A Tale of Two Cities

Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
1
16
30
Trip End Dec 14, 2008


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Flag of Brazil  , State of Minas Gerais,
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..

So we finally left Rio, which unlike most experiences we've had on this trip we came away from a place that before we'd had great expectations (anyone see a theme here?!) of and left with an even better impression. Rio is as beautiful as we'd imagined and much safer and relaxing than we'd imagined also. No doubt it doesn't have a reputation for being dangerous for nothing, but aside from walking around dripping in bling, you'd need to be pretty unlucky to get mugged..which is true of any city, not least London.

But leave we did and we were headed for Ouro Preto, about a 7 hour overnight bus journey inland from Rio. According to the hostel owner in Rio we were in for a challenge...to find something worth doing in Ouro Preto (she couldn't understand why we would want to go there), additionally we had miscalculated the days before we had to be in Salvador so had booked 2 nights at the hostel but despite the overcast weather it turns out that Ouro Preto is well worth a visit. Again we managed to choose the emptiest hostel in the place...apparently it holds over 70 people and we were the only ones in there. This scenario proved ideal for negotiating a price, unfortunately our host was far more skilled at this than us, and instead of us getting a good price on the basis he had no other business, we managed to pay 10 Reais more after he showed us various rooms from the bleak to the basic to the acceptable. The final room that we settled on (for the higher price) had the added features of no TV and no wi-fi (unlike the other crappier rooms) but given we had the run of the hostel it didn't matter that much. The downside of being the only ones there meant the fact we couldn't eat the disgusting breakfast was difficult to hide, after arriving early we were treated to a fine breakfast consisting of semolina cake, disgusting cheese and coffee which contained more sugar than coffee..picking through the above was made more difficult by the fact he was standing over us congratulating himself on serving such a feast. Brilliantly we timed our wake up call the next day to coincide with when breakfast was stopped being served and managed to quickly escape to town when he was talking about making an exception for us!
As for the town itself, it's full of cobbled streets and seems like the church capital of South America..loads of churches in a Baroque style, so much so that it was named a World Heritage site. Unfortunately, like Cusco, there is a charge to get into most churches and as a result we didn't go into many but it was nice enough wandering around and taking lots of photo's..which should be attached.
We also went into our first restaurant that charges per kilo...luckily for me it's the weight of your food that's charged and not the customer (although that might be a more cost effective policy), where we sampled the Brazilian delights of tutu a mineira (pureed black beans), feijoada (pork stew with beans) and caruru (okra with shrimp) plus I went for a good helping of crisps (purely for the enjoyment -to- weight ratio).
Leaving Ouro Preto, we caught a 2 hour bus journey to Belo Horizonte which is Brazil's 3rd city in size but possibly first in unattractiveness. Our Lonely Planet dedicated a whole paragraph to it's charms and we're thinking it probably had to pad for a good few sentences. Declaring itself as the Bar capital of Brazil (a very dubious claim given Rio & Sao Paulo are fairly well known for a good night out) we failed miserably in spotting anywhere in the centro district which could pass as a acceptable place to eat, even a desperate search for a McDonald's ended in vain, as such we retreated to our shabby hotel to enjoy a dinner of crisp sandwiches.
We'd foolishly allowed ourselves a half day to explore the 'sights' and a night near the bus station to catch our airport bus in time for our early morning flight to Salvador the next day. Included in our Belo Horizonte's whistle stop tour we came across the smallest looking obelisk, stumbled across a ghetto next to the train station and wandered aimlessly through the municipal park before embarking on our ultimately fruitless search for food.
Not unlike Hamilton, or in fact Birmingham I'm sure Belo Horizonte has a nice side to it but it's kept extremely well hidden, so much so we couldn't wait to leave to the airport. Flying to Salvador rather than taking the bus had cost us an extra $30 but saved us around 20 hours so we were thankful for Webjet and it's old school plane (presumably the cheap fares come through cost cutting measures like no life jackets!) for getting us to Salvador and finally arriving at Jen's birthplace!!!  
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Comments

martyrusty
martyrusty on

Ahoy Cap'n !
Wow! good look Cap'n Redbeard!!
Looks like that all that hiking and bad food is doing you good!

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