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Brazil

Day 60: Parati to São José dos Campos

 
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A traditional wooden-hulled boat is pulled clear of a sandbank in the harbour.
Michael Palin - BrazilA spectacular road with steep hairpin bends leads north-west, away from the coast, up through the Mata Atlântica, skirting mighty boulders topped with tenacious epiphytes and blood-red bromeliads. Big blue butterflies flit between bushes thick with hydrangea and on either side the dense green forest is splashed with purple and yellow blossom. The road climbs, laboriously, from sea level up to the pass at 1,600 metres. Then it's over the top and into a very different Brazil. A land where the wilderness has been tamed. The broad green upland valleys have been turned to fields and pastures, and the only things resembling a forest are stands of eucalyptus trees, planted as and when they're needed.

The farms grow into villages and the villages into towns and three and a half hours after leaving Parati we funnel onto one big central valley highway, Route 116, which connects Rio and São Paulo, a distance of some 400 kilometres (250 miles). It's busy, well maintained, and they clearly take safety seriously. At intervals the smashed carcass of a vehicle has been hoisted onto a roadside platform with a billboard behind it and the single message 'Another Victim'. Not surprisingly the 116, connecting as it does Brazil's two biggest cities, has become a corridor of industrial research and development and some of the country's smartest companies are located along this strip. One of them is now the third- largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, Empresa Brasileira de Aeronáutica, better known as Embraer.
 
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Dom João and sports-boat-owning friend come to collect me for a trip along the coast.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 60: Parati to São José dos Campos
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Parati
  • Book page no: 253

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