By Ricky Skelton
Floripa is one of the places in Brazil where it's best not to arrive at the bus station late at night. But unlike all the other cities, this isn't to avoid dangerous situations. It's because you miss out on one of the best ways to arrive at a city in Brazil or anywhere. Spend the extra money and buy a daytime flight from Rio or Sampa. It will be worth it if you sit on the right and get a clear day - not unusual there.
The flight takes you down the coast, just a short distance out to sea. From here you get a view of every beach, every bay, every island, every estuary and every mountain on the way. As you see the first green hills of the Serra do Mar, it's hard to imagine that they have nearly two million people on top of them. It's true though because somewhere up there in the mist lies Curitiba. Not the most interesting Brazilian city but it does have the train ride down to Paranaguá. You might not be able to see the tracks from above but you'll certainly be able to appreciate why tourists pay R$60 for the ride, dropping down from the high plane down between the jungle-covered peaks to the edge of the bay.
Even if you can't see Curitiba, you should be able to see the Baia de Paranaguá and Ilha do Mel. The island is built for partying and surfing but north of it, the Parque Nacional de Superagüi comes highly recommended. Somewhere down below is a jungle somehow so remote that it has more jaguars than people. It may be a mission to get there but not many remote places in Brazil can be so close to a big city.
You pass the mini-Rio of Balneário Camboriú and the headland of Porto Belo, beaches all the way. Soon after you can see the island. You may see the bridges that connect it to the continent and the hills that run down the spine. Then the beaches of the north appear, built up but you could handle. But the beaches of the east look better and the dunes protecting them mean they are EMPTY! Miles of white waves coming all the way from southern Africa to crash on Moçambique, Galheta and Mole. Behind the dunes is a crisp pine forest which you'll hardly notice as between that and the green mountains is the lagoa. You'll rarely see clearer water, made even more beautiful by the swirls of sand you can see just below the surface, spreading out hundreds of metres in places.
At this point you head mystifyingly out to sea only to return over Ilha do Campeche and more dunes and people surfing waves, before passing through a gap in the hills and landing on the west side. By this point you should be so excited about seeing the whole island that they won't be able to open the doors quick enough for you. And if you sat on the right, you won't even have seen the south of the island. It's just as spectacular.
Previous articles by Ricky:
Understanding Brazil - The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo - always a bad thing?