Thursday, 21 October 2004

Up & Down

My legs hurt. I spent the day yesterday walking around Belo Horizonte to do different things. As I'm sure I mentionned before, Belo Horizonte is not flat, and it was hot: more than 30 Celsius. I needed a bus ticket to Ouro Prêto, so I went to the bus station. Twice, because the first time I apparently failed to mention I needed the ticket for today. I went to the Mineralogy Museum and saw lots of pretty stones. I bought my first souvenir, a culinary one: a bottle of cachaça, 6 years old. I'll need a 3 year old one to do caipirinha as well but I can find that in any airport, no need to walk all around town to find a specialist shop. I then failed to buy any other souvenir. I wanted something to put on the shelves at home but all I found was either too large, too heavy or really ugly. I'm trying to learn from my previous mistakes and buy stuff I can actually carry around the rest of my journey. Now, that means I'm doing forward planning! Surely not!?

After all this, I compounded the problem today by going to Ouro Prêto. Ouro Prêto, which means Black Gold in Portuguese, is in the mountains of Minas Gerais and used to be the state capital before it was moved to Belo Horizonte. Being in the mountains, there is not a single flat bit to the town. Some of the streets are virtually vertical, or they feel like it when you walk up them, especially considering it's all cobbles. It must be murder when it rains. Why would you ever build a town there? For gold: it has a huge amount of it. In fact, I think it has (or had) the largest deposits of gold in all of South America. It also has an inordinate amount of churches, in which a lot of the gold ended up and is still visible today. In practice, I've had to work very hard to take pictures without a church in them. Not that there are no other things to photograph, Ouro Prêto is also very famous for its colonial architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage site so you won't see a single modern building there. Old buildings have to be restored in the colonial style and new ones have to be built in the same style. It is all very picturesque but very hard work. Once again, I failed to buy a souvenir there because most of the local handicraft is carved stone: beautiful but heavy and fragile.

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