Hangovers, Waterfalls & Walking

I’d had a brilliant couple of days in Belo Horizonte hanging out with another Brazilian friend I’d met in New Zealand, Ricky. He’d shown me around to a few places including a wicked sunset spot, and told me about other cool places to check out whilst he was at work. I stayed with him and his Dad who goes out every morning to buy fresh cake for breakfast. Do not adjust your sets, I said cake for breakfast. I could get very used to Brazil.

Apart from that, we watched the footy. Brazil’s first game of the 2010 World Cup. Football is like a religion over here. 75% of the population are Roman Catholics, 100% are football fans, at least when it comes to the Copa do Mundo. The whole country grinds to a halt to watch the matches, shops and businesses close early, everyone wears a Brazil shirt or waves a flag. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the passion and before you know it you’re adorned in green and yellow and sat in a buteco getting pissed on beer and caipirinhas, fat on coxinhas and pastels and shouting “filho da puta!” at the ref with the locals. It’s compulsory when watching footy to get as drunk as possible. Failure to do so will result in mocking. Even more mocking than if you were to drink so much you finished the night face down in a pile of vomit, not necessarily your own. So I got smashed. Not the best plan when you’re getting up early and catching a bus the next day though I have to say.

Igreja São Francisco. A church by a lake designed by the legendary Oscar Niemeyer.

I managed to get out of bed after only fumbling with the sleep button twice. I stumbled around getting my shit together, forcing food into my stomach which wasn’t quite awake yet and eventually, a mere two hours behind schedule because I got lost in town, I was curled up on the bus fighting the urge to vomit. We were about 10 minutes into the two hour journey before I emptied the contents of my tortured stomach into the bus toilets. I spent the rest of the journey alternating between trips to the loo and feeling very very sorry for myself. There are few things less pleasant than spending the majority of a bus ride on your knees with your head in a toilet but I can now tick that off the Try Everything At Least Once list. That was first on the list of today’s fails.

Destination: Santuário Do Caraça

I rocked up to the accommodation, checked in and got my camera out to take a photo of the window coz it was pretty. What? It was, ok? Camera didn’t think so. The lens came halfway out and jammed, beeped and told me there was a lens error and advised me to restart the camera. Ohhhh kaaayyy… I tried this. Several times. Fail number two. I weighed up my options; I could sit in my room and sulk or I could go and get a feed then make the most of the afternoon and the perfect weather. I opted for the latter and wandered up to the lunch room… it was full of kids. Like, 70000 of them. I retreated to reception to try and find someone to provide me with a lunch ticket but no one was around. Fail number three. Sulking was looking more and more tempting.

See? Pretty.

Fine. Whatever. I could handle a few hiccups these days, thank you, extensive therapy. Small things weren’t the end of the world anymore, emotions were in check… and I was suddenly bleeding like a stuck pig assuming the pig had been stuck through its vagina. Not a problem, I always carried a box of plugs around with me on account of my inability to gauge time thus never really knowing when I was due the painters in. I searched through my bag. Torch… Band Aids… Meds… Oh bollocks. I’d emptied my bag at Ricky’s and didn’t put them back in. I contemplated putting a plaster over the hole but there ain’t enough plasters in the world to stem that flow. When my womb lining decides to escape it’s time to evacuate the local villages before the flooding sweeps them away. Fail number four. I eyed up my bed looking for the best spot to throw myself down in a huff.

Gets a little bit nippy around these parts in the morning.

Nah. Fuck this. I’m a grown woman as the inconvenient gushing in my nether regions proved. And I was hungry having left my breakfast on the bus. I WAS going to have lunch then I WAS going to go for a walk in the sunshine and if anything else tried to stop me… I’d probably just curl up in the nearest corner and cry. Anyway, I did find someone to give me a lunch ticket and by the time I got to the lunch room the swarm of kids had gone. I filled my belly which was only just starting to forgive me, idly tapping my fucked camera against the table, trying to convince myself that just because I couldn’t take photos it wasn’t the end of the world as we know it. I pressed the button one last time. And it worked. The fucking thing worked. Yessss!

Those views though! I’m glad my camera decided to stop being a little prick.

