I'm not sure if anyone is still reading, but I'm almost done with the Brazilian content so might as well finish off the series. I've uploaded all my Brazil pictures to flickr, with just Peru still to come. I've been back for more than a month but there seems to be so many other things taking up my energy and attention, being back into 'real life'. South America will always be there though........
Como vai? Things here are still good - muito bem. We arrived today in São João del Rei for the District Conference which kicks off tonight. Things are quietening down in a way - we only have two more stops and one week to go on our exchange itinerary - but quiet is not a word used very often here! The conference is likely to be good fun as many of the people we've met along the way will be here. The team of Brazilians who visited Tasmania earlier in the year will also all be here, and they are a bonza bunch of people so I'm looking forward to spending some more time with them.
Last email we had just arrived in Mariana. Next stop was Ouro Preto (meaning 'dark gold') and these would have to be two of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. Or 'bloody bonita' as Kath and Kim would say in Portug-lish. The cities were both founded 300 years ago during a gold rush and Ouro Preto was the capital of Brazil for a while. It's built on a series of hills so there are amazing views of the crumbly old buildings and churches from all over. To get from Mariana to Ouro Preto we took a 100 year old train Maria Fumaca (Smoky Mary) through the denuded hills and a couple of tunnels - very cool. Headed 120 metres underground to an old gold mine which employed 3000 workers and extracted 35 tons of gold in its time. Also went to an outdoor concert by pop star of the 80's Guilherme Arantes - we all agreed he must be the Brazilian Phil Collins.
Now a quick pop quiz - do you know who it was who made the first airplane flight (the first autonomous flight of a heavier-than-air machine)? If you said the Wright Brothers I am sorry but you are sadly misinformed (as is about 90% of the world I think). The man was actually Brazilian-born Frenchman Alberto Santos Dumont on October 23, 1906! Apparently the Wright Brothers flew a motorised glider in 1903 but they were launched from a catapult and the claim was not witnessed or verified. Santos Dumont's plane taxied, took off, flew 61 metres and landed by its own means and the feat was ratified by official aviation organisations as the world's pioneer flight. Anyway, I was amazed to discover all of this and the Brazilians were amazed and horrified to learn we had never heard of Santos Dumont. We visited the house were he was born in the town now named after him. Very cool.
The last few days have been rest days where we were put up at a ranch house near Barbacena with our own personal chef and all the mod cons (too cold to use the big swimming pool unfortunately). After 3 weeks on the go it was a welcome change to be away from our enthusiastic hosts and having to be polite, interested, smiling and interactive all day! A bunch of them did turn up unexpectedly on the 2nd night but they brought their own live band and dozen bottles of 'vinho tinto' so that was ok.
After the conference we head to our last port of call, Juiz de Fora, our biggest city so far, where we are packing in more vocational visits plus apparently a huge nightclub and the best 'churrasco' (BBQ) restarant in the state. It's pretty tough eh.
Nice to see the end in sight, but sad to go our seperate ways. We all have 4 days together in Rio, and W's wife plus S's girlfriend T are flying in too. L and K head home on the 6th, W is off touring the rest of Brazil for 3 weeks and S, T and I go to Peru. Woo hoo!
Hope you're all well, I think of you often. Thanks for the emails and also thanks to those feeding my fella! I'm jealous of all the lamb roasts.
Tchau for now