Curitiba, November 11, 2016
Rain was predicted for the afternoon, but the morning was warm and sunny, so we went to some of the parks – first Bosque Alemão (German Woods, celebrating the German heritage of this area), closest to our friends’ house. You can climb up a multi-story lookout tower, but we didn’t go that high. This park is filled with native flora, much of it in its original natural state for centuries.
Curitiba had a mayor for many years, who has just been re-elected after having been out of office for a term. Eliane likes the “old new” mayor who worked tirelessly to restore and conserve nature preserves as well as created well-maintained walking and bike trails. Some of these have fallen into disrepair due to neglect by the mayor who was just voted out of office.
At Bosque Alemão, one path is designed to go on with kids, as signs on kiosks along the way tell the story of Hansel and Gretel; some of the signs have been defaced and cobblestones broken.
We came to a small building where Dale took a photo with my face in the hole of a picture of a witch – I tried to look witchy! In this room is also a small library, where kids can pick out books to read or be read to, with comfortable seating for these activities.
A sign invites children to come on Saturday and Sundays to listen to storytellers. Currently the theme is stories about witches!
Next, Carlos drove us to Pope’s Woods (Bosque do Papa), named this by the large Polish community in Curitiba to honor Pope John Paul II after his 1980 visit. He is the only pope honored there – no mention of Francis! – but after all, it is the park dedicated to Polish culture.
There is a restaurant near the entrance that Eliane says is quite good but not open at that hour.
In a previous post, I described several original buildings (not replicas) that were moved to the park to create a sort of historical Polish immigrant village. You can look inside to see the furnishings, and one of them houses a small gift shop full of Polish souvenirs.
So where are the giant rodents??
Then we went to Parque Barigüi, where we would see capybaras! They are not in cages, they just roam free and swim in the lake. The largest rodent in the world, capivaras are very mild-mannered. There used to be an alligator in the lake, but he didn’t usually threaten them (though I bet he must have made a meal of at least one of them!).
But, backtracking – this park is more open and landscaped, while the others, true to their names, were more like woods. Edged with native forest, Parque Barigüi is mostly expanses of green lawn and a lake, traversed by 6 km of walking/jogging/biking paths, also a project of the visionary mayor.
There are exercise stations where one can stop while walking the path to exercise other muscles in the body.
We walked for a bit and stopped at a stand selling coconut milk (not the one right at the parking lot entrance to the park, which is more expensive) – very refreshing on this warm day. Then we walked further, to look for the capybaras. Carlos went to get the car and circle around to further into the park to meet us. We stopped on a bridge where Eliane fed bread to the many geese that approached rapidly with the promise of human-given food. The fish also tried to get some but weren’t much competition to the geese.
We finally found some of the large, flat-faced rodents. (Their ugliness actually makes them cute!!) One was grazing by itself and three others were resting near the lakeshore. Moving dots on the lake were the heads of others who had decided to go for a swim to cool off – they’re good swimmers.
Dale and I approached those on the shore slowly and cautiously so as not to scare them. One of them stood up and turned his head to look at me, but I posed no threat. We both took some good photos of them, as well as of some birds we saw.
Eliane told us the alligator had been removed, because a human mother and her child got too close and bothered him, so he became aggressive toward the child. This incident raised an outcry against the “dangerous animal loose in the park” (who had never bothered anyone who kept a respectful distance) and he was removed and given to a zoo. There is, however, a cement statue of the jacaré which one can sit on.
A beautiful araucária tree
The sky was still blue with fluffy white clouds, but in the distance, we could see a layer of grey clouds gathering.