Day 229 - Ilheus to Ouro Preto

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End May 01, 2008

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Friday, April 18, 2008

We knew that today was going to suck.

Our alarm went off at 2:30am, so we showered, packed and staggered out of the hotel still half asleep.

The airport was only 5 minutes walk away; the check-in and security queues were small and the plane left on time, so it was all quite painless really.

4am flight !

The flight was just over an hour and it was the first flight I've ever taken where I left and arrived before the sun came up! Very weird, it was like we were on some secret 'rendition' flight or something...

We landed on time in Belo Horizonte, which is amazingly Brazil's 3rd largest city.

As we collected our bags and walked to the bus we could just about see the sun coming up.

We worked out which bus we needed to get to the central bus station and once onboard the 45 minute journey allowed us to watch Mr Sun start climbing the sky to our left.

Sunrise in Belo Horizonte

Despite it being before 7am, the roads were very crowded and all the other buses seemed to be packed with commuters. It was a good reminder of what we have to look forward to in only 12 days time!

The bus took us to the other airport in the city and then onto the bus station, which was pretty big with over 20 companies operating there, so we had plenty of choice for getting to Ouro Preto.

We booked onto an 8am bus and it took about two hours to get to this lovely old town up in the hills.

Our first hint of what was to come was a lonely old church looking out over the valley of trees below.

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Ouro Preto is absolutely raved about by guidebooks and within seconds of entering the town we could see why, with a number of really pretty colonial churches perched on rolling hills and cobbled streets.

We got off at a much smaller bus station, where we really struggled to book a bus to Rio tomorrow night (we got there in the end with plenty of sign language) and then got a taxi up through the town to our hostel.

The hostel is pretty basic but the staff are very friendly and it's only a short walk away from the main square.

Monday is a religious holiday here, so there are all sorts of sound stages being erected in the square and it will be interesting to see if something happens tomorrow.

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We had a really good wander up and down the cobbled streets and with every minute the town grew on us, or maybe that was because the weather was improving!

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Some of the buidings were really attractive, looking almost European...

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...and some of the streets reminded us of Italy.

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For lunch we found a really good pay-per-kilo lunch place, which was the best we've had so far, with LOADS of tasty local dishes. 

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I know that you MUST be missing the plate shots, so here you go!

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After lunch we strolled around the town with no time constraints, admiring the charming narrow streets and grand churches which were built back when Ouro Preto was the most important gold and diamond mining town in Brazil in the colonial days.

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You could practically smell the money around every corner...

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...we've not seen anywhere like this anywhere on our trip, let alone South America.

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The wealth of the town is still there for all to see, even if today the economy is much more reliant on tourists, mainly Brazilian but with the odd foreigner like us.

The basilica was particularly spectacular, definitely one of the most impressive places of worship we've seen anywhere on our trip.

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It's a small town so we'd seen everything we wanted to quite quickly and we strolled back to the hostel for an afternoon siesta after our ridiculously early start this morning!

Unlike most of our destinations so far, we knew that we would enjoy walking back to our hostel!

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It was ridiculously scenic, everywhere you looked made a good photo....

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...even roads lined with cars!

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This was the view half way up our road as you turned around and looked back over the town.

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We have a full day here tomorrow before the 10pm bus to Rio, so there's no point in seeing absolutely everything today.

We've left the insides of the churches for tomorrow and we may even take a tour out and about the local area if we can find something worth doing that doesn't cost the earth. 

It would have been perfect to get a bus out tonight and just have today here, but unfortunately the first bus to Rio is tomorrow because only one company stops in this town. Shame.

We're really looking forward to seeing Rio tomorrow, it's been a massive landmark for us (the last city of our trip!) for 8 months now and although we can't wait to arrive, we'll also be sad that we're right at the end of our trip.

From Rio we plan to go south to an island called Isla Grande for a last few precious days on the beach and then we fly out of Rio on the last day of April.

After we ran out of steam in the afternoon we lay in bed and talked for hours, it was great.

Despite travelling for so long, we haven't really had that much total downtime where we can sit and talk about whatever comes to mind.

I guess there was a risk that we would really get on each other's nerves after spending every minute of every day in each other's faces for nearly 250 consecutive days, so we're very happy that we still enjoy each other's company and get on so well. Phew.

For dinner we headed to an Italian place on a road with a very steep incline, where Katie played it safe with a four cheese penne, while I ordered a chicken caneloni which turned out to be just MASSIVE. Good work ;) 

I think I've mentioned before that the base liquer of the 'caipirinha' drink for which Brazil is so famous is produced from sugar cane, which is mostly produced in this state.
For that reason it seemed very rude to visit this area without having one! (As you probably realise by now, I find it very hard NOT to justify an alcoholic drink) 

This turned out to be without doubt the STRONGEST caipirinha I've ever had, it was like firewater with a drop of lime!

Even Katie winced when she tried mine, which speaks volumes. I decided to wait for the food to arrive in order to dilute the flavour a bit.

Katie played safe with a glass of Brazilian wine (which was huuuuge) and the bill came to 53 Real which is better than normal for an evening meal.

Some of the roads on the way back to the hostel didn't seem that safe in the dark, but we didn't have any problems.

Hopefully we'll be able to have a good lie-in tomorrow and find a way to fill our time before the late bus to the town of the famous "January River" (Rio de Janeiro!).

Lots of love,

Al & Katie xx
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