Thursday, 28 April 2011

The train to Morretes

Dear all

I think I'm going to really like our short excursion into Brazil. We have spent the last two days in Curitiba. Most people have never even heard of this place let alone added it too their travel, but its one of Brazil's urban success stories
This city has slums: some of the same shantytown 'favelas' that dominate most South American cities, have sprouted on the edge of town as the population has rocketed. But even they are different, & hopeful in palpable ways. They are clean, for instance, under a city program, a slum-dweller who collects a sack of garbage gets a sack of food from the city in return. And Curitiba is the classic example of decent lives helping produce a decent environment. Because it has a great public transport system, and because its inhabitants are attracted toward the city center instead of repelled out to a sprawl of suburbs, Curitibans use 25 percent less fuel per capita than other Brazilians, even though they are actually more likely to own cars.

Anyway I digress as this isn't a moralising blog its all about our adventures and the main reason we came to Curitiba was to catch a train out of it!  There are very few trains left in South America & those that are still running are usually just scenic journeys kept open by tourists and this was just such one. The Serra Verde Express journey decends 900m through the lush temerate Serra do Mar to Morretes (Except on Sundays when it goes all the way through to the port of Paranagua). We had a Portuguese guide who spoke very little English, but the views pretty much spoke for themselves. Our journey was made even better by the fact that it was just after the Easter holidays & the train was virtually empty! Once in Morettes we had a wander round the very sweet town and then took the bus back up to town.

Day two in Curitiba saw me taking the city double decker Linha Turismo bus. Its a great way to see the sights even on your own. It takes a set route and you can hop off and then on at four of the 23 attractiosn on route. Quite a few of the stops were within the city centre so I chose four of the more remote interesting places. First stop was the Botanical gardens with its eye catching palm house. Its pleasant enough to stroll around for an hour, but not really a patch on Kew or Wisley! The second stop was a Germanic park with a Hansel & Gretle story theme and a fantastic view over the city.
The third stop was at the Wire opera house, which is a huge steel & glass contruction and looks very beautiful. The final stop was to a park that has been generated from an old quarry and has zones for different uses.  Our next stoptakes us to Rio ............... its party time........ til then..............xx