Upon arrival at the airport picked up my remaining match tickets by simply placing the credit card used to purchase the tickets into a vending machine, due to planning ahead these tickets were in my name, so I didn’t have any problem.
The bus into town took about an hour and delivered us to the central bus station. The bus station is served by a metro station which I thought would be the best way to get around, however the locals say that the metro takes you from nothing to nowhere. Sure enough, nowhere near my accommodation.
Belo Horizonte means beautiful horizon, and the city is surrounded by hills, think of a bigger Sheffield. I also noted that the city is partnered with Grimsby! The only link I could find was another local saying, that there is no sea, but there are bars. The saying rhymes well in Portugese. Trust me.
Anyway found my digs on the other side of town high upon one of the hills. Just further up (O.K. almost at the top is a small park in the shape if an inverted teardrop, it was built for the visit if the Pope in 1984 and from here you can see why the city got the name).
The place I was staying was mainly full of Colombians, cheering on the Mexicans on T.V. As new people arrived they asked where they were from and invited them to join them drinking vodka. When they caught up with me they suddenly changed the drink to whisky!
From now at random they would shout out a country. Canada, Australia, Bolivia, Chile, and invite the person to drink. If you remember what they were drinking I was asked every second time!
I heard there had been some life in an area called Savassi last night and so headed down there in the afternoon. The hills were like the ones you see in San Francisco. (No amount of training on the steepest part of the Forest was going to help me get back up).
Whilst out I came across my first piece of Oscar Niemeyer architecture. The Niemeyer building.
Sure enough Savassi was lively, I saw two Greeks (the only two Greeks I saw) being interviewed on T.V. and their prediction of 2-0 to Greece had the place in uproar. (Thank goodness they didn’t drink all the whisky).
Decided to head back up the hill and get something to eat near home.
I found a quiet place on the main road five minutes away. The owner spoke English and we had a long chat. He had just taken over two weeks ago and was going to have some local musicians playing. He asked me if that was O.K. I said it was perfect, we can watch the football and listen to the music.
The musicians were good, but the game was about to end, I didn’t sleep on the plane so after 42 hours without sleep I said I would pay the bill and go home.
Just as I was about to leave he asked if I would join some of his friends as they had been asking him about me.
How could I say no.
We went through the food menu and I tried a bit of everything, and they insisted I tried cachaça. Well I know it’s made from sugar cane. (And in the words of Thurston Moore “I love you sugar Kane”) After discovering it in Egypt, it is my favourite soft drink. I am already alert and looking for the cane sticks in the juice bars, and stop every time I see it.
So I had cachaça, it didn’t taste the same.
Suddenly the musicians started playing the Stevie Wonder riff from Superstition ( I didn’t ask if it was because it was Friday 13th) this was completely out of sync as everything else they had played sounded traditional Brazilian. Lu, who I had been talking to got up and started singing. Wow! I had found my own Astrud Gilberto.
She carried on as they returned to Brazilian songs. Once she returned I found out she is a professional singer.
My new-found friends didn’t want me to leave Belo Horizonte, but I explained that I would be back for my last night in two weeks time. Lu then insisted that I also come out the next night as it is her birthday! (Amanda if I don’t make it back to work on time you know why.)
I eventually went to bed about 2a.m.
Up at 8 and headed back to the bus station to put my bag in left luggage. Except it was full!
Walking towards the stadium I saw a two year old being driven in a small remote controlled car by her father.
Ended up taking my bag to the game, all 8.7kg of it. Got it through security no problem.
After the match there was a large police presence and the main road in town was closed. I went round the block and could hear protesters chanting anti FIFA slogans to the beat of a samba drum.
I found a slogan placed on the Sete Square saying “Reform Politics”.
Off to catch the bus now to Brasilia!!!!!