Curitiba and Porto Alegre
Trip Start Oct 08, 2005
71Trip End Oct 06, 2006
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So I arrived in Sao Paulo from Chicago early Wednesday morning, got straight on a bus to the bus station, then out again an hour later heading south to Curitiba. I couldnīt face the 17 million people of Sao Paulo and needed something a little less hectic to start me off. Coming out of the city scared me enough - miles and miles of tower blocks everywhere, it looked horrible. I quickly learned that all I had been warned about no-one speaking English was true - not a word is spoken anywhere but just a few words from the Lonely Planet and some broken Spanish bastardised into Portuguese was able to get me a bus ticket and a bed for the night in Curitiba
Iīm not really sure what I expected from Brazil, but I donīt think Iīve seen it so far. Its quite a small city, but packed with people and cars and buses and noise, and most of it was quite modern - occasionally I would turn a corner during my usual walk round and find a lovely square with an old church and some colonial style buildings but they were rare. I had a meal in one of the squares - a huge slab of beef and some chips and a beer for less than 4 quid - wandered about a bit, went to the city park (absolutely horrible, birds and monkeys in really unhygienic cages, and a massive police prescence which is never a good sign!), and that was about it. I needed to get out.
So I took the train on a day trip out to Morrentes. The Serra Verde Express is meant to be one of the most scenic journeys in Brazil, and yes, it was pretty nice - going high over the mountains towards the coast, on narrow bridges and ledges with a big drop down to the river below. At the weekend, the train goes out to Paranagua on the coast, but as this was a Friday, I got to stop in Morrentes, a tiny little place that packs out as the train comes in then goes dead again mid-afternoon. Nothing else to do there but eat and drink, so thats what I did. I tried ībarreadoī, the local dish - basically its a starter of bread, salad, mayo, fish balls etc which is pretty good, then comes the main bit, a stew
I got a night bus from Curitiba down to Porto Alegre, which was ok. The buses in Brazil are cheap, big and comfortable with reclining seats and loads of leg room, so its not bad at all. Porto Alegre is not a nice place though - at least I didnīt think so. The centre is run down and dirty, with fly posters everywhere, hawkers, crap museums and generally grotty looking people. After walking round for nearly a day I was despairing of it having any redeeming features when I came across the suburb of Moinhos de Venta which the tourist office lady had told me was full of hot men (she volunteered that information, I donīt go in to tourist offices around the world and ask where the hot men hang out!) Well, I didnīt see any hot men, but it was a lot nicer, with hip restaurants and leafy streets, and girls who have good hair and carry dogs in their handbags a la Paris Hilton. And the park was really good - it wasnīt particularly green or a pleasant space but there was a lovely Sunday afternoon atmosphere and a great place to people watch. In one space there were two football matches on (one semi-pro, one just some kids kicking about, both of them could kick Beckham & Coīs asses), jugglers, a market, a dog obedience class, a what looked like a teenage goth convention (there were hundreds of them!). So it made for a pleasant afternoon in what had otherwise been a pretty unremarkable start to my time in South America.