Hi from Sao Paolo! (Carlos, did I spell it correctly?) We're here in this city of 17 million people, and we've been away from steady email for a few days, so I'll backtrack and tell you about Ouro Preto. After a great Rio beach day on Monday, we put on our packs and headed for the bus station via one of the craziest bus rides ever. I knew it would be exciting when the bus driver crossed 3 lanes of traffic to pick us up. But, we flew to the bus station where our first night bus was waiting. Our trip is going to require lots of night busses, so we were hoping that it wasn't going to be a typical crappy Greyhound or something. Luckily, the seats are big, they recline almost all the way, and the bus was only about half full. I slept pretty much the whole time, but Mike tells me the ride was pretty crazy, as we climed mountain switchbacks under a starry, Brazilian sky. We woke up in the small mountain town of Ouro Preto around 7 am and passed the bottle around to wake us up. Don worry, Mom, it was mouthwash. After a night bus, that's basically a requirement. We found a hostel really close to the bus station, dropped our packs ,and started sightseeing.
A little orientation for you gringos reading this back home. Ouro Preto is an old mining town that was a major player in the Portugese empire. Basically, they came, dug out tons of gold with some help from local slave labor, and funded their empire back across the Atlantic. Not all of the money left the town, though, and it was very well built. Set amongst steep hills, even our red eyes could appreciate the beauty right away. Steep cobblestone streets crisscrossed the mountains, with picture perfect shops, houses, and running alongside. Sure, there were certainly more poor parts of the town, but it was all very beautiful and seemed to be a suprisingly busy town even though there were not many tourists.
Ouro Preto is really famous for its churches, I think there are 23 in the small town. Each was unique and each was beautiful. Lots of great paintings, carvings, and art to appreciate in each one. Imagine looking out amongst the rolling green hills and being able to always see at least a dozen church steeples. After just a few churches, our group needed a little cat nap, and I'm sure there are a few German tourists with pictures of the five of us napping in front of one of the churches. Once we got going again, we came across a gold mine that we wanted to explore, and our guide Marcelo took us deep into the mountains. We saw some gold flakes, but I think the Portugese did a pretty good job cleaning it out. Since we got such an early start and had done a ton of walking up and down the steep hills, we were ready for a feast. Lucky for us, we made our way to an all you can eat restaurant, and I think the owners eyes dropped when he saw 5 big guys attacking the food. But it was great eats, and soon we were fighting a food coma! Carlos and Hernaldo went back for a little cat nap, while Mike and Dan and I went and found some more churches! I also managed to pick up some great souveniers made of local stone and carved by local artisans. (It wasnt until I put them in my pack that I realized I added about 10 pounds of stone to my load!)
After a long day of exploring this great town, we got cleaned up and went to a restaurant that was highly recomended by our guide from earlier. Low and behold, he was the waiter! Right off the bat, he made us 5 caipirinhas, which is a fantastic brazillian drink that we had yet to try! They are sugary, full of liquor, and make the miles of steep climbing melt away. Marcelo was right, he knew how to make a great drink and of course we had some more! We shared some smaller plates of food because of our big lunch and had a great time relaxing after the day. We wandered around the town some more after dinner in seach of elusive night life. We were led to a pretty cheasy bar where we were able to catch the end of a big football game over a few more beers. We werent out too late though, knowing that there is a pretty steep climb back to the hostel and soon we were fast asleep. I knew I was tired because I didn't even hear Hernaldo snoring.
Captain Burlando was the first out of bed and found out the bus schedule to our next destination. He roused us at a great hour, we feasted on the hostel's breakfast, and soon it was back to the Rodovario where the next bus was going to take us to Bello Horizonte. I'll let one of the straight guys tell you about that stop, they seemed to really love that town for some reason!
Our adventures are continuing though, and I'll be the first to say we are having a great trip, seeing some amazing things, spending just a bit too much money, and being very safe.
Ciao mis amigos!
Joey (Bag of Everything)