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Friday, 3 October 2014

SERRA DO MAR!

Oryx explores Parana state to Sao Paulo state - Guaratuba to Cananeia.

'Oryx' being approached by Roxanne and Nick in 'Crake' 



As we sail around exploring the coastline of Brazil we often discuss our favourite places. It is ridiculous to even attempt to try and find a single spot that outshines the others and after experiencing the breathtaking scenery of Santa Catarina we weren’t expecting this to be outdone, but as we sailed further north we left behind the colder Falkland current and of course my old adversary, winter, was waning although it was still mid July. However, I think the state of Parana would qualify for the accolade of ‘an area of outstanding natural beauty’.

'Oryx' off Guaraquecaba.


Once again the verdant, forested mountains sweep down to the Atlantic shores.


There are sheltered bays teeming with Boto dolphins. There are flocks of scarlet ibis and all manner of parrots and seabirds. Much of the coast has been designated national park status. The state seems under populated, which is always a plus in our book. And they have one of Brazil’s most stunning features – Iguazu Falls. We didn’t visit on this occasion, but I will include a photo taken from the Brazil side, when we sailed to Asuncion from B.A. on ‘Pelican’, a few years ago.

The magnificent Iguazu falls as seen from the Brazilian side.
Parana State.

Parana State seceded from Sao Paulo in 1853 and is apparently always compared to its big brother in the north. The ancestry of the immigrant peoples of Parana are of German, Ukrainian, Italian and Polish stock and established small family run farms made prosperous by hard work. There was a brief gold rush in the area in the 17th century, but luckily, I think, there was more gold to be found in Ouro Preto in Minas Gerais State. Parana State boasts that they have a high standard of living, high standard of education and high level of productivity.

Outstanding natural beauty,

Guaratuba.

Our first stop in Parana State was the small town of Guaratuba. The Chagarain Brasil Indians who speak a language similar to the Tupi had inhabited this area for thousands of years. The village of what is now Guaratuba was founded in 1770, when the governor of Sao Paulo wanted to develop the bay.

Approaching Guaratuba.


Entering into the bay was thrilling. Pete had consulted the charts, as always and although the depth was not an issue the strong current was, so we sailed in on a rising tide. The seas were quite big and at times we had breaking waves in either side, albeit in the distance. I gave a little sigh of relief as we anchored off the town amidst the myriad of fishing and tripper boats. The anchorage proved interesting too, as the current whirled and eddied around ‘Oryx’ spinning her around at times. We spent the night and visited the town the next morning, finding the tail end of yet another Tainha festival.


Lovely restaurant vie with each other on the front at Guaratuba.

Park view.
Tourist information building by night.

Choices? That, that and that!

Ihla do Araca.


Traditional fishing boats of Parana.


We explored the small islands in the bay and anchored off a small marina for lunch, then ventured further up a river and found the first of the scarlet ibis flocks. At low water as the mangroves receded, the mud flats were filled with foraging birds.



Reflections of Parana.



Leaving Guaratuba bay proved equally tricky and at one stage I retreated below in denial, as the waves crashed around. I was no sooner below when a fishing boat went by, waving to Pete to turn around, but our intrepid captain knows little fear and, after a resounding crash over a large swell, we sailed blithely along to calmer waters.

Ihla do Mel.



Next stop was Ilha do Mel, which we visited twice to enable us to explore both sides of the lopsided infinity shaped island. First stop was the anchorage near the lighthouse in Enseado dos Conchas. Ihla do Mel lies at the mouth of the bay of Paranagua and has become a pristine and picturesque beach resort.

'Oryx' anchored off Ihla do Mel.

Looking toward the lighthouse.
Toward the isthmus.

In 1975 it was declared an ecological reserve and although it is now teaming with tourists, there are no cars on the island and most of the activities include the appreciation of nature. We had anchored over a local’s fishing net inadvertently and we were barely awake when he came calling. Fortunately we hadn’t damaged his net or our rudders and we simply moved and re anchored.


Surfing off the lighthouse Ilha do Mel.

After breakfast we packed a lunch and set off for the lighthouse at the entrance to the bay and then explored the villages with their quaint and curiously beautiful pousadas and headed off for the well restored fort.





