Monthly Archives: September 2014

Mass movement

Brazilians take sport very seriously. Not withstanding that obesity is becoming more and more of a problem, sport is an important part of social life.

Almost every village – or neighborhood in the big cities – has its public gym. The most basic version are some steel bars and a few concrete ramps, allowing for most muscle-building exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups. The more advanced forms look like fancy playgrounds with often brightly colored gym machines – if that is the correct term:

In terms of equipment, Brazilians only know two kinds: none or full battle. So either you see a guy in flip-flops and a t-shirt make a few push-ups or you see a woman with super-duper fancy running shoes, drinking bottle, iPod clip, a support bra and the most psychedelic leggings witnessed in human history.

Actually, leggins with visually nauseating color-pattern combinations are as omnipresent as outrageously ugly. It still defies my imagination as to why anybody would voluntarily subject herself to wear such a piece of clothing.

Be this as it may,  in the late afternoon and early evenings, it’s time for the mass movement. Outside the big cities, people will walk along the road, before hitting the public gym. Inside the cities, any park – or if available: the beach – will be a popular spot to finish the day with a few exercises and a neighborly chat.


Differentiation, Brazilian style

Differentiation is in business terms defined as making your product or service different from others, to make it more attractive to whoever it is you want to sell it to. Brazilian shops are a great example how not to do it.

When driving through the villages of the Brazilian hinterland, we often see all kinds of artisan products on sale: wooden kitchen ware, straw hats, puppets or clothes, stone pots, etc. However, in any given village, you only see one of its kind, e.g. 5 small shops with carefully laid out wooden kitchen ware – all in exactly the same style, from the same material, for the same price.

Another example are the Tapioca stands on the beach. Tapioca is a regional specialty; a kind of pancake made from manioc flour filled with coconut, cheese and other stuff. It seems to be an unwritten law, that there can never be just one Tapioca stand. No, there have to be four if not five stands, one next to the other, selling the same food, for the same price and with the same slow service.

Even in the city centers, it is not rare to find clusters of shops all selling identical products. On the contrary, some streets are known for having dozens of bike shops, car repairs, furniture or household appliances shops. At least there, it comes to the advantage of the customer: With only a little bit of negotiation skills, it is possible to get a really good bargain.

Anhangava – a Saturday afternoon hike

Turns out that the Morro do Anhangava is as close to Curitiba as the Morro do Canal and even easier to hike. As we were informed by the two rangers who sat by the parking lot, the fastest the entire hike has been done is 45 minutes.

With our almost 4 hours, we were very far from such a speed, also because there was no need to. What else was there to do on a sunny and moderately warm Saturday than to hike up, sit in the sunshine, chat with fellow hikers, enjoy the pick-nick and leisurely stroll down on the other side?

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 foot 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 of the second – longer- part, “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.