Our time in Chapada Diamantina had to come to an end eventually. The road ahead was long, but we had our plan. Get to Belo Horizonte, in 3 days. We would drive south from Ibicoara, past Vitoria da Conquista, and exit the state of Bahia at the aptly named Divisa Alegre (Happy division). A 1,150km trip- roughly equivalent to driving from Paris, France, to Florence, in Italy. For our American readers, think of New York – Chicago.
The state of Bahia is famous for it’s culture, music, dance and food. Not for it’s roads! We thought Pernambuco had the worst we’d encountered, but southern Bahia set a new low. However at least our route was clear and quiet!
Southern Bahia behind us, with it’s dodgy potholed roads, huge plains and circular farms. Northern Minas Gerais ahead of us. A territory larger than France, and a change in the landscape, with it’s rolling hills, endless forest plantations, and a hell of a lot of trucks.
We eventually made it to our first overnight stop, the town of Salinas, world famous in Brazil for it’s cachaça. Nobody can explain why it’s the best, but everybody says it’s so. Perhaps quantity makes up for quality?
In Salinas we stayed at the “Pousada Porto Seguro”, which was just off the main street. Basic but comfortable, it cost us R$80 (€20) for the night. We also got a handy restaurant tip – Bakaninha was pretty good, and cheap at R$21 / €5 each for our first taste of Mineiro food. Tip: the beans are different here.
Next morning: Disaster! A flat tyre!
Fortunately Brazil is never short of mechanics and Borracharias (tyre shops). Salinas was no exception. Within an hour we were on our way south once more.
We hit some dusty patches along the way! This one was worth an entry in our “greatest hits” recently.
But cachaça wasn’t the only alcohol we tried on our trip. Our car also got to sample some sweet Brazilian ethanol, which is sold at most service stations. Almost all cars sold here come with “flex-fuel” engines, but there is a compromise. Generally fuel consumption is about 30% higher when running on ethanol, so the price has to be equally 30% lower to make up for this difference. We’ve found that this generally isn’t the case, so far.
Something else service stations in Brazil specialise in? Excellent food! With few exceptions, we’ve found them clean, tasty and cheap, and in Minas Gerais, they often come with big wood-burning stoves under the buffet. You won’t find one of these in a Topaz back in Ireland…
Our very drunk car carried us on a few hundred km further south, through miles and miles of straight, gently hilly country.
Passing by some extremely oddly named towns:
Before we began to climb into the Espinhaço mountains, the beginning of Minas’ imperial region. This is where the wealth of the Portuguese empire came from, in the 18th century. Diamonds, Gold, Silver, other precious stones. All mined here by African slaves.
Next stop – Diamantina.