The beautifully restored fort at Ilha do Mel.





On our return a number of weeks later we anchored on the west coast and set out for the more deserted beaches across the narrow isthmus with it’s enchanted grotto and small shrine.



The enchanted grotto.

Ferries bring visitors to the isle.

Punters arrive by the score.


Bamboo restaurant.

Ferry dock.

Heading past Ilha do Mel to Paranagua.

From Enseado das Conchas we sailed past the fortress to the small village on Ihla das Pecas.

Sailing past the fort.




Ihla das Pecas.


Village on Ilha das Pecas.



We arrived in the late afternoon and many powerboats were anchored off the beach, but as the light receded the powerboats left and the fishermen returned, so that ‘Oryx’ was a lone visitor to the fishing village. Sunday morning we went ashore and wandered amongst the simple homes. All was quiet and we found a home proudly displaying trophies on their stoop dating back to 2002. Apparently petty crime is not a problem amongst the people of the village, I felt a sense of pride in the Brazilians and then a sense of sadness that the same sense of community has been obliterated in South Africa.



We had started seeing Boto dolphins off Sao Francisco and had noted their mildly tinged pink bellies. These delightful creatures became our daily companions for weeks on end, only disappearing when we neared the bigger towns. After we left Ihla das Pecas we watched them frolic around the bow. The wind was light and we had lunch underway as we slowly sneaked up on ‘Mollymawk’, in their new hideout. The sun was baking down and the distant mountains were a hazy blue. Perhaps the idyll made us loath to switch on the engine and for once Aeolus came through. Shortly after lunch the wind picked up and soon we were flying towards Guaraquecaba and ‘Mollymawk’. Of course they spotted us from a distance, but it didn’t detract from the pleasure of sailing into the anchorage amidst what seemed to be hoots and cheers. Of course Poppy joined in with a few barks, but even this didn’t deter the small flotilla of dolphins.

Boto dolphins off Guaraquecaba.



Guaraquecaba.


Guaraquecaba is one of the most beautiful places in Brazil.


Guaraquecaba was home to the Tupiniquin and Carijos Indians when the Spaniard Senabrio landed near Superagui and decided to colonise the area. A seaman called Hans Staden was shipwrecked in the area in 1578 and gives a good account of the region and his encounter with the locals.



Seafront at Guaraquecaba.

Town square.

Local fishing boats - note unusual tiller.



 The town is also near the area where Joshua Slocum, perhaps one of the most famous sailors of all time, lost his boat ‘Adquidneck’ whilst transporting a shipment of wood and mate tea. He then built the junk rigged sampan ‘Liberdade’ near Guaraquecaba and the local bar has photographs and framed newspaper clippings of Joshua Slocum.

Joshua Slocum!




We spent the time socialising and on the 23 July celebrated ‘Oryx’ second anniversary of her launch. So many miles and so many experiences in what seems like the blink of an eye. Roxanne baked a spectacular ‘Oryx’ cake, which tasted divine, too. Argentinean bubbly flowed and we had a great time. We discussed the area near Superagui and the channel leading to Cananeia with the Schinas family. ‘Mollymawk’s’ draft was prohibitive for the area, but we were keen to include them in our exploration of the area. We made tentative plans to return and then headed towards Paranagua to renew our visa.

Caesar, Djilly, Nick, Roxanne and Peter.


Happy birthday Oryx!
Mollymawk off Guaraquecaba.






Ubu.


We called at the small village of Ubu, but it was rainy and dreary and low-slung power lines prevented going further up the river, so we headed for town, anchoring first near the satellite yacht club at Retiro and then heading for town.





Paranagua.



Off yacht club Paranagua.


We anchored near the yacht club and they made us very welcome, but the prefectura felt that we were too much in the main channel and suggested that we anchor off the old town, which we duly did.




Restored colonial buildings abound.

Paranagua was the first city founded in Parana State in 1648. The docks were built in 1934 and are named after Dom Pedro II. It remains an important port, exporting soy, corn, cotton and vegetable oils. The colourful old port sits serenely on the banks of the Rio Itabere, exuding an air of colonial decadence, reminiscent of Havana. The buildings are beautifully restored and the urban renewal is an ongoing project.





