Brazil 2019, part 5 (Paraty, Belo Horizonte, Ouro Preto)

I finished the previous part of my story about the travel in Brazil by saying I had something unpleasant happen to me at the reception of the B&B (pousada) when I went down to pay the bill.

A very important and disturbing problem had appeared. And the problem was very simple – the money. Namely, while in Rio, Sneža and I used the cash we had on us and we were rather relaxed since we also had credit cards. And yet, when we wanted to pay for the hotel, the cards did not work! That was not good at all. I thought that perhaps something was wrong with the device of the B&B, so I went to an ATM in the centre of the place. There were several ATMs of the same company in a room accessed from the street and there was a long line of people waiting to enter, so when I finally got to an ATM, the cards did not work there either. Then the girl who helped the clients with the ATMs told me to go to a bank that was not too far away since “they were better.” So, I went there, waited in line again and then it turned out that my cards did not work there either. This was now a serious problem. When I went back to the B&B I sent a mail to one of my banks and they answered quite quickly saying that Brazil was too risky a destination for them and because of the large number of frauds there was a blockage for using cards in Brazil. I could get to my money only if I sent them a request to unblock the card and thus take over the entire risk. None of that sounded good.

We did the calculation and realised that we might just about have enough to cover the hotels that had not already been paid and the local transportation, but even if we managed that, we would not have enough for the food. Or for the tax for the visit to Fernando de Noronha island, while we already had the plane ticket to go there. And we could forget about buying presents and souvenirs. Then we started thinking about how to get to our money that existed somewhere there in the digital world that was not Brazil and that was not as dangerous for financial transactions using credit cards.

But, like good old Scarlett O'Hara, the two of us decided to think about that tomorrow, so, since Sneža felt a little better, following the afternoon break we walked together to the beach where now two of us continued to sit in the same bar-restaurant where I had sat in the morning. We also ordered something to eat there and this was a rather good meal for quite a low price which seemed very important to us, both because we were hungry and because we felt we were already broke.

Moreover, I also decided to go on a short kayak round, unfortunately alone, since Sneža still did not feel well enough to be able to sustain any significant physical effort.

Paddling towards an islet

Paddling in the bay at Paraty

The trip included paddling to some rocks protruding from the bay where we then floated or paddled in circles waiting for the sunset. So, on this day I really used the daylight to its maximum, since I got up when the Sun was rising and now I watched it setting.

Sunset near Paraty

The Sun was setting behind the heights that belong to the Serra da Bocaina National Park, which, in addition to the seaside, constitutes the other part of the tourist offer in this area – it is possible to go on different hiking and other tours around the park the territory of which belongs to the federal states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Later when I returned to the B&B, I wrote the following text for my digital friends.

Paraty/Paraćin Riviera

We have arrived in Paraty. One more sound and we’ve got a town in Serbia (Paraty is pronounced exactly like Paraćin minus “n”). In the name they are set apart by just one sound and in everything else they are set apart by everything else.

It’s the beginning of January and the temperature in Paraty is around 35 degrees Celsius, while the air humidity is such that there is no established measure for it. In Paraćin the temperature is below zero and it is snowing. Since it is commonly said that the opposites attract, here is my proposal that to start with these two places become sister cities. The inhabitants of Paraćin should then come here for their summer vacations, while the people of Paraty should go to Paraćin to see a proper winter.

These days Sneža has some health challenges and therefore late in the afternoon, while she was sitting in a bar on the beach, I went alone for some kayaking. The plan and programme of this kayaking ride was to paddle quite far from the beach to some rocks protruding from the water and to watch the sunset from there. This entire water area is in fact a long bay with islets, so the water was quite still and while the Sun descended towards the peaks of the surrounding mountains, like the other kayakers in the group I also rocked gently and I took photos from time to time. The “leader” of the kayakers asked me if there was a song in Serbia dedicated to friends, like for instance there is one in Spanish – “Amigos para siempre” (Friends forever). I stopped for a moment and then I remembered – Bajaga: “Moji su drugovi biseri rasuti po celom svetu” (My friends are pearls scattered throughout the whole world) ( I could not really remember the first verse, but I sang the chorus resonantly to the presumably great pleasure of the Brazilians who were in the group. After the song and the sunset, I could become antisocial again not speaking with anybody in the group and I paddled with all my might towards the beach since I had a friend waiting for me there and I did not have to sing to her.

The two of us continued to sit on the beach for a little while yet, enjoying the dusk, and then we returned to the historic part of Paraty. The place is very picturesque in the evening as well, but one has to pay attention when walking because of the large cobbled stones, lest one twisted a leg.

Paraty at night

Paraty at night

At some point we returned to the B&B where we organised our very early departure the next morning. We wanted to make sure that there would be somebody at the reception who would call us a taxi and also at our request they prepared some fruits and freshly squeezed juice which we could take with us.

All of this because we had a lot of travelling to do. First we went to Rio and then there we waited for another coach which we took in order to get to the city of Belo Horizonte since there was no direct link.

The coach from Rio to Belo Horizonte was rather late, so we got to the hotel only after 11 pm. Because of the problems we had had with the cards in the previous small town and B&B, we wanted to pay the bill right away. However, the cards did not function here either and any attempt to execute the payment was rejected. Also, my notebook computer could not establish a link with the hotel’s wi-fi. Therefore, at that point in time there was nothing I could actually do, not even advise my bank to unblock the card for Brazil and I already saw myself spending the following day looking for a place where they would repair my computer, since I started to think there was something wrong with its modem.

