Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Serra Verde train

The point of coming to Curitiba was to take the Serra Verde train to Paranagua, which is billed as one of the most beautiful train journeys, through one of the remaining southerly sections of rainforest.

It was an early start, so I was only just about awake enough to take note of the big train set in the vestibule and the fact that it appears to be someone's actual job to play with the train set and talk to people about it.

On the platform, they had a number of huge bronze tablets with images relating to the train and its journey.  They looked pretty impressive.  I particularly liked the one with the trees and wildlife on it.

The train itself is nothing special, or at least our standard 'litorino' coach wasn't.  The information referred to a bilingual tour guide, which we had reasonably, but as it turned out foolishly, assumed would mean that we would get the tour in English as well as Portuguese.

In fact although she spoke enough English to welcome us, give us a few small facts, tell us that while the first drink was free we would have to buy others, and to try to sell us a DVD (that was in Portuguese), she could not do any of the tour itself in English, so we sat in blissful ignorance of any interesting details.
For those of you who like a few facts though, I do know that the railway line was built between 1880 and 1885, is around 110km, has 13 tunnels and thirty bridges.
The largest is the Sao Joao Bridge which is 55 metres high, and two of the bridges are linked by the Carvalho Viaduct which spans the gap between.
In the main, the journey is spent passing through the forests, and so really all that you are seeing are a lot of trees, banana plants and so forth.  It does look nice, but is pretty much all the same.  The area where is gets most interesting is where you pass along the very edge of a valley and can see across the valley to the steep rock faces above and forest below.

Most of the time there was only the one track, so we had to make stops every so often at a section where there were two, to enable an oncoming train to pass us.  These other trains are the real life of the track as they are goods trains, with huge carriages full of goodness knows what passing back and forth from the port of Paranagua.
At one point we passed a derailed train on its side next to the track.  While this would obviously have been a very unfortunate incident, I guess the train crew, and the owner of any cargo that was on it, would have been fairly relieved that it happened here, rather than in a section where there was nothing at the side of the track for the train to fall onto.  I wouldn't rate the chances of anything or anyone plunging over those rock faces.

Overall, the train journey isn't spectacular.  Most of it is nothing special, but the key section through the forest and around the cliffs is good to see if you are around the area.  Honestly though, we weren't really convinced that it was worth the detour that we made.
There was a short stop at a little chapel.  Again, we didn't get any translated explanation, but we gather this is a little Jesuit chapel built so that they could stop to pray before beginning their walk.  It was interesting as it was decorated with keys and keyholes.  Don't know why though.

What did add to the interest in the journey though was something that happened as a result of the broken air conditioning in our carriage.  As the day got hotter, the temperature in the carriage became uncomfortable and a number of our fellow travellers started complaining about it.  A little later, the guide told us that as the luxury carriages were now empty, we could all move into those instead.

These carriages were designed by Paulo Peruzzo to represent the colonial days when train travel was very popular, and they are impressively decorated and fitted out.  So we went from a basic carriage to the luxury one with proper leather armchairs.  I even decided to try out the toilet and it was all fancy too, with a lamp and everything.
On arriving into Paranagua the town's history as a shipping port was immediately evident as we passed huge areas of shipping containers.  We did wonder why we got a police motorcycle escort as we arrived, but we worked out that this was just how they controlled the road crossings.

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