Our experience at immigration was interesting. It was fairly quiet and we were delegated to a stern looking official who blanched when we apologised for not speaking Brazilian! (Okay, the correct term is Portuguese, but we had heard locals claiming to speak Brazilian, so we were trying to be colloquially correct!)



After the hiccough we explained that we’d like a further 90 days, but from the day that our visa expired, not from the day we were there. I added that Brazil is too big and too beautiful to see in 90 days and suddenly he was laughing and joking with us, pointing out that we’d had the date wrong anyway and we could actually gain another two days. He told us an amusing story (in Portuguese) about a film with Michael Caine and although we laughed along with him we didn’t really follow what he was saying and it was yet another occasion that I kicked myself for not studying harder and learning the language! That trauma over we explored the town and sussed out the bus times. We were intending to take an inland excursion on our return.

Siri slide.


Spring arrives early!

We sailed downriver towards the small town of Antonina, spending the night off the Ilhas do Laminan, where one of the houses seem to be preparing for the next world cup in 2018, by flying several Russian flags! Fifa rules OK?

En route to Antonina.

Note the Russian flags!?
Antonina.






View of yacht club from church at Antonina.

Antonina was founded around 1797 and was named after Dom Antonio de Portugal. It was once an important colonial port linked by rail to the capital of the state, Curitiba, some 75km away, up on the plateau. We anchored off the yacht club and I was still changing when the first of our neighbours came to bid Pete welcome. We rowed ashore, much to the amusement of the marineiro who rushed to take our lines. Most people use the club launch. We were then welcomed by a friendly member and introduced to the secretary, who gave us two days free membership.



Beyond the club lay the small town which has a lovely tree lined front and was in the throes of a Winter Festival and vintage car show, amongst the usual food, drink and local handicraft stalls. Winter had returned, briefly, to host the festival.

Bird on a wire.

Bikes and birds.








Vintage car festival included in winter festival.

Theatre Antonina.


Custom made t shirts.

Defunct railway station.

 We stayed for a night or two and then sailed through the mist back to Paranagua.


Paranagua revisited.

Looking downriver at Paranagua.


Serra do Mar towers behind a misty Paranagua.

We tried anchoring near the Porto Marina Oceano, but although this was not the main channel, it is a popular short cut and it felt like Piccadilly Circus at rush hour, so we picked up anchor and returned to the spot just off the town.

Bus terminus Paranagua.



First thing the next morning we headed for the rotunda and caught a local bus to nearby Morretes.

Morretes.




The town was founded in 1721 on the banks of the Rio Nhundiaquara (don’t you love the names?) and rests on an emerald green plain at the foot of the Serra do Mar. (Hills of the Sea, maybe we should change our name?) Much of the town is preserved and was a popular place to live due to its cooler climate and fresh air it became home to various poets, artists, writers and wait for it … politicians!



The beautiful town of Morretes.


 We strolled around the town and picked up the usual fixings for a picnic, but as we skirted the restaurants we were tempted to try the local speciality called barreado, which is an extremely tasty, meaty stew usually accompanied by cinnamon coated bananas! We had a beer with lunch and declined the waiter’s offer of the local Cachaca, but at the door was the usual urn but instead of coffee it seemed to have tea. I helped myself to two, and imagine my amazement when the tea was a lovely, but fiery Cachaca! And it was free!

Art gallery Morretes.

The art gallery.

On the banks of the river as we finished our Cachaca a friendly neighbourhood dog was taking an unhealthy interest in what was to be our picnic. I distracted him with a stick and soon had a friend. We then wandered into the local art gallery with said dog following. The staff asked if he was mine and even though I said ‘no’, took some convincing as he wouldn’t leave without me escorting him and then he waited obediently for our eventual return. Fortunately, he found interesting smells to explore and we made our escape.


Railway houses Morretes.

We had travelled to Morretes by bus, not only to visit yet another lovely colonial mountain town, but also to take the afternoon weekday version of the Serra Verde Express to the capital Curitiba.






