Sunday, July 29, 2018

Back to traveling in Brazil

Well I think it’s been awhile since the last time I wrote but I think it’s time to add a little bit more. I’m still living
my life half in Brazil and half-time in the United States traveling around Brazil when I can and of course in the U.S. as well. it is July of 2018 and that means it’s winter and I am in Brazil. Louise and I have invited our friends Marly and Eda to join us on a trip to the state of Minas Gerais the southern part of Brazil. Eda takes the bus from minados luiz’s Hometown which is about 4 and 1/2 hours away and
arrives at 2 in the morning for us to leave early Saturday morning. we load the car with all our stuff and head up to pick up Marly on the way out of town. It’s a beautiful sunny day as we begin our travels heading towards Uberlandia. A pretty
uneventful travel day through the cerrado filled countryside. There was one highlight in the day as we were looking for a place to have lunch we turned off the main road into a small town. “Tapuirama” The streets of the small town had flags hanging from side to side and we knew that there was a festival going on. It was a little
late for lunch but we stopped and asked directions to the local restaurant. After driving by a couple times we realized it was closed because of the festival. A couple of people had mentioned there’s a small place that serves Marnamix which is a common traditional place where you can pick up lunch and take it to go.
We head down the road and spot a small sign on the opening of the fence, the only thing to identify the house and invite us to come in. What a pleasant surprise.

The aroma of fresh home cooked rice, chicken and beans fill the small kitchen.
The family of the house seem excited to have us and invite us to eat on the veranda so we did not have to take our food and go. 
The lunch is great and although the conversation is Portuguese I understand most of it. We load back up and continue our journey as we have a little further to go Araxa – our first night stop. Araxa is a city of about 95000 people in the state of Minas gerais. It is named after a local native tribe that live there when it was first discovered buy European settlers and means: place from where the sun is first seen. I can only imagine there are incredible views of the sunrise somewhere. 
We arrive mid afternoon and head to the central part of the city to find a hotel. On a boulevard with a newly designed island green space we find the perfect hotel and check in. Not long after we have our things secure and we are on our way, off to look around the grounds of the Grande Hotel Araxa.

Built in 1944 as a casino by local politicians, the grande hotel is a luxury hotel which has hosted many important regional parties since it was built. Today the hotel has some age, but continues to be a destination for families and parties in the area.  It stands with a large garden and pond in the back and unfortunately a large parking lot in front. We spend some time looking around, walking and exploring both inside the hotel and the grounds out back.  It is truly nice to be out of the car and enjoying the cool afternoon breeze.  Our adventures take us down a winding trail to a small overlook where a bougainvillea is currently displaying its purple beauty wrapped around a gazebo overlook where one can gaze on the pond below.  Behind the gazebo like overlook is a small building which houses a natural spring.  Actually not very eventful as one can get a taste of this natural refreshment but the building is plain and nothing really to see.  There is a second floor but since the bougainvillea is so beautiful it is hard to believe there is anything more worth a visit.  We enjoy our walk and soon it is time to head back to the hotel, eat some dinner and get some rest. There is a museum (Dona Bejos)  we would like to see but it is currently under renovations so we decide to head out in the morning.
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Eco - Tourism - part 2

 With our guide Sergio in the car and the rest of the day to explore, we head out of Lencois on the same roads we drove into the quaint little town on. We enter Park National da Chapada Diamantina  heading towards our first destination and soon the roads become partially paved and then gravel surrounded by beautiful landscape filled with rock formations, mesas and gorgeous vegetation.  Not sure if the tour guide brought us the most direct way  but we really do not care as we arrive at Enchanted Well ready to explore.   A small welcome center with friendly Brazilians greet us as we find the last spot in the shade to park out car.  We prepare to hike into the cavern just a few meters away.  We put on our hard hats equipped with headlights and set off following our fearless 
img_2398guide.  Into the cave we descent enjoying the beautiful natural wallpaper covering the rocks around.  We come to the Enchanted Well which is a giant sunken pool 120 feet deep with water so clear you see the rocks and other items at the bottom of it.  When the sun is just right,  light coming through the crevices reflects on the water giving it a blue tint.   A delicate ecosystem strives way down here so far below the surface.  Our time is spent enjoying the quiet hidden away treasure and soon we turn back and return to our car up above.  I have to say the hike down was much easier then the return up the winding steps, but I guess that is what one would expect. 

img_2430Our time cave exploring is over and after a quick snack it is on to our next destination.  Down the dirt roads once again,  through color full little towns with their historic churches we travel.   We end up in Mucuge Bahia which is the location of our next stop.  On the edge of town in front of the "great wall" (a grand embankment) sits Cemetery Santa Izabel.  Filled with  Byzantine style tombs all stark white standing gloriously against today's blue sky.  These artistic tributes to those who have gone before us are primarily from the early 19th img_2436century when outbreaks of cholera and smallpox came to the town and prompted the citizens to bury their dead  outside the city limits.  As we stroll through the tombstones,  it is easy to identify which years the epidemics were more devastating as the number of deaths are higher.   If you have not already figured,  I find cemeteries to be calm, quiet and full of great art.  The Gothic style tributes of this cemetery do not disappoint me as they are truly an adventure in itself with detail surprises throughout.   We spend a little over an hour exploring all these ancient creations. 

img_2477It is a couple of kilometers from Mucuge and that is where we head next to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant on the corner of the town square.  After lunch,  we do a little exploring of the small town and get some great photos.  Settle by Portuguese immigrants in the late eighteenth century,  traces of indigenous occupation prior to the present day inhabitants have been discovered in recent years.  It is one of the oldest settlements in the region filled with outstanding characteristics and img_2479
historic colonial mansions of Portuguese style.   A thriving community of the Brazilian diamond rush era,  its population hit approximately thirty thousand  and was an important commercial center in the nineteenth century.   Diamonds were discovered in the caves around the city which created it as noteworthy city worldwide and it is said that it had and embassy of France within its city walls.    (thanks Wikipedia)  

img_2512Soon it is time to leave Mucuge and to head to our final stop for the day the "musue vivo do Garimpo (Living Museum of Garimpo).  It is a short drive and soon we arrive at the museum on the banks of the Mucug√™ Creek where the first diamonds were found in Bahia according to legend.  Hike the short trail to a nice history center filled with artifacts of the diamond era and local traditions.    Diamond cutting tools, 
measuring scales, mining tools, and typical clothing of the time are just a few of the artifacts displayed.  After our time in the museum we head outside and hike along the creek where the water is red from the minerals.  The creek is full of small waterfalls and surrounded by the same amazing landscape and greenery we have enjoyed throughout this reagion.  The falls remind me of Sioux Falls although there the rocks are red, not
the water.  It is getting l=to be late afternoon so we head back to Lencois for a good night sleep as tomorrow is another travel day onto Salvador.  This area would definitely be an part of Brazil I would visit again to see more of the amazing waterfalls, caves, and other natural wonders still left unexplored by me.