Oreo Preto and Tiradentes part 1

Before I briefly combine the blog of these two delightful villages, I shall document that eucalyptus trees were introduced into Brazil from Australia in 1910. They are now ubiquitous. I was fascinated to read that Brazil now has more eucalyptus trees under plantation than any other country, including Australia. They have so spread far and wide across the whole country worse than cane toads!

In fact whilst it is true that the delicate ecology of Australia has been severely compromised by introduced flora and fauna, our revenge on the rest of the world has been the eucalyptus tree. Not a continent has been spared other than the antarctic, I can’t remember if this is a continent? I failed Geography 1.

Driving on the open road is a little disconcerting as the along the side of the roads the general vegetation is basically gum trees. The outside temp has been around 30 degrees, so the overall feel is essentially “well bugger me I seem to be back in Australia”!

Oreo Preto and Tiradentes were thriving towns that grew up rapidly as a consequence of gold fever that saw thousands flock to the mountainous region. Oreo Preto became the capital of the region called Mineas Gerais. This town has made an honest attempt to restore and maintain the Portuguese traditions, cobbled streets and, as usual, the churches, of which there was one or even two, on any and all hilltops and the village squares.

The tourist office in Oreo Preto was ultramodern, up to the standard of the best in Australia. Many of the museums had also made an obvious effort to create uncluttered, simple well lit displays for the exhibits. Many had bilingual descriptions or provided a laminated leaflet in various languages.

Photography was not permitted at all, in any of the churches and most charged a modest entrance fee. Assuming this was going towards maintenance and restoration, I was not to complain.

As with the religious buildings along the spanish Camino: cathedrals, monasteries and hospices, those in Brazil attest to the millions of hours spent in construction as well as the financing from the gold mines.

The superb paintings on the walls and ceilings, on timber are remarkable, all the more so as they are “original”. Other than fading and some water damage and variable deterioration to the timber, I was looking at buildings with all their decorations, carvings, paintings, as they were 2 or 3 centuries ago! The neutrality of south America during various world and European wars meant that bombings, rape, pillage and plunder has left these buildings unscathed!

Have reread that last sentence and whilst I have no
Idea of how “rape” would cause a church to deteriorate, you get the general thrust of my literary license? Unless of course, rape of the Nuns in a Portuguese nunnery incurred the wrath of God, leading to thunder and lightening and the roof caving in?

On the second day we decided to do a hike in the nearby national park. When ever we asked about “walks” in the various regions, the local people firstly expressed surprise that we even contemplates such activities and secondly implied that danger lurked around every corner, behind every tree (jaguars, leopards and yellow fever carrying monkeys but a modest list of Brazilian wild life) and that the risk of becoming lost was almost a given. These dire warnings, we chose to ignore or explain that we were happy to sign whatever liability waiver they offered. Resigned to our unswerving desires, these officials sighed and said that if that was the case, a local guide was obligatory. It was never clear on the justification for a local guide – simple navigation or that big cats preferentially attacked and ate the indigenous population.

We turned down these recommendations, with thanks of course, but I do admit that in Tiradentes we should have accepted the offer for we did become mildly confused. Readers may have by now realized that the daily dose of disorientation, so irritatingly predictable in Spain and Irelamd, has not been part of the Brazilian experience. It’s not that Osley has a more accurate internal compass, rather that he can say “we are lost, can you tell us where Campinas is?” in fluent Portuguese!