While still in Chapada we get a message from Jefferson – a driver who took us 700 km from the area of Vitoria to the area of Itacare, that he will be coming back south and can take us from the city of Itabuna to Belo Horizonte. Because it is 1000 km, and the last hitchhiking wasn’t going so well for us, we agree without hesitating. Without any major adventures, having traveled over 500 km from Chapada to Itabuna we arrive there the day before the appointment and spend the night at the gas station, of course. The next day we meet our friend we met a month ago and wait half a day without doing anything to take the load. Unfortunately, Jefferson gets information that the transport orderer is criminal, so he gives up and the only cargo that goes south is us 🙂 In the late afternoon we set out on a journey and, as usual, we pass the landscape of Brazil, changing every few dozen kilometers. At night, we drive through completely darkened cities – it turned out that the neighbourhood has a big power failure – there is a blackout in three states. It is as if all of Poland, Lithuania and Belarus have been without energy.
Our long journey with Jefferson ends at 3:00 at the lifeguard station near Belo Horizonte. We stay in this safe place for the night, and our friend leaves into the dark night in the direction of Sao Paulo. For the second time we spend the night at the house of rescuers – so-called S.O.S. Usuario. It’s safe there, and sometimes you can even be offered a coffee and cake 🙂
Belo Horizonte itself doesn’t stand out anything special. It’s much more European than the cities we have visited so far in Brazil, and the prices are quite affordable. We use the lack of overload of attractions to slow down the pace of sightseeing and just walk around the city
Ouro Preto and Mariana
From Belo Horizonte we go to Ouro Preto – a colonial town, which in the seventeenth century with a population of 100,000 was at the time the largest city in both Americas. It was even bigger than Sao Paulo or New York. It owes its dynamic development to gold, discovered in nearby rivers with black water – hence the name of the city (Black Gold).
We are not so lucky and the last stretch to the town 70 km away from Belo Horizonte is done by bus. We couldn’t find a host, and hostel prices start at 70 PLN. Fortunately, Ouro Preto is now a university town and there are many student dorms so-called republica federal. With the fact that here the dorms are quite different from ours and in no way resemble the Warsaw Babylon or Alcatraz, where hundreds of students stay in crowded rooms. These are small houses or a kind of farm, where dozen or so people live. They have a shared kitchen, bathrooms and an area for a barbecue in front of the house, which in Brazil is obligatory. We knock on one of these shrines and ask if we can pitch a tent in their area. After consultation with the head of this dormitory, Garfield, he finds a place for us to camp under the roof. We are a bit worried about functioning of the shower, but in this dorm we luckily weren’t shocked by the current (but the other time I had the opportunity to experience a bath with a surprise).
Our republic (read “hepublica”) is located above Ouro Preto and from the terrace there is a beautiful view of the whole town. I use it to record my first timelapse. I didn’t realize how much time and images it takes to create such a movie!
Ouro Preto is famous for its many churches, their towers look amazing. We stroll along the steep, rocky streets, enjoying the fact that this city is so different from the others we have visited so far. There is peace and quietness here, and there is no ubiquitous garbage and buildings that only hold on to the word of honor. We also come to celebrations connected with Palm Sunday – a procession with orchestra passes through colorfully decorated streets. We also visit the Museum of Science and Technology of Escola de Minas. Huge collection of minerals and jewels makes a great impression on us.
The next day we decide to go to Mariana – a town as picturesque as Ouro Preto, 15 km away. However, it is not its values that attract us. 20 km to the north was once the small village of Bento Rodrigues. On November 5, 2015, a nearby dam holding a reservoir of toxic wastes of an open cast iron mine brakes there (the entire state of Minas Gerais is dotted with them). The village was literally washed away, with 17 people losing their lives and those who survived lost everything and had to leave their native land forever. 17 days later, pollution reached the Atlantic Ocean, along the way causing contamination of the Doce River and depriving clean water of 230 cities located at its banks. It was the largest ecological disaster in the history of Brazil, its effects aren’t accurately estimated to this day, and the consequences for those responsible were not drawn. More information can be read for example on Wikipedia.
