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Brazil

Day 69: Curitiba to Morretes

 
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The Serra Verde Express crosses a bridge on the line through the mountains.
Michael Palin - BrazilApart from some commuter services in São Paulo and Rio, Brazil is a passenger railway wilderness. The railway-building boom in the second half of the nineteenth century was financed largely from Western Europe. In the mid twentieth century, the Americans had more money to invest, and the transport initiative swung to people like Henry Ford who saw the future in roads and motor cars. Railways never recovered and now Brazil is a country where those who move either fly or drive, or take enormously long bus journeys.

Some surprise, therefore, to find that Curitiba has a working railway station, the Estação Rodoferroviária. And even more surprising to find that passenger trains run from here to the coast. But this is not a regular service, it's specially laid on for tourists. Still beggars can't be choosers and I climb gratefully aboard what's grandly billed as the Serra Verde Express. It consists of two aluminium-sheathed coaches. One is an American-made luxury coach called Iguaçu, fitted out with leather armchairs, a parquet floor, stout wooden tables and red and green velvet-covered seats. The other, more functional car is called Copacabana.

The reason we're able to embark on this adventure is that, although passenger
rail travel may be virtually non-existent in Brazil, freight is thriving. Boosted by regular shuttle services like the iron ore trains I saw in Minas Gerais, almost thirty percent of all freight now goes by train. The line we'll be travelling on today is only there thanks to a private company called ALL, America Latina Logistica, who run and maintain the line. In return they have all the revenues from the lucrative freight business carrying soya, beef and other produce from Curitiba to the port of Paranaguá.

Today we'll be going as far as the town of Morretes, 110 kilometres (sixty-eight miles) down the line. Our journey will last a leisurely three and a half hours and there will be viewpoints at which we can stop and take photographs. All this is conveyed to us by Fabio, a big, burly man who's in charge of the train. He's not only unstoppable with the information, but also adept at multi-tasking, enabling him to make coffee and give his commentary at the same time. My travelling companion is Marcelo, a sculptor with dark Brazilian good looks and a deep interest in spiritualism. He lives in Curitiba but has to come to Morretes during the week to sell his work.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 69: Curitiba to Morretes
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: Curitiba
  • Book page no: 288

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