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.
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.
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,
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.
Despite the fears and worries it started with, the world cup turned out to be quite an organizational success. In football terms, most Brazilians could have done without that semi-final* against Germany…
Though even after that stunning game and painful defeat, our Brazilian friends continued to be fantastic hosts. Having wisely made the decision to watch the semi-final apart, we came back together for the final and found our friends cheering louder for Germany than we did. In a room that was beautifully decorated in German colours.
I probably made this comment before, still: Brazil might have many political, social and economic problems, but the people are great. The hospitality we experienced, the passion for futebol, and the cheerful yet critical pride in their own nation & its football team – it really makes a good place to live.
* Interesting side note: As the Brazilian team progressed through the world cup, the coach became “Felipão” – the great Felipe – in the newspapers and on TV. After the 7-1 defeat, he was referred to as Luis Felipe Scolari again.
Driving through the inlands of Alagoas, it is visible even to the untrained eye, that this land hasn’t seen enough rain in months. It turns out that the truth is worse. In the past two years, rain has been sparse. People hope that this year’s raining season that is just about to start will be better.
Besides dried out land and meager cows, one of the consequences of this prolonged drought is the increased risk of black-outs. Hydropower is the main source of electricity in Brazil and the dam of Xingo on rio São Franciso is the third most important of the entire country as the guide didn’t tire to repeat.
The dam and the large reservoir are shared between the two states of Alagoas and Sergipe. It’s only possible to visit the plant with a guided tour which makes a lot of sense but, as so often, requires a sound mastery of Portuguese. After being shown a short movie, we went by car to the dam, being able to see the spillway and then on to the turbine hall. There isn’t much to see of the turbines themselves though you can guess which company build them after seeing the big Willkommen sign outside.
What I found missing were more details about the generation process. Maybe it was my Portuguese, maybe it just wasn’t there but I wouldn’t have mind hearing more about how you convert falling water into something that powers my laptop instead of being told over and over how important this dam is.
Still, it was time and money well spent learning more about this part of the country and its development.
Sometimes, when speaking about the Brazilians, I have to stop myself from generalizing. The Northeast is not always representative of the entire country and Alagoas even less so. Having said this, one of the things that bothers me most here is ‘the matter of fact’ with which common places are polluted.
According to the discussions with other people, the the main reason seems to be a lack of sense for the common good. The idea that the beach, a park, or the streets are places for everybody and that it is therefore everybody’s duty to keep them clean; seems to be wanting. Now, I don’t say people should clean these places, they should however stop littering them.
Still, a common sight here – to give just one example – are children on the beach, dropping their plastic cups or ice wrapping wherever they happen to stand. Will the parents scold them? Show them how to do it better? Nope, one the contrary, they serve as a fine example; dropping the beer can right next to the chair where they sit.
Whether this behaviour speaks more of thoughtlessness or arrogance – à la ‘someone will surely clean this up’; I cannot say. The pity is that even those who complain about this attitude won’t go and challenge the ones who throw their rubbish around.
With tourism being one of the most important sources of income in the region, there is hope that over time, this attitude may change. But why not simply for the sake of it?
Do you know this feeling when every day appears to be longer but still 14 days seem to be less than 2 weeks? When your memory is filled with so many impressions that you don’t even know where to start? When the return to your ‘normal’ life feels really hard because the journey was so beautiful?
It’s the price to pay. Though it really is not too high.
One more full MBA week – it is exhausting, fun and insightful. And, it means we are more than a third of the way through the programme. I have no idea when this happened. By my time feeling, last month was January.
But then, life goes on: more papers to do – some fun including factory visits; some less so including t-tails and probabilities. The reward: a four day mini holiday on the French coast. Despite the weather forecast, sunshine trumps rain, warmth conquers the cold. J’adore!