I had a strange experience in my hostel dorm last night. It was just me and one other guy who couldn’t speak English, and before he went to bed he showed me a message on his phone saying something along the lines of ‘Jesus is watching over you. God bless. Good night’. I said an awkward ‘obrigado’ and the guy got into bed. He then proceeded to preach at me in English (I think he was reading off his phone) from under his sheets, saying things like ‘Jesus loves you and died for your sins’, and ‘God is love’. I ignored the whole lot, but it made me feel somewhat uneasy! I’m pleased to say I haven’t woken up a convert this morning…
Moving on, today was my day in and around the vicinity of Curitiba, and I started by taking a drive to the town of Morretes, since I had been recommended the local scenery by an American at the hostel. It turned out he wasn’t wrong, since the road there goes past one of the last surviving areas of Atlantic rainforest. I say road, but I mean motorway, and this one was similar to the one I drove yesterday, with a lot of meandering around mountains as I descended back down to sea level (Curitiba is around 1,000m up). On the way, I hit a rather slow stretch, which turned out to be due to a huge lorry accident on the other carriageway. However, it wasn’t like at home where people wait for a clear up; instead the locals had begun to loot the spilt goods, and as I drove past I could see police walking towards the looters with shotguns in hand - certainly an interesting sight to witness.
On reaching Morretes I took a drive around the town centre, which was rather quaint with cobbled streets and locals riding around on bicycles. I didn’t stop for long though, because according to my map I wasn’t far from the coast of a large nearby river. I therefore set my satnav for the nearby village of Antonina which is right on the shoreline. When I arrived I followed signs to a place called ‘Ponta da Pita’, which turned out to be a beautiful little spot right on the river. The point itself refers to a large rock where a particular type of tree grows in abundance. I went to the rock and sat down for a bit taking in the view and enjoying the 30 degree heat, while watching some locals doing a spot of fishing. The river itself is huge, and all I could see on the other side was Atlantic rainforest. I could have stayed there for a lot longer if there wasn’t so much to attempt to squeeze into the day.
With my mini-trip to the coast complete, I headed back to Curitiba for lunch. However, I didn’t take the motorway back due to the huge tailback (and shotguns). Instead I opted to take a more scenic route, which turned out to be an excellent decision. The route went a different way through the Atlantic rainforest, passing through a national park on the way. I soon found out why all the lorries have to take the motorway: the national park road is incredibly windy and has some steep gradients while it climbs and curls around the rainforest’s mountains. Anyone who knows how much I like driving will know that such a combination of road features is my ideal recipe, and to top it off, most of the road wasn’t even tarmacked – it was cobbled. I therefore had what was arguably my best driving experience since my USA roadtrip, and a truly unique experience given there aren’t many places in the world where you can easily drive through the rainforest.
Once I arrived back in Curitiba, I popped into the hostel quickly to grab a free tourist map, and then quickly assessed what sights I should and shouldn’t see in my two hour whistle-stop tour (I was limiting myself to daylight hours). It turns out most of Curitiba’s sights are in a number of parks dotted around the city, except for two major ones which I stopped at first. There was the Paiol theatre, which is inside a disused gunpowder store, and the wire opera house, which is an opera house made out of steel tubes with a glass roof on top. The opera house was certainly an interesting sight, and it happened to be near my first park stop at Tangua Park.
The park had a main area called ‘Poty Lazzarotto Garden’, which looked down over a large artificial lake and waterfall. There was also a tunnel linking some of the water features, but I didn’t have a chance to go down to it. I then drove to a place called Tingui park (similar name I know) which is home to the Ukraine memorial. It seemed strange having a memorial dedicated to Ukraine here in Curitiba of all places, but apparently there are many Ukrainian immigrants in the city. By the time I was done at the memorial, the sun was getting precariously low in the sky. I was trying to decide where to go to end the day, when I saw a photo in the tourist guide of sunset at Tangua Park. It looked like a great spot, so I headed back there to take some photos as the sun set.
When I got back to the hostel I finally finished my jar of pesto from Rio – it almost brought a tear to my eye! Tomorrow I’m heading back up to Sao Paulo via a coastal route so I can take in some of the beaches.
Photos of the day: looters after the accident, relaxing on the shore of the river in Antonina, driving the cobbled rainforest road, the rainforest road courtesy of Google Maps, the wire opera house, and sunset at Tangua Park.