Friday, June 27, 2014

Day 26 - Enchanted by Ouro Preto

Ouro Preto was not the first capital of the State of Minas Gerais (a Brazilian guy told me the town that was, nearby, but I forgot its name) but it is very old and was the capital for many years. It really is a wonderful place. Walking though its hilly cobbled streets is like stepping back in time. All the buildings are preserved in their original, colonial, state and everywhere you look is another picture postcard opportunity. It's like walking through a set in a Walt Disney Fairy Tale cartoon. I'm so glad I chose to come.

I got up really again (biological clock still trumping my alarm) made a coffee and got packed. For a two night stop I unpack everything and re-pack at the end. One night stops, I don't bother.

After a bit of key confusion again - this time I left it in the pigeon hole for flat 201 - I was off. Again, the bus came round the corner just as I closed the door so it was an easy trip through the morning traffic to the bus station.

Dispensed with these useless items - the one on the left cost R$50 was supposed to charge my camera battery but didn't

BH in the morning

Internetting at BH Bus statin

Bus arrives

My Forest shirt was spotted by a Preston North End fan wearing a Wellington Phoenix shirt and we soon found out we had more in common. His group were going to Ouro Preto too, but he's been a bit more realistic and got there in time for the 8 am bus. I sensed a bit of mutual disappointment on both sides. Travelling alone or in small group, sometimes the last thing you want is to be lumbered with another similar group of tourists. But I had another hour to wait on top of that, so I was able to go my separate way without any awkwardness. I'd keep bumping into them anyway as they stayed at my poussada. Nice chaps indeed. Never mind. It gave me the opportunity to have a few coffees and go on the internet to catch up with stuff. Žemyna and Mitch are now in Laos and the photos of where they're staying look amazing. Beaga bus station, by contrast, is not very picturesque.

Anyway, onto the very comfortable Passaroverde bus and I find I'm sat next to yet another aussie from Sydney, an American and a Swede. At one point we got stuck in a jam due to road works for about 20 minutes but we arrived only about 15 minutes late. I caught a taxi to the poussada so I could check in as quickly as possible. The taxi ride through incredibly narrow, windy, cobbled, steep streets was an adventure in itself. The poussada is lovely. A real throw-back to colonial days. Big rooms, wooden window doors, high ceilings with chandeliers, arched windows and painted walls on the outside.

Beautiful Old Poussada

The view from the side window

The Poussada from the Outside

I had a bath for a change. Luxury. Then I went out to explore the cute streets of Ouro Preto. My first priority however (obviously) was to watch Germany v USA and I found a lovely bar/restaurant to watch that whilst having a tasty steak with mango sauce and garlic rice and a couple of beers. It quickly became apparent that the cynic in me was way off the mark (wrong again!) as Germany clearly were trying to win and really should have won by more than the one goal margin. After the first half I swapped bars to watch the 2nd half. (Got to see more places.) The Preston fan was there with his mates but they were busily engaged in a group so I didn't feel confident to butt in. With the Germans beating USA 1-0, Ghana could have pipped the USA for second spot if they'd have beaten Portugal by two goals. But for Portugal to leapfrog them, they would have had to have scored another four more. The damage was one when they lost to Germany 4-0. You know what I think about that. So it's Germany and USA in the last 16.

Germany v USA

Ouro Preto Map

Steak with Mango Sauce, Garlic Rice and tatties

After this I walked up to the Escolar do Mineral - a rather beautiful museum of mining and minerology. It was pretty good inside too - all for R$6. It has thousands of samples of rocks and minerals, some of which were really stunning.

The bar where I watched USA v Germany

Main Praca

"The street on the Right"

Where I watched the 2nd half

Look at the sciatic arch. Female?

Pretty decent paleo section

Inside the museum

View from the museum window

And another

After that, anticipating it getting colder, I walked back to the poussada to get changed into jeans and two shirts before walking back again for the game of the day - Algeria v Russia. I found a posh hotel that had the match on so I asked if I could take a seat there and they said "yes, of course". Which I took to mean I was going to be given the menu soon so a could choose some nibbles and a beer. Russia scored after 6 minutes with a screaming header. But after almost twenty minutes of being totally ignored by the waiters I thought "sod them" and walked along to another where I chatted with a local jeweller. At half time, I walked by to the trendy street in Ouro Preto called "the street on the right" because looking at the main building on the main square it is on the right. I found another bar where I ordered a potatoe based dish - kind of like a shepherd's pie with a thick layer of cheese on top. Brazilian food is not very healthy but it is always tasty.

Algeria scored an equaliser from a header with the Russian goalkeeper at fault. (Apparently this morning, they are claiming he was blinded by a laser just seconds before the goal.) And in a very exciting climax, Algeria clung on to qualify for a Round of 16 game against Germany whilst the Russians go home (Now where have I heard that before?). The Algerian fans are obviously really enjoying the tournament and are impressive whilst at the same time being a bit scary in their impassioned support. One thing you notice about them, though, when the cameras pan in on them, is the total absence of any Algerian women amongst them. In the other game, Belgium beat South Korea 1-0 despite having a man sent off.

After that I went across the road to "the" bar in Ouro Preto and got chatting to Steve from Reading and Martin from Manchester. Both were impressive in their travel stories but I was particularly impressed with Martin. When I told him my name and that may dad was Lithuanian, he asked "which part?" rather than the usual blank look or "where's that?" A real travelling hero, this guy. Been everywhere, on a budget.

I also chatted with a group of Belgians from Mons, a guy from Middlesbrough and a Medical Student from Sydney. She was very sweet.

Rather pissed, I still managed to walk home without tripping up on the cobbles safe and sound. It was bloody freezing though and I think I'm going to have to invest in a new jumper today, as it's only going to get colder down in Iguacu and Curitiba.

Russia v Algeria

Art gallery on the way back to the pub

Shepherd's Pie like thing

The popular bar on the street on the right

Steve, Martin and me

So, it's the end of the group stages and it's been probably the most exciting World Cup's ever according to "More or Less" (from the BBC.) For the first time, today we get a day off from football.

The round of 16 games are now decided and they start tomorrow...

Assuming the Group winners all win their games (yes, a big assumption) the quarter finals will line up like this...

Which is where it will really get very interesting.

Right, I'm off to do a bit of touristy revelling in Ouro Preto.

Ouro Preto

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