Essentially the rail link between Curitiba and the coast was to enable the export of grain. The construction of the 110km line began in February 1880 and many European engineers thought the project highly impractical. 9000 immigrant labourers worked on the project along with a score of engineers and it was inaugurated just five years later. There are thirteen active tunnels through the mountainsides, as well as thirty bridges and viaducts, which enable the railway line to soar above the jungle at times. The highest bridge is 55m high and the Carvalho viaduct, which lies between tunnel four and five is supported by five mortar pillars embedded into the slopes of mountain rock.

One of the many bridges.




We queued eagerly amongst a hoard of small schoolchildren, with a mild sense of trepidation. The trip takes three hours and the children were already buzzing like bees, but soon they were compartmentalised elsewhere and apart from a few railway employees, we virtually had the carriage to ourselves. We eagerly hung out the windows taking photographs and felt a little foolish when we were reminded that this is unsafe!




The trip was magnificent. Morretes lies 75km from Curitiba and the railway lines slice through the imposing mountains, a lasting monument to engineers of a previous era. The dense Atlantic rainforest is rampant with greenery and displays amazing examples of symbiosis. At times the varying shades of green are broken by splashes of colour. The shrub I know as Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with its purple, lilac and white blossom seemed to be suspended in midair or draped like an abandoned veil. Timid Fuchsias jingle their bells proudly amongst the bolder Hibiscus. Palm trees grow in clumps amongst banana trees and evergreens. We saw a few birds and butterflies, but only imagined the howl of monkeys and the roar of jaguars as we sped by with the rhythmic clickity clack. Stephenson is definitely an under sung hero.


Murumbi is famous for its hiking trails...next time.

Tha Mata Atlantic stretches from horizon to horizon.



video


We neared the plateau and the big city of Curitiba as night began to fall. The city appeared well organised and apparently has a host of sights to be seen, but it was nighttime and we’d had a full day out, so we simply fell out of the train and caught a coach back to Paranagua.





Guaraquecaba via Ilha do Mel.




Mollymawk sailing off Guaraquecaba.

We then returned to Guaraquecaba and the ‘Mollymawks’ via Ilha do Mel. When we met Shirley’s friend Andrea in Sao Antonio de Lisboa he had extolled the beauty of the area around the national park of Superagui and we were eager to explore. We knew the area was treacherous, with shoals all around, but Andrea had provided detailed information and we were gung ho to try. We set off with the tide at about noon, with ‘Mollymawk’ following in our wake.




There was a little glitch when their fan belt needed replacing, but they displayed their skill at heaving to and we watched a little enviously, having to tack back and forth ourselves. We maintained radio contact and kept a beady eye on the echo sounder.




 Just into the channel leading towards Ihla Papagaio we spotted a bevy of scarlet ibis and I eagerly alerted Jill, but a black cloud, which preceded the next front, was making its presence felt and we no sooner had donned our sweaters than the squall hit. Pete hastily changed the plan to anchor off Ihla Papagaio because it was exposed to the south and we anchored in the lee of the land only to drag a little, so we motored back a bit to the nearby village and anchored there. We could see ‘Mollymawk’ in the distance, but for some reason were out of radio range. The squall brought a torrent of rain, so we hunkered down for the night. The adventure had begun.

Daylight brought a bit of subdued sunshine and more radio silence, so Pete launched ‘Crake’ and set off after breakfast. By the time dishes were done, ‘Mollymawk’ was motoring cautiously up the channel. They had experienced a momentary loss of power during the squall and fearful of running aground under sail, they had anchored for the night.
They dropped off Pete and ‘Crake’ and motor sailed ahead to anchor off Ihla Papagaio.




Superagui.


With Jill and Caesar aboard we set out for the village on Superagui. Unfortunately Aeolus was playing about again and provided a headwind going there and then a complete switch off on return. The national park of Superagui comprises of 4700km of Atlantic rainforest flanked by salt marshes and mangroves. It acquired World Heritage status in 1999 and is the home of literally thousands of birds including roseate spoonbills, scarlet ibis and red tailed parrots, not to mention capybaras, monkeys and possibly even a puma or two.

Recycling?



