behave: no plugging out of plants, not carving your name into the stone, not leaving your trash behind, etc.

Knowing the behaviour and respect of nature of the average Brazilian visitor, unfortunately, this guidance is not as superfluous as it may seem to the average German one. What bothered us more was the fact that you cannot move around freely between the three sites of the park – the sandstone formations, the furnas and the golden lake – but have to take a little bus instead. This bus however has fixed hours. No going earlier but wait for your turn…

So after a nice stroll around the sandstone, we could have waited for one hour to be packed in bus with 40 people, to drive 4km across the park, to walk 400 meters to see two holes in the ground, walk 400 meters back, take the bus back, wait for another hour, get on another bus…

Sure those holes  are impressive – to judge by the pictures – but we still preferred to jump in the car and try our luck elsewhere.

Reality catching up

If a week after the delightful, almost magical experience of resolving a problem quickly and painfully, you have neither received a call nor an email confirming that indeed, everything is ok; and you start to wonder what’s going on; the only solution (after nobody answers your calls) is to go and see for yourself.

Only to find out that your file has been, oh well, kind of forgotten. Because your phone number was lacking, though you distinctively remember providing this essential bit of information. Before you even get to ask why nobody thought about emailing you, it dawns on you that this is just reality setting in.

And you realize: Everything is back to normal.

Shopping in Brazil – an addition

In the advent season, most shops hire additional assistants to service as many customers as possible. However, when no customer happens to be in the shop, all the assistants can do is stand around. All 10 or 12 or even more of them in an empty shop. Somehow I cannot refrain from imagining that – should a solitary customer wander into the shop – it would be very easy for these assistants to seize the customer and hold her down till she obliges to buy something.

Needless to say that I avoid most shopping besides groceries in the pre-Christmas times in Brazil.