Mining for Gold

Ouro Preto, Brazil


Leaving Rio had mixed emotions for me – sadness at leaving some great fellow travellers that I had spent the last three months travelling with to excitement at meeting new people and venturing up north to explore more of Brazil. These feelings soon turned to disappointment as my mode of transport, now known as Gus, turned out to be not quite the standard I was expecting, very slow it has meant lots and lots of early morning starts to get anywhere. But anyway I have decided to ignore this and concentrate on the sites…

Winding my way up north, I stopped at a town of Ouro Preto (translated means Black Gold) and stayed at a local international youth hostel which was pretty clean, with a spacious outdoor area and a great view of the town. This great view did however mean a big hike up a hill every time you needed to venture home. It was unfortunate to have to spend a couple of nights with snores (guess that is what hosteling is about) but the one girl and thankfully she is not on my trip sounded like a snorting pig forgetting to breathe. Even shaking and I mean really shaking her bed did not awake her and I got to spend another night listening to the soothing sounds of Jack Johnson and Watershed, while my one friend resorted to sleeping on the couch in the recreation area. Our lack of sleep however did not hamper our excitement at getting out and exploring the town.

The town of Ouro Preto was absolutely gorgeous, steeped in history from the days of slavery it has great charm and you could envision yourself to be somewhere in Portugal rather than Brazil. Half the charm was the cobbled streets which have endearingly received the nickname ´Peanut Brittle` so you can image it is quite difficult to walk on especially in the rain. The Portuguese brought Catholicism to this town and it therefore contains numerous churches, built for the rich, the poor and the slaves. Yes the slaves that were brought here decades ago to work in the mines and the sugar can fields. These (two) Churches were built for the main reason that the slaves bosses felt more at ease knowing their slaves shared the same beliefs and morales – a bit hypocritical?

As part of the history of this town I naturally visited the gold mine ´Mina da Passgem` to find out what it was all about. To be frank I thought it was a waste of time and the only reason to go would be to experience the trolley ride down the mine some odd 100m at a 60degree angle and fancy a swim in the underwater lake.

My most memorable experience in this town was actually on the steam train coming back from Marianna. A local family entered the train and asked the people in the carriage to help celebrate their 7 year olds birthday. We helped decorate the carriage with colourful balloons while they offered us chicken pieces wrapped in bacon and sodas. We then sang ´Feliz Anniversario` and then just for our benefit ´Happy Birthday` to Philippe before we shared in eating his birthday cake. It was a great one hour of the afternoon and really showed the local generosity!

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