Early start this morning to get the 8.15am train on the Serra Verde Express to Morretes, so we missed breakfast. We'd read about the train - the only reason we came to Curitiba - online and was told it was blood curdling, which is wasn't, and beautiful, which it definitely was. We chose to sit in the executive carriage due to the English speaking guide and through recommendation, we hoped to be sat on the left side of the train for the better views.
Luckily the carriage wasn't full so when we found our seats were on right side we were able to swap easily. The train was slow at 25kph, which meant it took a while to get to the good stuff, but in the meantime the guide told us some history of Curitiba and Serra Verde Express - for example, the railway was built in the late 1800s to link Curitiba, the capital of Parana state, to the the coast to support economic development. He also told us about the Parana pine trees that gave the city its name (Curitiba means many pine trees), which are the reason people came to Curitiba in the first place - to eat all the pine seeds.
It was nice to take a new mode of transport from the bus, and because it was slow, it meant we could take lots of photos of the train as we started the journey. As an aside and with no photographic evidence, as we made our way out of Curitiba, one thing I didn't expect to see when looking out to the Brazilian countryside was hydrangeas. There were blue hydrangea everywhere?!
To keep us entertained at the start of this 3 1/2 hour train ride, the guide gave us a free snack box each containing Melba toast, cheese crackers, cheese spread, a cookie and a coconut and chocolate snack bar, a can of pop (fizzy drink, southerners), water, coffee or beer and then told us we could drink and eat as much as we liked on the trip - a bonus when you're drinking lots because of the heat but having to pay higher than UK prices. We made the most of it with pop, water and beer and an extra snack box for the way home! As we at and drank the train wound through the countryside.
Eventually we got to the main attraction. Trees started to close in on either side of us and soon we were running through the Atlantic Rainforest, winding up the mountain, over bridges and through water soaked tunnels. Quickly then, the train poked out through the vegetation and the most incredible views of lush, green tree covered mountains were in front of us and down below us, streams and rivers. The sky was blue with few clouds, somehow we'd manage to pick the first day it hadn't been overcast, which would have spoilt the awesome views.
The train stopped high in the mountains at Morumbi, where quite a few travellers got off to hike...with only one train there and back a day, I assume they were staying in this remote location for a while. It was slightly foggy at this height, so hopefully it cleared for them as I imagine it would have been quite the view from up there!
The next, final and our stop was the small town of Morettes, near the coast of Brazil. The heat was almost unbearable as we walked around the little streets and after finding a map, as neither of us listened when the guide told us where the bus station was, we went to buy tickets for the bus back. This is where we met a couple of Brazilian men who were at least 65 years old, who put us to shame - they had just been for a 4 hour hike up a nearby mountain in 36 degree heat and we could barely walk around the town for 20 minutes! We were very impressed.
Tickets in hand, we had two hours in the town. We found a kilo restaurant for lunch, which was something we'd seen a lot of in Brazil so far but had never tried. It's basically a buffet style affair, with hot and cold dishes such as salad, pasta, fish, chicken and vegetables, and once you get to the end someone weighs your plate and you pay per kilo. At first though, we thought it was an all you can eat buffet, as the language barrier with the waiter was an issue again, so I began to pile my plate up (typically, mine weighed more than Andrew's!) but turns out you pay for weight or a set price and eat it all. The weight was cheaper and my plate was so full. The owner came over to say hello, he seemed to like us English people, and his wife tried to get their little daughter to practise her English with us but she was too shy. The food was great - I had fried fish and prawns, potatoes, pasta, salad and I tried a Brazilian vegetable called Aipim, which looked like fried or roasted parsnip but tasted like dry, hard, tasteless parsnip! It wasn't bad at all, but I wasn't a fan and it seems like a lot of the food (remembering the manioc flour in the feijoada, which I have since found out is the same as aipim?!) here is quite dry.
We walked off our food around the little town, looking at the shops and buildings, and then sat by the river for a while until it was time to go back to Curitiba.
The bus was hot with no air conditioning but open windows and reclining seats meant we could nap with the warm air blowing on us during the hour and a half journey back.
After a massive lunch, we bought pork chops and salad for our tea from the supermarket for about £2.50 (we need more of these cheap meals to keep the costs down) and then planned to go out into the old town. But the weather had different ideas for us with thunder, lighting and then rain. So we bought a couple of cold beers from the hostel and played our first game of cards on the trip and Andrew won...boo!
P.S This morning we picked up our washing from the tumble dryer and it smelt amazing! Crazy how quickly clean clothes become a luxury...wonder what we're going to be like in 4 months?!