By Sílvia Oliveira
Whenever I come across a different path, an unusual street or a no-through road… off I go to explore the unknown. Imagine, therefore, having the Estrada da Graciosa only a few kilometers from home, a timeworn trail blazed by the drovers to open a route between the plateau and the coast.
It is the most perfect day-trip in the area surrounding Curitiba, above all at the weekends. This means that in order to reach Paraná’s historic cities you do not necessarily have to take the train. Nor do you need to take the BR 277 – which involves paying tolls. The best option is to take full advantage of this short, picturesque road only 37 kilometres from Curitiba.
The road wends its way through a well-preserved stretch of the Atlantic Forest. It is replete with streams, waterfalls, flora and fauna. It is so important to biodiversity that UNESCO declared part of it a Biosphere Reserve. Construction of the Estrada da Graciosa began in the 17th century and the road was for a long time the most important route for Paraná’s agricultural production bound for the port of Paranaguá.
Alongside the highway (yes, technically it is called the PR 410) there are seven rest areas, all with good leisure facilities. There are barbecue grills, viewpoints, toilets and food and drink stalls. Even so, some people prefer to bring their lunch with them. (I myself, I confess, once took a packed lunch there!). Despite the crowd that gathers on Sundays – everyone has the same idea as you – it is a laid-back day out.
Those that wish to use the barbecue grills should get there early. At the weekend, they are all taken before 9a.m. and it does not need to be high season! Make your first stop at the Engenheiro Lacerda rest area. On a clear day, you can see Paranagua Bay. My car, fortunately (or unfortunately) has a mind of its own. If it sees a sign with a stall and a kiosk… it stops, turns of the engine and sits there, enjoying the view.
There are several stretches with hairpin bends and a good part of the road is still cobbled. The original trail served as a path for Indians, miners and Jesuits. Later on, the drovers substituted the road with the Caminho de Itupava – Which I have already done on foot! But that is a story for another article!
At the last rest area is Mãe Catira Park, where those who want to swim in the river gather. Even if you make all the stops, the journey is short. At the end of the road is the town of São João da Graciosa, which is only 13 kilometres from Morretes. It is the best place to buy home-ground pepper and eat “pamonha da terra”, a dish made from ground maize. Further on, as you already know, are Morretes and Antonina. In truth, when you think that the journey is at an end it is only just beginning.
How to get there: turn right off the BR-116, at Km 61 (heading towards Sao Paulo)
Photo: Raul Mattar
Read more about Curitiba:
The “ecological” Curitiba (by Sílvia Oliveira)
A train ride through the Serra do Mar (by Sílvia Oliveira)
Largo da Ordem Street Market (by Sílvia Oliveira)
The Ukrainian Memorial (by Sílvia Oliveira)
How do you get from Curitiba’s Airport to the city centre? (by Sílvia Oliveira)