Trip Start Aug 19, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Brazil  , Paraná,
Thursday, November 11, 2010

While in Curitiba, the inland capital of the state of Parana, I heard about a small island off the state's coast called Ilha do Mel.  Not knowing anything about it, I imagined it to be Parana state's Floripa - beautiful and resort-y.  After spending so much time at the beach (in Uruguay and then in Floripa), I sort of wrote it off; when I was deciding on the next place to go after Curitiba, I was thinking of going more inland - deeper into the mountains or even beyond it to more forest-y regions.

Then for some reason or another, I researched Ilha do Mel a little. What I found was intriguing.  While it is a vacation spot for many Brasileros and it has become a backpacker destination, it seems that most of the island is protected land and that the number of people allowed into it is limited (albeit loosely) to a few thousand people - I think this might include permanent residents.  I also learned that there are no roads or motorized vehicles anywhere in the island.  This definitely sounded like my kind of place and it certainly didn't sound anything like Floripa.

What tipped me over to going there, however, was that there was apparently a passenger train service (one of few in Brazil) that takes folks from Curitiba, through portions of the Serra Verde mountain range, to the coastal town of Paranagua (where you would, in turn, catch a ferry over to Ilha do Mel). I was sold.

I left Curitiba early in the morning on November 7 on the Serra Verde Express.  It was quite a nice ride through the Serra Verde mountain range (there are visuals in the pictures section) - a long, scenic ride.  The name Serra Verde Express was kind of funny because it was not at all an express train - the journey, which would have been well under 2 hours on a bus, was 5+ hours on the 20 km/hr train.  I didn't much mind it, though, because I could have spent the entire day on that train looking out the window.

I got to Paranagua, which is a town that has a pretty busy commercial port, in the afternoon and then hopped on the ferry to Ilha do Mel.

The island has two main villages. I stayed in the smaller village in the southern end of the island.  There were very few people in that village because I was there during the week. It felt pretty good to be back in the kind of environment where I felt like the only people I was sharing the place with were the folks that actually lived there.

I spent four days in Ilha do Mel and did very little - and this was a good thing.  The island was very laid back.  It was the kind of place that was small enough that you never get that oppressive feeling of needing to see a million things - to sightsee.  

It dawned on me at the end of my second day there that places like Ilha do Mel are where I feel most happy traveling to.  That is, in general, I think I prefer places where there is a simplicity to life - so cliche, I know.  But it's so great when you're in a place where you never feel like you're missing out on anything because you're already doing the best thing you could possibly do there: siting on a deck with a cold beverage and some snacks, looking out into the sea all day long.


Reading material: I tried reading more of Dr. Zhivago but couldn't get past page 40.  Luckily, I found a more entertaining book in the book exchange shelf of the hostel I stayed at. The book is High Fidelity by Nick Hornby.  I tried reading this book three times in the past but never got past page 2 on any of those tries - not because it was bad but because I was too busy doing other things - like working or sleeping.  In a way, I am happy that I'm reading this book at this stage in life.  If I'd read it - particularly the first part of the book - maybe 5 years ago, it would have been like my reading Catcher in the Rye when I was 15 (I hate that book now, by the way).  I think that by reading it now, I can have a healthier appreciation for it because I'm not (insanely) thinking that I am the real-life version of the main character.  By reading it now, I can see not only the humor in the book itself, but also the humor in how I would have reacted to this book if I read it when I was 25 or 26.

Playlist: Raveonettes - mainly the album they released last year (it seems like I am the only one who liked this particular release).  There was a week last year when I listened to this song on repeat for an entire week - click here.

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