18 January 2009

In Country: Morretes and the Loud Train

Early this morning David, Fernando, Hope and I caught a train to Morretes (pronounced mo-hate-ohs). The train travels through the last remaining 5% of rainforest along the Atlantic coast of South America. Refered to in Brasil as Mata Atlantica, it's a 4,600 mile coastal band of jungle and granite cliffs leading down to the sea. The train ride lasted over 3 hours and the views were stunning. With plant leaves larger than a grown man, flowers so vibrantly red against the green undergrowth and views of the cliffs floating sublimely along the blue horizon, this jungle landscape is breath taking and awe inspiring. The train track took 5 years to build (in the 1880s) because of the rugged terrain, and is considered a feat of 19th century engineering for the country. It was originally intended to carry wood and soy beans from the interior to ports on the coast, but was converted to a tourist attraction about 20 years ago when truck transport became more efficient.

The only drawback to the entire train trip was the screeching of the train on the tracks. Because of the steep incline down the mountainside the train traveled very slowly, at times only moving at about 20 miles per hour. Consequently the sound of the train braking on the steep downgrades was deafening. Indeed I spent a good portion of the trip with my hands over my ears. For most of the morning I wished the Brasilian transportation authorities could figure out a way to grease the wheels, so to speak.

After the long, loud and lovely train ride we finally reached Morretes. Founded in 1721, this sleepy little colonial town boasts a population of less than 20,000 people. Once off the train we were able to locate a cute little pousada (similar to a bed and breakfast) right off the main street in town.
This is the view from the porch off our room. It is very hot and humid today; although I have not seen an official temperature reading, I would suspect it is over 100 degrees.
At present I am sitting in the Lan House, an internet cafe just down the street from our pousada. The sound system loudly plays Red Hot Chili Peppers, music I listened to in the early 1990s. Most of the people in this darkened room are 20 year old males. Clearly it is the town's hangout.
The internet in Brasil is wildly popular and widely available. Internet cafes like this one exist in most cities large and small, and there is lots of talk in political circles about using the internet in education. I read a statistic somewhere before arriving in country that said Brasil's population is one of the top 4 countries (after China, India, and the U.S.) to have access to the internet.
The cost per hour in the Lan House is R$1,00 which equals about 45 cents U.S. Pretty cheap, eh? If they only knew Americans pay $10 or $12 per hour for the same service!

1 comment:

Bekah said...

Wow Maureen - you are really getting around! Awesome stories and photos - and just think - I was there for some of them. Give my love to everyone. - Jocelyn