We landed near the village and wandered around. There are no cars on the island and tourists are brought in by ferry from Paranagua or Guaraquecaba. There were a number of pousadas and some campgrounds and only a tiny, closed Mercado.







Ilha Papagaio.



We returned to the fabled Ihla Papagaio as the sun was setting, just in time to see the flocks of parrots returning to roost for the night. We were delighted to see that they mostly flew in pairs and Roxanne later informed us that they pair for life and this was probably the reason. She is an avid biologist and I hope environmentalists benefit from her dedication to nature, one day.




‘Mollymawk’ like most sailors are loath to leave their boat unattended and so, while Jill and Caesar look after the boat, Nick and Roxanne joined us early the next morning for the more challenging part of the journey. I arose at dawn, to witness the parrot phenomenon in reverse. The island was segregated with Cormorants roosting in the treetops to the south of the island, their larger volume of guano lime washing the treetops. Their nocturnal cries were froglike croaks, whilst the parrots to the north were chirping and squeaking as they greeted the day. Once again they left in pairs. I started counting and had reached a hundred in fewer than five minutes when a cloud of twenty or more left simultaneously and I gave up.



Roxanne and Nick having an early morning coffee.

Pete had spent hours converting the track on the chart to usable waypoints. We knew we would have to motor, and soon the steady thrum of the engine dwindled into the background. The sun was shining and the progress was steady. ‘Mollymawks’ tender and her gear bobbed behind ‘Oryx’ as we towed her along. Soon we passed the infamous Vila Fatima where our friend Brian Kane on ‘Saoirse Mor’ once ran aground. ‘Oryx’ shoal draft is a definite bonus, but a local in Guaraquecaba had voiced concern about our beam. We did, briefly, run aground once, but even in the narrowest section of the canal it seemed wide enough, although at times Pete’s carefully plotted waypoints threatened a close encounter with the foliage.

Vila Fatima.



On watch?





The area was largely deserted and at times we saw no one for hours on end. Villages were sparse and even the smallest of them sported solar panels – people are finally using the greatest source of energy efficiently. Mangroves melted into the jungle and the distant mountains formed a lavish backdrop. We took turns at steering and stopped for lunch, savouring the silence.

Lonely boat left unattended. 

Ihla Cardosa.




We stopped for the night off Ihla Cardosa and went ashore to explore. There are many extensive hiking trails, but the permits are pricey and it was too late in the day anyway, so we traipsed to the beach and back, before returning to ‘Oryx’ for the night.









As we were making good time we stopped for a short hike to a nearby waterfall. Nick was the only one to brave the cool water, although Roxanne scaled the heights above the cascade.








The second part seemed less tortuous and soon we were in Sao Paulo State.We anchored alongside ‘Saoirse Mor’ but Brian was below and the kids don’t find neighbouring boats unusual, First thing next morning Brian was over inviting all for a breakfast of pancakes.

Cananeia.






We were finally in Cananeia. Once more our social life flourished for a few days and we had an impromptu party on board ‘Saoirse Mor’ that night, Brian whipping up cocktails of vodka and orange for me, whilst everyone else sank cold beers. It was a good night all round.

With first light Nick and Roxanne started the preparation for their journey back to the mother ship. They had a favourable wind to begin with, camped on the boat overnight  and rowed back to Mollymawk the next day. Their night on the boat was a bit miserable due to rain and mosquitoes, but they did the same distance mostly under oar in very good time.



Tidely sails past Saoirse Mor.



Pete was feeling a little under the weather as we explored the streets of Cananeia. It is a delightful little town founded in 1531 making it one of the oldest European settlements in Brazil. Most of the old town dates back to the 16th century, although the waterfront near our anchorage gives way to lavish Paulista (inhabitants of Sao Paulo) homes. Marta had returned and we invited them for a meal.



Seamus, Brian and Bianca.






 They were keen for us to stay for the fiesta, but a south wind was forecast and once again we said farewell to old friends to follow the wind. The bay at Cananeia is another area fraught with shoals and fierce currents and the departure was challenging once more.





Bom Abrigo.

We anchored alongside some fishing both off Ilha Bom Abrigo hoping to go ashore, but the south wind whistled through early the next morning so we set off towards Santos.