Paranapiacaba is a tiny little town 60km from São Paulo; perfect for a bate e volta (day trip). Although I could be wrong, I was told in Tupi the name means “where you will find the sea”. Over the last few months we’d heard it was a cool place to visit, and interesting enough to warrant a trip out. Turns out it’s an old British Railway company town started in the 1890’s and after it outlived its usefulness it was converted to a historic district.
To get there we simply took a metro line east, the turquoise cptm train SE to the end of the line, and a city 424 bus 20 minutes east; much easier than I anticipated: train and metro transfers are so much better than buses. In random spots on the road, the driver stopped to drop off and pick up small groups; it seemed like they were disappearing into the mountain foliage… After our trip we heard that there are some great hikes around there, if you know exactly where to get off.
From there on out you’re on your own feet in this lost cove of short houses and gentle hills; when we crested the first hill half of the sleepy little town was laid out before us. Cute little English-styles houses, a large amount of which were selling an apparently well-known local Cachaça – sugarcane liquor – but it was a little early for that. At the bottom of the neighborhood we got a good look at the heart of the old station, a mixture of still working rail tracks being overtaken by the wild. In a way we were lucky to come on a misty day, which made the old station charming and a tiny bit creepy; almost like a community cut off and time-warped. There’s not much to look at at first, just a little wooden footbridge crossing the tracks peering at the odd assortment of dilapidated brick buildings. We crossed over, and walked down a bit to the museum as the fog retreated to get a better look at what the city used to be like. It was honestly an odd collection with large machinery, steam engine parts, a couple of coaches, a collection of industrial tools, engine blocks, and a creepy clown-like toy collection.
So we walked around, explored the grounds, wondered what used to be inside some of the older abandoned buildings that were roped off. I guess it used to be part of the rail yard, but it looked like something out of a Stephen King book: misty clouds between red-brown rusted buildings, broken windows and oily shadows. We kept expecting to hear the slow drumbeat song of King’s Ludd.
If you’re so inclined there’s also a train ride for a few reais that does a loop around the area, to keep memories alive and probably appease the local kami. It seemed like more of a ritual of tourism than something fun (one of those “you must try the local thing”), because faces were dour and smiles were sparse… The mist made things somber, I guess. Oh well, it got more chirpy around the eating and drinking places, of course.
The mini plaza is surrounded by burger and pastel kiosks, with the ever present salgados and pilsen beers. There’s probably more to do around there, especially since they have an annual bonfire and music festival here (in 2015 it’s on July 26th), but after lunch we got our shit together and headed out to make it back to town before sundown. I guess if you can toss in a hike I’d give the place 4 stars as a day trip destination.