The state of Minas Gerais has a reputation for superb food, Brazil’s best cachaça, and very friendly people – all true in my experience! If you remember my post about the kindness of strangers back in Sao Paulo state, well I reckon they’ve raised the bar even further here!
After staying with Jane and her sister in Belo Horizonte, they very kindly found me accommodation on my way towards Brasilia by calling friends in the cities that I was passing through, and even reserved a hotel room for the one night where no other options were available. They knew that with carnaval about to kick off across the country, my chances of just turning up in each city/town and finding a place to stay were slim, so they took the initiative. Thanks ladies!
In Sete Lagoas I stayed with Bete, who took me out for dinner with two of her friends at a restaurant next to one of the city’s seven lakes (hence the name). Quote of the night: “This is a nice city, it’s very dangerous, but it’s a nice city”, said with no hint of irony, maybe slightly lost in translation, since the only explanation I could get was that if I locked up my bike in the street then someone would probably try to steal it. Same as London then!
For Friday night in Felixlandia I was amazed to be told by Jane that the local priest had booked and PAID for the only available hotel room in town! Not only that but some younger church members visited the hotel to meet me, first Fernanda and Clarice took me for dinner, then later Max showed me opening night of carnaval in the town square. The next morning I wasn’t allowed to leave the hotel before posing for photos with some staff and guests, then I went to visit the padre to say thanks for his great kindness (I wanted to give him the money back, but it’s tricky to not seem rude if I don’t accept peoples’ hospitality!).
During a very hilly cycle north I stopped half way at the only services in 80km and to my surprise it started hammering down with the first rain I’d seen in 5 weeks:
Later I reached Tres Marias where Braulio met me and showed me the way to his Grandmother’s house where I’d be staying, so that I could shower and change before we went on a drive around town and the lakeside landscape nearby. We stopped at his house where I met his extended family and then we all went out for drinks and a dinner of fish – a rare experience for me so far in meat-loving Brazil.
The next morning as I left town the highway crossed over the Rio Sao Francisco which is an important river for Brazil, called “the river of national integration” because it unites diverse climes and regions of the country. At Jane’s request I took a few photos:
Today’s ride was the longest yet of my #SambaCycle at over 131km and also one of the highest amounts of ascending, so it was a long, tough day, and despite riding hard all afternoon, for the first time I found myself still with 15km to go when the sun set at 6.30pm, so had to cycle for the last 20 minutes in darkness, something that I’ve wanted to avoid. But Dinly has good lights so it was fine and I was soon happy to be recovering from the day’s exertions in my Joao Pinheiro hotel room.
The first 6km the following morning was all downhill, a nice start to the day! Then the road flattened out so I cruised along, my only worry that my Garmin battery was dying after riding without charging it the night before. It eventually stopped with 45km still to go, which was pretty demotivating as the distance wouldn’t be recorded on my odometer, plus it was strange not knowing my usual on-the-road stats that help to keep me moving along.
I stopped for a break at the top of a long hill where I estimated there was still 25km to my destination, and then a pick-up truck coming from the north did a u-turn and pulled up next to me – I was delighted to see a friendly face, it was Kico who’s staying at his mother’s house in Paracatu for carnaval and had invited me to go there too, so after tracking me via the Where Am I page he’d come to pick me up, bloomin fantastic!
I’ll write another post about the lovely last few days here in Paracatu, but to finish this update, here’s a few stories of people I met on the road between the cities mentioned above…
After my newspaper and TV appearances from Belo Horizonte I found more people recognising me again as I cycled along, and on the first day a group of friends sat outside a shop tried to chat with me in Portuguese, then wanted photos together and then had a whip-round and tried to give me money but I politely declined. The next day a car pulled over and a guy got out to say hello in English, then his family joined us for photos and again he asked if I needed money but I said no thanks – how kind are these people to a stranger! During the rainstorm some customers at the services were intrigued by my bike and one little guy in particular was so proud of his one English phrase “Your name is?” that he asked me it several times:
I also had a truck driver pull over to say hi for the first time, and this guy chatted away despite my lack of understanding. He even grabbed some cheese and a sweet cinnamon tasting thing that I had in BH but have forgotten the name of and cut me a chunk of both to eat, then insisted I took a photo with him and his truck:
An odd sight was being passed (very slowly up a hill) by this truck carrying a train, which I then saw again at a service station:
And finally, I got a bit arty on one stretch of hill and decided to have a go at filming myself cycling up the road, I think it’s pretty cool: