Heading away from Igaucu really was a sad experience. I was really sure we wouldnt find anyway as nice on our travels - especially as our next stop was Curitiba which was unglamourously described by our Lonely Planet as 'neither particularly attractive nor interesting'! Infact the only reason for stopping here was to spend some time with Vanessas cousin, Ricardo and his wife Ann-Caroline.
As it would turn out Curitiba was nothing like the LP described. It was a charming city - ecclectic in its population and one of the most civilised and well planed cities I have seen in Brazil.
Curitiba celebrates the many nationalities that immigrated to the southern region. Principally German but also arabian, ukrainian, polis, japanese and many others.
Officially Brazils coldest city we were amazed to learn that it was also Unescos 46 best city to live in in the world.
With no Favellas, low crime rates and, despite having a relatively small population, a remarkably efficient public transport system Curitiba really was a delight. Ricardo and Ann-Caroline were lovely and we stayed with them at their appartment.
Day 1 here was spent touring the city on the tourist open top double decker bus seeing the sights - Botanical gardens, central market, the really excellent modern art museum designed by famous architect Oscar Neimeyer (with an impressive exhibition by Vik Munitz - very famous Brazilian photographer), The opera house and some of the various parks. It really seemed even if we made mistakes on places to visit in this city we were treated to some hidden delight. The evening was cold so we retired to the warm of the flat!
The next day we took a tourist train called the Serra Verde. It winds its way through the mountians close by (covered in rain forest) and down the plains to Moretta (a small village on the Atlantic coast). Brazil doesnt have many railways and so this was a treat. Built in 1876, 9000 people were contracted to build it (of which 6000 dies in the process). It was insane to train through the centre of a rain forest and we got some amazing snaps.
In Morettas we caught a transfer to a neighbouring village for a poke around then back again for some lunch. Curitiba is on the high plains some 900 m above sea level and it was so interesting to travel from rain and grey down to the coast where it was a balmy 30 deg.
For the return trip we caught a bus (and promptly fell asleep). In the evening we went out to a local pizzaria for what has become in my head the standard Brazilian Pizza. Equal to some of the best pizzas you could hope for from Italy.
Our last day and we visited the Japanese gardens (Curitiba has so many green areas) and a shopping centre where I managed to find english books that werent a rip off! In the evening we caught a flight to Campo Grande where we will stay a night before making the trip to Bonito (next to Pantanal). Actually it has gone quite well. We had an hour and a half flight and were geared up to catch 3 buses to get to our hotel (another hour and a half away) but were hooked by a guy trying to sell us a tour for Pantanal. As part of his strong arm tactic he insisted to drive us to our hotel which was a score as we didnt book anything with him (though tomorrow he will no doubt be waiting for us......)
Well more from Bonito soon.