Through the Amazon on a train to visit the xikrin people
The Xikrin people at aldeia Djudjêkô
Paraupebas: a hidden gem waiting to be discovered
Vale, the giant Brazilian mining company with an arm in Canada, runs an 892 km (554 miles) railway connecting São Luís, on Maranhão state’s coast, to Paraupebas, in Pará state, southeastern region. It’s the Carajás Railway.
At an average speed of 40km/hour (25 mph), it takes 16 hours to cover the distance between the two cities. So some travellers prefer to board an Azul Airline flight to Pará’s Marabá city and hop on the train there for a two-hour long journey to Paraupebas.
Paraupebas is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Its main assets are the local people and the 1,200,000 hectares of surrounding rainforest. The area houses an incredible number of waterfalls, lakes and caves ready for the most seasoned adventures. Those less prepared to endure the tropical jungle can hit the Zoobothanical Park instead and check out an impressive collection of orchids and a plethora of typical birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.
A gallery operated by a local women’s pottery cooperative called Mulheres de Barro (The Mud Women) is another mandatory stop. The pieces on display are highly influenced by archeological findings in the area dating back 6,000 years but have a contemporary feel that makes them simply irresistible.
A baby panther and baby jaguar at the Parque Zoobotânico de Carajás
Pieces produced by the local women’s co-op
Small day tours to local buffalo and pineapple farms are also popular options. The same can be said about a hot spring of potassium-rich waters that can be combined with a visit to one of the many amethyst sellers in the area.
But the highlight of any visit to Paraupebas is a sleepover at Djudjêkô, an aldeia on the Xikrin people’s land. There visitors can have their bodies painted in traditional patterns, watch ritual dances, try canoeing and fishing using ancient indigenous techniques and learn some life lessons of those who live in tune with nature.
To wrap up the stay with style, the visitor should also try at least two local dishes. One is vatapá, a delicious shrimp stew with a strong influence of the Nigerian Yoruba people enslaved by the Portuguese and brought to Brazil. The other is tacacá, an indigenous shrimp soup that leaves a unique tingling effect in your mouth and is commonly enjoyed by locals in the late afternoon. Photo: A bowl of tacacá