While touring Haifa the other day, we ran into Barbara, a girl from Curitiba, Brazil. This was a rare opportunity for me to remember my short time (3 days) in Curitiba in early 2009. I was on my way from Uruguay to Rio de Janeiro. Having vowed not to ‘skip’ any too large of a chunk of land, I got the chance to see some quite ‘off-the-beaten-track’ regions; in Brazil, this also meant cities of 1.5M+ inhabitants that no-one had heard of anyway.
To be frank, I was quite lonely in Curitiba. I was traveling alone, which usually means you hook up with other travelers (in singles or groups) you meet along the way and you travel with them. This is naturally usual when traveling in the more popular destinations. However, traveling alone also entails spells of being literally alone, in the most basic sense – no company, nobody who knows who you are, nobody to talk to. Not to presently analyze this point too much, but I believe both kinds of loneliness are profound chances to discover and strengthen your character.
One variation of this loneliness is going solo into the wilderness (which I had experienced in other countries such as Argentina, Bolivia or Ecuador); another one is in an urban setting. I had only been in Brazil for a few days, and spoke almost no Portuguese, so I could literally barely converse with anyone, nor even understand most of the signs.
This specific loneliness spell had been going on for a while by the time I reached Curitiba. I was still trying to get over the shock of Portuguese; the worst thing for a newcomer to this language is that the letters are not pronounced the same as in English. In the southern dialect, for example, the R is pronounced more or less as an H. Crazy, I know — or rather, I didn’t know. Getting off the bus in the darkness and asking complete strangers where Rua Flores was (“Flores Street”, according to my guidebook, where there was some hostel) was greeted by blank stares (I don’t blame them; imagine someone asking you where Elm St’heet is). Coupled with general my apprehensiveness about stories about violence in Brazil in general and especially in metropolises, this coupled the loneliness with tension above the norm for a solo backpacker in a never-seen-before-don’t-speak-the-language city.
Anyway, back to Curitiba. I was traveling alone and did not even meet/see any other travelers. I decided I might as well save some money and checked into a place just opposite of the main bus station. This turned out to be one of the rattiest places I ever slept in (matched years later by a horrible, ant-infested dump off the beautiful Manuel Antonio beach in Costa Rica).
At least it was cheap-ish, at some 14 Reals, I believe (~7$). The room — cell is a better description – was consisted of a single bunk, and wooden walls so close together I could spread my arms out and touch opposite sides at the same time.
I don’t blame the city itself; Curitiba seemed like a nice city. It’s famous for its bus stations (which form a system allowing for fast and convenient bus networking. Read about that somewhere else :).
I took the scenic train ride around Paranagua, one of the ‘must-do’s in Curitiba. Honestly, it was nothing you couldn’t see somewhere else, but when you’re alone, you take/do what you can get.
Other than that, I walked up and down the city streets. Saw some sites…
…and ate at one of the ubiquitous all-you-can-eats. I ate so much my belly ached and I could barely drag myself back to my cell-bunk. I read my Jeffrey Archer novel, purchased at a rare store for used books in English. As you can see, none of the photos includes myself or anyone else.
After Curitiba I took a bus to Rio de Janeiro, where I spent two weeks in an Israeli-infested hostel. It was sort of a binge overdose to compensate for those lonely days in Curitiba.
(Further pics from Curitiba here).