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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Brazil - 15 February, 2002

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Camping Clube do Brasil, Ouro Preto S2022.763' W04331.524' 1,146 m
Mina de Ouro . . . 24 km
-  tour of mine . . . 1 km (by railcar)
Ouro Preto . . . .
Finish Camping Clube do Brasil, Ouro Preto S2022.763' W04331.524' 1,146 m 51 km

Leg 3 Total:

786 km

Leg 2 Total:

12,140 km

Leg 1 Total:

9,010 km

Galapagos:

771 km

Grand Total:

22,707 km

 

Weather: Partly cloudy, hot and occasional sun.  Occasional rain showers in the afternoon.

 

 

Ouro Preto and the surrounding area is important for one reason - gold.  While the silver mine at Potosi funded the Spanish monarchy, the gold mines of Ouro Preto funded the Portuguese monarchy and kept it afloat long after it should have gone bust.  This morning we will tour the mine and in the afternoon, we will look around the town.

 

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The gold mine, known as Mina de Ouro or Mina de Passagem, opened in 1719 and did not cease operations until 1985.  Now it survives as a tourist attraction.  It is reached by a small rail car that is controlled by a drum cable that lowers it 120 vertical meters into the mine down a steep set of tracks on the hillside.  It is a fun ride down into the galleries.

 

The mine itself is not too interesting.  We get to walk through a number of the galleries, with a running commentary from the guide.  There is a shrine to the patron saint of miners and then the underground lakes.  You can swim in one of them, but most of us pass when we are told not to drink it due to high arsenic levels.  It is awful to think of the thousands of slaves that used to work down here - staying weeks if not months at a time.  This was economic imperialism at its worst.

 

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We took the ride back up through the tunnel emerging into the daylight and arriving at the top.  We then spent about an hour wondering through the museum and shops.  Nothing too much there.  Then back to the truck for the ride into town.

 

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We stopped at the edge of town - large vehicles are not allowed on the cobble stoned streets - and walked into the town.  We were quickly struck by its beauty and charm.  We knew that we would enjoy walking the streets of this town.  First we went to the tourism office to get the opening times of the churches and then we ha d a bite to eat before starting our exploring.

 

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From the main square we headed over to the Igreja de Nossa Senhosa de Carmo.  It is one of the more beautiful churches in town.  It was designed by Manoel Francisco Lisboa, Aleijadinho's father, and it was completed by Aleijadinho himself after his father died.  The baptismal font is a masterpiece and we spend some time admiring it in the sacristy.

 

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From there we wander the steep streets of the town - the town is built on a series of steep hills.  It is hard work.  We visit Igreja do Pilar, with its gold covered interior, the Casa dos Contos, the old treasury building, and Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assis, with its painted ceilings that took 9 years to complete.  We took a breather in a nice little cafe on one of the steep streets.  It was a classic place with waiters wearing long white aprons and wood everywhere.  We enjoyed our cool drink and cake.

 

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The rest of the time was spent just walking the streets taking in the many colonial buildings and sights.  We tried to buy a painting, but they would not agree to our price, so we walked away.  We slowly wandered back to the square where the truck dropped us off. Along the way we stopped for a view of the town.  From our spot we could see at least seven churches in this town - and these are the big ones.  There may have been many more smaller ones or others hiding behind the hills.  We reached the truck just in time - it began to rain very heavily.  But there were still people to come.  We waited a while and did not see them, so started to head back to the camp.  We found them at the corner, huddling under a small awning.  They looked like drowned rats.

 

The rain stopped by the time we got back to the camp and it was a relaxing evening spent working on our journals.  After dinner we showered and then headed off to our tent for the night.

 

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