Friday, 15 October 2004

Beaches and Mines

While in Macaé, I went to Búzios, which is the "Brighton" of Brazil. Luckily, because it's still spring here, rather than summer, it wasn't too busy. The other good thing is that, due to the geography of the peninsula, you have lots of beaches while the amount of hotels you can build is limited so you would never have the stupid amount of people you would have in places like Brighton or St Tropez. However, you might meet Brigitte Bardot there, on the grounds that she is the celebrity who put Búzios on the map in the first place, by staying there a few years ago. To the point that you have streets and restaurants named after variations on Brigitte and Bardot.

I'm now in Belo Horizonte, the capital city of the state of Minas Gerais, so called because this state has a soil that is very rich in all sorts of minerals, including gold, and counts something like 2000 mines that originally made it the economic centre of Brazil. Belo Horizonte itself is a large modern city with wide avenues designed in a grid pattern. In fact, 2 grids on top of one another at 45 degrees. It looks fantastic on a map but is a nightmare on the ground because you end up with lots of intersecting streets and quite a few junctions with 6 or 8 streets. The result is not pedestrian friendly at all. To make the life of pedestrians even worse, the place is not flat, far from it. On the other hand, in a 30 Celsius heat, walking around town is good exercise. And there's quite a big park if you want to get away from the traffic. Also, Belo Horizonte is supposed to have the best night life in Brazil so I will check this out over the week-end. Then next week, the plan is to go for day trips to the different small towns around here that are supposed to be quite scenic.

Today, I also bought the remaining plane tickets for the last two legs of my journey. So it's now all set: after Belo Horizonte, I go to Foz do Iguaçu then cross into Argentina and fly from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires. It was quite fun to explain all this in Portuguese to the travel agent. The difficult part was to convince her that I would manage on my own between Foz do Iguaçu, which is the town on the Brazilian side of the Iguaçu falls, and Puerto Iguazu, which is the town on the Argentinean side of the falls. There is about the same distance between the two than there is between Luxembourg and Trier or Mulhouse and Basel but they both have their own airport and it is much more simple to cross the border by bus than by plane: the plane journey would be Foz do Iguaçu - São Paulo - Buenos Aires - Puerto Iguazu and cost a fortune whereas the bus should take no more than 1 hour and cost a few reais. The travel agent was also quite amused to discover that Iguaçu is spelt Iguazu in Spanish. Ah well, it was an experience and it certainly made me practice my Portuguese.

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