This article is divided in three parts. This is the third part Click here to go back to the second part.
The third day of my trip was reserved to go back home, taking my time and appreciating the landscapes along the way. My route included the cities of Caçador/SC and Lebon Regis/SC.
I did not stick to the original plan and ended up going to Caçador's downtown. The valley of "Fish River" (Rio do Peixe) is pretty "deep" (I am not a geologist so I don't know the correct term for this). Since the city grew along the valley, it is on very hilly terrain.
The old station of Figure 1 is not a real station, it is a replica of the original building that was destroyed in a fire. It was built slightly off the original site, since a brick-and-mortar station (the real one) took the place of the burned one.
The station's replica building is also a museum and again it was closed off. The new station's yard still shows a triangle (made obsolete by diesel locomotives). Part of the yard was converted to a city park, but at least they tried to keep original features, like the tracks, that are still there, even though almost completely buried. The history preservation efforts are noteworthy and make the city itself very beautiful.
Videira is another beautiful and economically relevant nearby city. The pictures below are anacronisms because I visited Videira in a different trip, in any case it is ok to mention it here due to proximity and the similar terrain.
Caçador is at 700m of altitude in the station area (near the river, that is the lowest part), but much of my trip saw higher altitudes, between 1000m and 1200m, over the "Serra Geral" (General Mountain Range). This range is the giant water divisor in the state of Santa Catarina: Rio Iguaçu water basin at north, Itajaí-Açu basin at east, Rio do Peixe at east, Rio Uruguai and Canoas at south. If heavy rain pours on this range, one or two of these basins will flood.
Serra Geral has always been a natural obstacle for development, and more recently is a preservation area. Even in those NASA pictures that show the distribuiton of artificial lights at night, this particular region is very dim, while the areas at west and particularly at east are much brighter.
The cell phone was offline since I exited Caçador until I reached Monte Castelo/SC, some 4h of driving (I lost some time doing inroads, so a 'normal' traveler would take less than 4h). I was told that a different phone company has better coverage in this area.
The city of Lebon Regis is tiny. The only major feature is the church. I could find some apple plantations as well (very few Brazilian places are cold enough to grow apples).
The whole region looks like a different country, if compared with Santa Catarina's most developed cities (mostly the ones near the Atlantic Ocean). On the one hand, I like the simple life approach, on the other hand I wonder where all these people will find higher education, or even ways to have fun at the weekend. Even the variety of products in supermarkets is very small.
Up there, the figure of the small ISP that was driven to extinction by telecoms in major cities, is still the savior for anyone that needs connectivity in small villages. You can see the antennas in the middle of plantations, in order to cover the big distances wtih low client density.
Fortunately, the restaurant where I had lunch (Santa Cecília/SC) offered free WiFi, even though the cell phone was still offline. So I could send a message to my wife saying that I was still alive :)
The third day reserved the biggest defeat of the trip: I did not find a way to reach "Serra da Ferradura" (Horseshoe Hill Range), where many railroad tunnels can be found. They belong to the Main Southern Trunk railway, that follows roughly the same direction of BR-116 highway.
I think that most dirt roads that give access to the tunnels trespass private property, and surveying the area would take too much time (ideally with equipment to camp along the tracks etc.). Some crazy people already did that and put the photos at Google Maps.
The lanscapes around BR-116 highway are very beautiful, but it is a dangerous road and the grade section is even more dangerous, due to heavy traffic and occasional small landslides that block a lane from time to time.
I wanted to look around but I also wanted to return home with daylight. I just did the "noblesse oblige" part, visiting Monte Castelo's station.
Southern Main Trunk is an active railroad but I did not have the luck of meeting a train while I was around. I took my time, stopped to visit a couple bridges, but no train.
And that was the end of the trip. Looking forward to next one :)
By the way, it is worth mentioning that IBGE (the Brazilian public institute that elaborates maps etc.) put a lot of topographic charts online, JPEG or PDF format, downloadable free of charge. It is advisable to download those charts if you plan to visit the countryside. Some parts of Brazil are not avaialble (not for free, at least) but at least for Santa Catarina the coverage is 100%.
IBGE site is really confusing. The hint is to go directly to the IBGE Web store, look for the chart you want, and download the JPEG version. The JPEG file is not as sharp as the printed map (that you can buy), but it is enough for "recreational" use. I employed PosteRazor to print the big JPEG in several sheets, then did some cutting and pasting to put the whole map together.
The scale is variable accordingly to the region. The 1:50.000 charts are avaiable for most developed areas, and they are the best for field activities, but in Contestado area the maps are only available at 1:100.000 scale. It is a bit too coarse to pinpoint objects like old stations etc. but it is far better than nothing. Do some additional research using Google Maps in advance, since your phone will be offline when you are deep into the countryside.
The IBGE charts are quite outdated, but fortunately rivers and mountains don't move often. Most roads and even the bridges tend to stay. Roads tend to be improved and rectified along the original rights-of-way that are already on older charts.