By the time I dealt with all of this, took a shower and went to bed it was already well past midnight and the following morning I woke up before 6 fully aware that I could no longer sleep. What happened next is best seen from the text I published a little later on Facebook.

The Sun rises again

There are a few of my friends who consider me a dinosaur when it comes to contemporary technologies and the modern way of life. I do not argue, but rather I agree with them. Still, the events of the last couple of days have convinced me that the dinosaurs rule and I can only say: “Dinosaurs of all countries unite!”

Namely, when we reached Paraty a couple of days ago, it turned out that the cards did not work. Not a single one. Neither at the B&B nor at any of the ATMs including the one found on the premises of one of the very good banks. I wrote to one of my banks and they wrote back to me within 10 minutes, although the official working hours were over, saying that Brazil was considered a financially problematic destination and that the card was automatically blocked since the bank did not want to take over the risk of payment. I could unblock it, but then the risk would be taken over by me. In other words, if somebody out there in this digital world stole all the money left after the first transactions, I would neither have any more money here nor would I have any more money left in the account.

I had counted on the fact that the situation could be better once we had arrived in a big city and a good hotel. But while I was busy counting like that, my internet connection stopped working. At the B&B they had several connections, but none of them functioned. Well, I said to myself, that will also start to work when we get to the big city and the good hotel (I was still into math, i.e., into counting).

And so, we spent the whole day yesterday travelling fully aware of the fact that we had money (perhaps) only to pay the remaining unpaid hotels and the local transportation. We would have to find the way out as far as the food and water were concerned. When there are problems, one tends to become creative, so the two of us thought we could read cards (in exchange for money, of course), maybe we could wash dishes in exchange for food and maybe we would have to extend a hand and ask people for some water.

So, we reached the big city and the good hotel last night. I was still busy counting on all sorts of things, so I decided to use the credit card at once and pay the bill. No, it would not work. On either of the two devices. Well, I said to myself, let me then advise my bank to unblock the account and then hope for the best. Oh, no, it was not meant to be that easy. The internet did not work. My computer had the problem getting connected to the hotel’s wi-fi. It could see it, but could not care less. It said the connection was limited, which was practically the same as if there had been no connection at all. I tried all sorts of things, but nothing worked. I went down to the reception and the night receptionist, like so many men, found it hard to say he had no clue about the problem, so he did the same as I had already done at the very beginning and then he told me to try in the morning with the new shift, since he could not make the computer work.

And so I went to bed and miraculously managed even to fall asleep, but I woke up before 6 am. What was the point of sleeping when nothing worked? So, I washed my hair, thinking that at least something, even as trivial as my hair, could be decent and then I went down to the reception, but the new shift had still not arrived. So I went to have breakfast, but I just fiddled with the food. In the meantime Sneža also arrived and both of us were more or less down. What to do next? Then we made a deal. She should immediately inform her brother to send us some money through an international company for such matters (they charge for their service, so I don’t want to advertise them), the girl on the reception even spoke English and she herself solved the computer issue without any technicians, and then I called the Serbian Embassy in Brasilia, it was 8.30 am, they were all fully operational and I spoke with the Consul. She told me that I should ask the bank to unblock my card without any fear, but I should not use the card on ATMs since most of the frauds happen right there. And so she reassured me that there was no need to be afraid and worry. It is always nice to hear the words of comfort in one’s own language, particularly from somebody who is some kind of authority, even though we had never met.

By the time I’m writing this, the bank has already unblocked my card (within 5 minutes from me sending them the mail to that effect) and they are now on a stand-by waiting for me to advise them as soon as I have finished with the transaction in order to block the card again (an excellent bank!). Sneža’s brother has wired the money and in 15 minutes we are going to get it.

It is 9.30 in the morning and the Sun rises again!

Belo Horizonte, surroundings of our hotel

With renewed financial stocks, we finally started with our touring and sightseeing and there are plenty of places worth visiting in and around Belo Horizonte. On this day, we went to Ouro Preto which is 2 hours by coach away. We passed through lovely landscapes and the colonial town of Ouro Preto is incredibly pretty and interesting.

No wonder, since before (until 1897) it was the capital of the federal state of Minas Gerais. In addition, its name Ouro Preto means “black gold” and it was the centre of the Portuguese-Brazilian gold rush, since there used to be enormous mines of gold here which the Portuguese practically sucked out (officially, 800 tons of gold were sent to Portugal). At the time when New York had around 50,000 residents, Ouro Preto had around 100,000 of them.

Still, with the exhaustion or disappearance of gold, the importance of the town also faded out, while the seat of the administration and the capital of the federal state were moved to Belo Horizonte. Because of all of this, there is not a single building in the centre of Ouro Preto that was built in the 20th or the 21st century and the town is the first cultural property from Brazil that was included into the UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

View at the centre of Ouro Preto

First we started from the coach terminal and passed by the Church of Sao Francisco de Paula (Igreja de São Francisco de Paula) which is the last church the construction of which began during the colonial period (officially, Brazil gained its independence from Portugal in 1822).

Sao Francisco de Paula Church

Sao Francisco de Paula Church

The church looked beautiful, the sky was perfect both to look at and to take photos of, but...

In this wonderful place there is a tiny little problem – the centre is dispersed over almost vertical streets. What I want to say is that there are a lot of very steep streets which follow the natural slopes on which Ouro Preto was built and you really need to be quite fit in order to visit all or at least most of the places of interest, as the two of us did.

Verica Ristic

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