We wanted to see “Brazilian Chernobyl” with our own eyes, but unfortunately – in two directions from Mariana it’s about 40 kilometers through the mountains. No way to be done on foot, hitchhiking won’t work either. We questioned everyone in Ouro Preto and Mariana, unfortunately it’s impossible to rent a bike. The car was crossed out for economic reasons and because we weren’t sure if an ordinary car could reach there on a mointain dirt road. However, the photos from Google Street View are impressive – the village is still in the state of 2012, while satellite images are already showing the state after the disaster.
Bento Rodriguez on Google Satelite – after the disaster
Sao Paolo – the biggest city of South America
After a few days spent in relatively quiet towns, we set out on the road to Curitiba. The hitchhiking goes amazingly easy, we meet even a Brazilian girl who visited Szczecin last month (it takes us a bit to decipher what name she is trying to pronounce 🙂 ) Once again we are lucky to experience the hospitality of the Brazilians. One day a random man gives us a dinner after learning where we are from and how we travel. On another day, as usual, we pitch a tent at a gas station, unfortunately without our well-known “you eat as much as you want”-type restaurant, there is only Frango Asado fast food (something like KFC). When we see prices at 10 PLN for a poor sandwich, we decide to stick to cookies. With the consent of the guard, we pitch a tent behind a broken bus. When we are ready to sleep, we hear the call “Hey, hippies!”. At the beginning, we think that they will throw us away from here, because we knead beautiful, green grass. But no! It was our acquaintance guard who brought us 2 large sandwiches from Frango Asado stuffed with things to the brim. Thanking him for a hundred times, we devour the sandwiches, because we decided to keep the cookies for breakfast. We barely managed to eat, and the bodyguard comes back – this time with a bunch of french fries! We really like this country and those smiling people 🙂
The next day it turns out that there is no shower at our station and we have to go to the station on the other side of the motorway, 500 meters away by the side of the road. Maneuvering in wet flip-flops between speeding cars is not one of the safest things, but we adhere to the principle – clean hitchhiker means a happy driver. We definitely recommend to stick to it 🙂
We catch a ride quite quickly, the driver tosses us to the bus station. Entering the city takes a lot of time, so we can “admire” the panorama of Sao Paulo for a long time: a huge cloud of smog hovering over it and ubiquitous traffic jams. We decide not to visit this city, because most opinions say that there aren’t many interesting things here. At the station we are late for bus for 5 minutes, so we have 2 hours to scout the area. What strikes us is a lot of junkies. They live in camps around the station, during the day they drink the cheapest cachaca (Brazilian rum), and do drugs at night. Frightening view. The bus crawls to Juquitiba for 2.5 hours. On the way, it starts pouring hard, which makes the luggage compartment, where our backpacks are, a swamp 🙁 In addition, it doesn’t stop when we reach the place, and it’s 1.5 hours until dusk. It doesn’t bode well. After 1 hour we are completely soaked and we catch a ride only for 20 km. We are nailed because there is 350 km left, and we don’t even have a place to put a tent. Moreover, the service of the nearby station says there are a lot of criminals in the area. Great.
Luckily we bunch on a pousada (kind of hostel), which opened 3 days before our arrival. This is the only pousada in Barnabes and we are its first guests. Unfortunately, due to the lack of anything worth seeing in Barnabes, we doesn’t bode her luck, even though the owner put a lot of heart into preparing the lodgings and hosting us 🙁
The next day, after the relative drying of our stuff overnight, we are lucky. We quickly catch a direct ride to Curitiba. Unfortunately, the road goes through the mountains, and the truck we drive is loaded. This results in a ride of 20 km/h or less. Driving 350 km takes 7 hours, but we are happy – we no longer have to stand in the rain by the road. At least for now 🙂