Monday, November 10, 2008

Brazil '08, Day 6 - Morretes, PR

Adventure! Excitement! We certainly got plenty of those things.

It rained in the night, as I suppose it should in a rain forest. The floors in our cabin are moist and the wet stuff from the beach is probably rotting. Also Husband seems to be getting the evil cold I have been incubating. Maria and Nikolas served us breakfast right on the table outside our cabin. Delicious!

The pousada has an hour-long trail on its grounds which we were thinking of undertaking first thing in the morning, but I was so tired that I fell asleep immediately after eating breakfast. So instead, we decided to do a hike off the famous Estrada da Graciosa which Nikolas told us about and which he would normally have accompanied us for but alas not today.

Our plan was to take the 12:15pm bus to Morretes from “just outside the pousada”, have lunch and buy supplies for dinner, take a 1:30pm bus to Sao Joao, walk “about 2km, over a bridge, past the old grill” and find the trail used by local bushwhackers and banana pickers, and return on the 7pm bus. Few things actually went according to this plan.

First we waited for the bus in the wrong place, so naturally it did not come. At some point a young girl appeared out of the forest, gave us an odd look and keeping her distance appeared to wait for a bus as well. Husband asked her if a bus to Morretes is on the way, which she affirmed, and which did in the end come. Except it was a school bus. We asked the bus driver if he would mind giving us a ride, and thus we found ourselves with our little backpacks, and about five children on a bus which after a half a mile in the direction of Morretes did a U-turn and headed into the opposite direction. Oh well.

Some time later the bus stopped to deposit a child on the first intersection we’d come across, and which by a lucky coincidence turned out to be the town of Sao Joao. I tried to capture the entirety of this village (some may say hamlet) in this picture, and I think I’ve pretty much got it all. It consists entirely of three side-by-side stores, all selling the same exact thing – bananas (fresh, dried, broiled etc) and salty deep fried pork skins/lard, as well as a pizza type place that was closed, and a store that sold pieces of wood from the forest (local specialty, looks like driftwood but never rots, used for decoration.) It is, however, situated on the Estrada da Graciosa, an old and beautiful road that winds through the Sera do Mar and is both scenic and historic.

We walked what we thought were 2 km away from Sao Joao. We crossed a bridge and came to an abandoned urine and graffiti colored structure that we guessed to be the grill. At this point we realize that neither of us knew where to go next. There was a kind of muddy spot across the road that could be considered a path (by, perhaps, a wild donkey), so we took it. Slipping and sliding we arrived at a stream a few yards away. A beautiful wild completely untouched and uncrossable stream. The current was strong and the rocks wicked slippery, so after taking a few pictures we decided that this must not be the place and went back to the road.

In the end we tried a number of similar paths, all ending at this same stream. After walking up and down the road for a while and feeling like fools, we decided that we would simply walk along the stream and see if we come across a suitable crossing spot. Now this is not like walking in the woods in Northern United States, where there is always a place to step even off the trail. Here vegetation is so abundant that as soon as you step off the beaten path (such as it is) you are pretty much in the jungle. As a precaution we put on rubber tubing to cover our calves from possible snake attacks, and trudged on through the wilderness. A wilderness a few feet away from the road, but we felt like crazy explorers anyway.

After some time we came to a smaller stream forming a Y with the bigger one, and conceded that we were stuck. As we took a rest and a snack (dried bananas, yum) it began to rain. By the time we made it out of the forest and onto the road it was a complete downpour and we were so soaked that our rain gear was not making any difference. And thus we arrived back in Sao Joao around 3pm and contemplated our options. The one and only bus to Morretes was not till 7pm, a chance of a school bus was remote, we had no food besides bananas and we were completely soaked and therefore cold. So we asked around for anyone who may own a car and offered the man R$20 to drive us to Morretes.

Hungry, wet and cold he dropped us off at the train station where we discovered that all restaurants in town were closed till 7pm. The town itself was weird. It's like a colonial ghost town, still beautiful but creepily empty. We wondered the streets and found a beautiful old cemetery and old train tracks.

For dinner we had what the Brazilians call a pizza, which is indeed circular in shape. We then caught a bus heading towards Antonina, got out in what the bus ticket guy assured us was the place we wanted to be, and wondered in the darkness, towards the pousada (we did of course have a flashlight but what good is that in unfamiliar forest territory?) All in all, an excellent day.

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