Parauapebas is a small mining town located in the Pará region of Brazil. Close to the Pará River, it is considered to be part of the Amazonian rainforest. It is also one of the newer towns to spring up after the world’s largest iron ore mine was discovered in at neighboring Serra dos Carajás.
Imagine the boomtowns of the Gold Rush in California in the late 1800s. You can sense it all, the air of adventure, the rough and tumble attitude of a miner looking for the mother lode, the chaotic tent camp going through growing pains to become a full-fledged city. That’s what you’ll find in the frontier town of Parauapebas, Brazil. This is a town you visit when there is a craving for spontaneous living and a pioneer way of life.
It was the year 1967 and the U.S. Steel Company was conducting an aerial survey of minerals in the Carajás Region when a survey helicopter began to run short of fuel. A landing was required to refuel the tank with the extra fuel containers on board. The pilot spotted a bare hilltop and landed. During the idle time of waiting for the refueling, the survey team began inspecting the hilltop. To their amazement, they found the entire hill was composed of extremely high grade iron ore with an iron content of 66%. To date, it remains one of the world’s richest iron deposits and is unsurpassed in quantity and quality. Further mineral deposits were found and the race was on to tap into on of Mother Earth’s richest lodes.
Parauapebas itself is not a large town, but it is definitely growing. The majority of people who live in Parauapebas are miners who work in the nearby mines. The town is a lively conglomeration of miners, surveyors, assessors and their families. The town is known for its outdoor speakers in the downtown area that plays a radio station all day long. Then there are the “carro som” or sound cars that drive around the town streets. These are normally trucks covered in speakers that cruise around and play marketing messages.
Like many Brazilian villages, Parauapebas is laid out in a maze of streets with buildings crammed next to each other as the struggle to convert a boomtown to a proper city unfolds. There are a few hotels in the town and most are remarkably respectable in such a bohemian atmosphere.
The way in and out of Parauapebas is serviced by buses that arrive and depart at all hours of the day and night, heading for the bus hub in the city of Marabá and a train runs three times a week to São Luís. Plan a day of travel in and out of the town as the average trip is about 10 hours.
Parauapebas has an equatorial tropical climate. This means that there is no dry season and yet the sun shines overhead all year long. Average temperature hovers around 80 degrees with the nights being considered the winter of the tropics.
Anyone who sees themselves as an intrepid adventurer like Indiana Jones will be more than happy exploring the riotous atmosphere of Parauapebas, enjoying the local color and friendly people that populate a 21st century boomtown.
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