Report 11 – Brazil – Rail – Bananas
Report 11: Brazil – Rail – Bananas
Out of four days in Brazil, two were pitch black. Right after our cheerful welcome, all hands were on deck to open our four hatches. Already by 4pm, the land cranes and stevedores were in action and cleared the thousand tons of coal with noise and dust until 11pm. However, silence lasted only until 6am in the morning, and then it all went on. Now with us as well, we should learn how to relieve a ship from carbon residues and coal dust. This day was dedicated to the steerage.
We learned to swing a broom and bucket and practiced to in- and exhale coal dust. We made it joyfully, because that meant that already on the first day by 4pm was closing time for us. Then we just needed another hour of cleaning our body under salt-free shower water returning to fairly- white appearance.
A small exploratory walk through a town with many flowers, shrubs and trees that were absolutely strange to me, was possible. I was traveling with a group that wanted to go into the 100 km distant and 1000-meter higher city of Curitiba in 12 hours by train. This meant to crawl into the hammock not too late, because at 5:30am it should be “all rise – all rise” for us.
We trotted with 15 men up to the train station – together with nautical technical personnel (the second officer). Departure was at 08am, at 11am arrival was planned. We received lunch, a city tour, dinner, and accommodation, return flight, all within 28 hours. It was a train with three carriages, like those used on routes in Schleswig-Holstein, typical for the Wild West. Only a small degree of utilization on the train we left unspectacular. Tuk-tuk-tuk, we made slow progress with a steam locomotive. After about 45 minutes, we were on the open range. After some waiting and much palaver it turned out that the engine had broken down, and that in about two hours a replacement train would come.
Finally time to explore Brazilian country. All was flat around us, harvested fields. Here and there a stem and stub. But these were few stubs were heaven on earth to me, because they hung full of ripe bananas! Till now I had only heard of it, and now they were hanging in front of my nose ready to be eaten. We harvested plentiful, and three instead of the announced two hours passed quickly.
It continued with a railcar into breathtaking mountain scenery, combined with great technical railway building art. As we were only an hour from our goal, a small shunting locomotive came toward us to the single track. I was standing directly behind the train driver. There was no escape: We slammed together. Although our railcar had a significant amount of damage, but fortunately only one person was injured. Our colleague Paul had opened the car door before the collision, and had jumped out. Broken leg! On the shunting car no one was injured – they had come to meet us leaderless! We rolled back to a train station we already passed and waited another three hours for the clearance of the track and on a replacement railcar. Long after the sunset we reached Curitiba and enjoyed a generous dinner, topped with huge slabs, on which were heaps of peeled tropical fruit. Greedy as we were, we went about.
Breakfast was short and excellent. Departure at 8am and arrival in Paranaque were on time. After that, I just swept and washed hatches and shoveled sand and ballast taken on board from one side to the other and cast off the lines for leaving port.
Although we have seen little of the country and people, it was by far more than what I had imagined a few weeks ago.