French start-up BlaBlaCar is a web-based platform that facilitates carpooling. When I explained the concept to my mom she replied, “That sounds like the 21st century’s version of hitchhiking.” I think she is right.
The company launched in Europe in September 2006 and entered Brazil in 2015. Talking with other travelers about their experiences in Brazil, I learned travel with BlaBlaCar would be less expensive and more efficient than travel via bus.
To provide a safe and trustworthy service, BlaBlaCar required that I authenticate my account by providing identification and linking the account with LinkedIn, Facebook and my local phone number. Once set-up, it was easy to use the webpage or the app. to request a ride. After matching with a driver, we messaged to identify a meeting point. Like many services in the peer-to-peer economy, we each had the opportunity to rate the other party at the end of the ride.
I traveled 3 times with BlaBlaCar on journeys that were 4 hours, 3 hours, and 10 hours. The last 2 trips were with the same driver, Victor, and his amor (partner) Maria. They are awesome people! They gave me advice on activities for both Buzious and Belo Horizonte plus they went out of their way to drive me directly to my hostel in both cities. The conversation and experiences we had together were more memorable and more enjoyable than any bus ride.
A travel day selfie using the full length mirror at the hostel in Arraial do Cabo. It was a scenic ride with Victor and Maria from the coast to Belo Horizonte, the capital city of the state of Minas Gerais.
When we arrived in Belo Horizonte Victor invited me to meet his mom and see his childhood home. His mom (wearing the black and white coat) showed me her garden and we played a game of pool. Also traveling in the backseat of our smaller car were two larger men. It was a full car.
I started my sight seeing in Belo Horizonte with a visit to the main plaza, Placa da Liberdade, a space lined with palm trees. It was the weekend so the area was crowded with people exercising and relaxing. There was also a public health campaign that included a water ballon fight and treats.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s 6th largest city, was a host site for the 2014 FIFA World Cup which led to improvements in public spaces and transit. One space that benefitted from the city’s host status is the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, located on the main plaza and re-opened in 2013, which is dedicated to art education, theatre, and fostering dialogue in the arts. Original construction of the building was completed in 1930. In this facility there were drinking fountains, a rare sight.
The current exhibit at the Centro Cultural is an exploration of the representations of the human figure through time. The exhibit was informative and well curated with all materials in English and Portuguese. In the section of the exhibit focused on the mid 20th century, the following sentence connected with me, “The figures were now defined by their role in the social order, or according to specific actions they carry out.” Traveling, I think a lot about how we can define ourselves in ways not related to our employment.
I visited another museum, Memorial Minas Gerais, also located on the main plaza. This high quality museum was also free and opened prior to the World Cup. The interactive audio-visual displays were multi-lingual and provided information about the history of this mining state.
Sights around the city included a building designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer who is considered a founder of the modern architecture movement.
To enjoy a city sunset, I traveled via bus and then walked up a steep hill to reach Praca do Papa. This plaza overlooking the city abuts the mountains and is located in a wealthy neighborhood.
The Belo Horizonte Mercado Central sells everything. In this crowded market that extends an entire city block goods for sale included flowers, electronics, home goods, and all varieties of food. There were also restaurant stalls filled with customers.
In a park near my hostel, a space that was also renovated prior to the World Cup, I exercised in the evenings. The surface under the children’s play equipment was recycled rubber. One evening a religious procession passed through the park.
From Belo Horizonte I traveled 2 hours via public bus to Ouro Preto, a former colonial mining town nestled into the mountains. According to Wikipedia, 800 tons of gold were sent from this town to Portugal during the 18th century gold rush.
On the advice of Lidiane, the friendly and kind owner at the hostel where I stayed, I walked to a hilly viewpoint for sunset views of Ouro Preto. Because of the architecture of the city, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.
I met Monika from Germany at our hostel. She was also excited to exercise so we visited a local park together twice to workout. After exercising with the 7M app., Monika introduced me to another app., Headspace, which led us in a 10-minute guided meditation practice.
More views of this colonial city, including the main square. My primary activity in Ouro Preto was walking around and appreciating the views.
There are more than 10 churches in Ouro Preto and many visitors come to see these sights. I visited one of the churches with Lidiane, our hostel owner, and Monika. Igreja de Sao Francisco de Assisi had murals on the walls and an alter decorated with gold. Photos are not permitted inside the churches.
To escape a rainy afternoon we visited Casa dos Contos. This museum houses information about the slave trade in Ouro Preto, demonetization in Brazil, and the museum has great city views. Lidiane, Monika and I stopped for coffee afterward.
Lidiane invited Monika, me and 2 other German guests for a hike in a local national park. Inside the park we climbed through rocks to see a hidden waterfall.
Lidiane and her right-hand man Tiago at the hostel saw me off as I left. The hostel is called Goiabada com Queijo and the name comes from the pairing of sweet fruit with savory cheese. In this city I was amused to see many old and working VW Beetle cars.