Santuário Do Caraça is one of those peaceful, calming places. Once I’d had my feed I walked the 4km round trip to Cascatinha waterfall then the 10km round trip to Bocaina waterfall. The scenery around here is utterly breathtaking, I’m so glad my camera finished having its tantrum before I had one of my own. As I sat with my hot, stinking feet in the cold water watching a humming bird catch bugs I figured that today wasn’t really a fail at all. Everything worked out in the end. And copious amounts of bog roll would have to do as make-shift jam rags for the next couple of days.

One of the waterfalls I visited today.

Santuário Do Caraça is clearly a Catholic effort. The accommodation was originally built as a monastery and there’s a resident priest and a suitably elaborate church. Not as shiny as some of the Catholic churches I’ve seen but it still highlights the church’s wealth in contrast the the poverty of the majority of its followers. The accommodation is cool though and for what it is it’s pretty cheap. For R$70 per night you get a double room and three meals a day, can’t fault that really and I managed to cook the most perfect fried eggs ever for breakfast and that’s an achievement for me. I’m painfully inept in the kitchen, I can burn water. I was proud of my eggs, I was.

Breakfast is included in the price of your room, but you have to cook it yourself on these wood burners which are apparently typical of the state of Minas Gerais.

Anyway. This monastery and church. I had a wander around the building when I woke up on the second day. Caraça is fucking cold at night. Like, so cold it’s the first thing people in Belo Horizonte tell you about the park but that just makes the mornings more beautiful once you’ve forced yourself out from under the four blankets and into the blissfully hot showers. You watch the mist rising before breakfast and by the time you’ve finished getting your caffeine fix it’s pretty much cleared and the sun is steaming the last of the moisture off the roofs and grass. The staff were still wandering about in coats and fur lined hoods, hugging themselves and muttering something about it being frio as I strode through the grounds, jumper tied round my waist, dressed in singlet and shorts, brandishing my camera and ready to see more nature. But not before I’d had a look around the church.

I mean, I’m not saying I could have done better…

Inside this church, as well as the expected statues of Jesus on the cross and paintings of him carting aforementioned cross through town, they had this huge, not brilliantly painted version of The Last Supper. Of course they also had a little statue of a priest with two children. A Catholic priest with two kids? There’s a bad taste caption in there somewhere. I gotta admit though, the building itself is gorgeous and must be photographed from every angle. Once I’d gotten bored of that I headed out on a 12km round trip hike to another waterfall, Cascatona, and a little obelisky type thing where you get an awesome view of the park. Weirdly though, there’s a statue of a chick who I (possibly wrongly) assume is Mary and she’s in a cage inside the obelisk. Possibly to stop her escaping and shagging anymore gods.

I will not lie; I am a sucker for a stained glass window.

The walks here are stunning but it was really hot weather to walk in. Frio my arse. I love the heat, don’t get me wrong, but by the end of it I was sweating like a blind lesbian in a fish shop. I’m totally gonna be one of these chicks that really shouldn’t get their midriffs out in public but do anyway. Argentinian steaks, Brazilian deep fried fast food and copious amounts of beer have expanded the ol’ waistline a wee bit over the last couple of months. Obviously I prefer to bitch about it than actually get off my arse and do anything about it but hey. And not only am I getting fat I think I might be getting old; I’ve caught myself photographing flowers purely because they’re pretty and not because they’re shaped like rude things.

Close to the end of the walk I decided to treat myself to a nice sit down because that’s what people who are Getting On A Bit like to do. As I contemplated learning to knit, I looked up and saw three monkeys in the tree so I amused myself for a while watching them and taking photos, mainly of their arses. Not that I have a monkey arse fetish or anything. That’s the only shot I could get. This ain’t a Vogue photo shoot y’know.

As well as monkeys and squirrels and stuff, Santuário Do Caraça is home to the lobo guará; the maned wolf. Every night at around 7pm they put a tray of meat out and eventually this wolf is meant to rock up for a feed. It can arrive any time it damn well pleases usually resulting in a bunch of cold, bored people staring at a tray of meat. It got to about 9.30 the night I was there, and the previous night’s excess followed by the bus ride from hell was catching up with me. Plus, as I mentioned before, its fucking cold here at night and I was starting to lose the feeling in my face. I gave up and retreated to my bed. Sometimes, waiting for nature just ain’t fun.

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Santuário Do Caraça, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Stayed at: Pousada do Caraça

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