Monday, December 23, 2013

Peru-Brazil 2013 – Day 38 – Ouro Preto

We woke up late, had breakfast, and by 9 am were ready to face the Belo Horizonte morning traffic to go to Ouro Preto, about 80 km away. Unfortunately I missed the shortcut and ended driving a lot more before getting there. This charming little town,  which reminds me a lot of Taxco, was the place of the original gold rush in the early 1700's. Legend has it that a laborer put these black rock in its pocket, and that when he got home he realized that it had flecks of gold in it. The black rock is an iron-rich sediment, called itabarite, named after the nearby town of Itabarito (To its other marvels, Minas Gerais includes large mineral deposits of iron). The gold found in this black rock is what gives it its name of "ouro preto" or "black gold".

In less than 20 years the town of Ouro Preto spread over the surrounding hills, and became the economic, cultural, and religious center of Minas Gerais. After the capital was moved to Belo Horizonte, the old town remained behind as a tourist attraction, although there are still many mines around it, so the town still has the original School of Mines, and is the hub for the trade in gemstones and gold.

Annie wanted to buy a ring as a souvenir, and after two hours of hard search found one ring of quartz with rutile needles inside it, and another one with imperial topaz (a gemstone only found in the region of Ouro Preto), so she is now a happy pup.

After a nice lunch, and much up and down to visit baroque churches and artist galleries, we headed back. This time we took the shortcut, which took us through Itabarito and other mining towns. Traffic was fierce when we got to Belo Horizonte, but with Annie as a navigator and my sixth sense as a pilot we unerringly found the way to our hostel in the first try.

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