Getting Directions in Brazil

There are two things I learned in my time here about getting travel directions: no route is ever straightforward and it never takes the time promised. The expectation is always that you will plan with buffers and that you will ask people along the way.

This is how yesterday, while trying to get to the Tabuleiro waterfall, we accidentally arrived at the Anglo American mining site, somewhere out there (I knew the dirt road and various trucks looked familiar from somewhere…). Deciding against asking at the employee dorms (located just by the local whorehouse), we drove around until we found some kiosk along the road and got instructions (“drive back until you hit a bridge, then turn right”).
We followed those instructions until we reached a town, where a lady pointed us to the next landmark. Next stop was a farm house along the road 20km of dirt roads later, we finally reached the Tabuleiro village where an old lady advised us that we are still “REALLY” far. We knew not to take her too seriously and 5 mins of additional driving brought us to our final destination (3 hours after we started).

The view was completely worth the adventure. I also got to practice the crab crawling position as I was too much of a chicken to hop from one rock to another until we reached the waterfall. Beats any Zumba class!

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Day 2 – Traveling around the Cipo and Morena Mountains

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First days at Serra do Cipo

Our first days in Minas Gerais’ countryside started with an adventure already as strong rains caused serious power outages. No internet, mobile phone, light or even coffee ( the espresso machine at the coffee shop didn’t work) for 24 hours makes one really appreciate modern civilization.

Stuff along the road

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Smirnoff ice @ Candle light

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Pousada Solar dos Ipes

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Architecture and Nature

One of the things Brazilian architects and landscapers such as Burle-Marx and Niemyer became masters of was the combination of urbanism with nature.

Visiting our office in Minas Gerais state I was impressed to see how corporate structures can be married with natural landscape. The building is located on the grounds of an old mine, overlooking the mountains. The views are breathtaking and the internal patio areas taking advantage of this to create a pleasant environment.

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On mining and dining

My earlier incident had set the trend for the rest of my 3-day trip to Belo Horizonte, a city in the state of Minas Gerais (kind of the Wisconsin of Brazil with its reputation for cheese). I couldn’t stop laughing at my clumsiness and enjoyed every moment there.

I spent two days on business, visiting the office there and building relationships with the local staff, which wasn’t too hard since they were super cool and  friendly. It’s always amazing how many interesting things you find out about people, if you just ask. For example, found out that one of the colleagues is learning Chinese in her free time, and another has his little baby’s cry as his morning alarm sounds. I like.

The following day I went to visit mines, as I mentioned in the previous post, and was enjoying it so much that I was scolded by my colleague for having too much fun “you remember you’re here on business, right? this is not vacation…” I say, “life is too short!”

In the evening, I met up with a friend who happened to be in town, and he took me around to do some site-seeing. BH is a very green city, located in the mountains, and exhibits this landscape throughout. I got to visit some very good places for food, such as the famous Tosco Burguer, that serves sandwiches bigger than my head, for something silly like R$12. Another amazing place for Minas food was Xapuri, which was located near the lake, and organized as a country tavern with wooden tables, basking in greenery. The place is huge, serving probably at least 500 people, has various open kitchen areas, where you can see the way the food is made in traditional style. They make their own sweets, mostly jams and have a horse stable and a training area. I ate a stew served inside a pumpkin that was to die for, but then could barely walk with my newly acquired food baby.

Thankfully, afterwards, we went to the local art museum, which had a very nice dark room displaying a very strange movie about some ceramic tub. Best part: the room had mattresses on the floor. Nothing like a great nap in the museum after a delicious meal.  Highly recommended!

I almost forgot to mention one of the best spots,  Marcado Central of Belo Horizonte, where we looked at various traditional foods and dishes. Loved it.  Kind of reminded me of the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. I picked up some traditional Goiabada, a Brazilian desert made of guava, which resembles condensed jam, and goes really well with soft white cheese (Minas cheese)  as an after-lunch snack.

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