vacations

Goias and Brasilia

Brazil continues with Ammon and Sasha:

24 hours after getting back to Cuiaba we were leaving town on a bus heading to Goiania. When your bus is 15 hours long the last thing you really want is to make it longer so there was a lot of groaning when 10 minutes into the ride one of the luggage doors opened on a corner and we dumped barrels of live fish all over the side of the road. For nearly an hour we stood on the side of the road cringing at the sight of hundreds of little fish flopping everywhere and the drivers, unsure what to do, half-heartedly trying to catch them until someone came along to take charge. So, 16 hours later we arrived in Goiania only to turn around and jump on another bus for 3 hours to the small historic city of Goias.

Goias was the first capital of the state of Goias (of which Goiania is now capital) and the historic centre is a Unesco world heritage site for its preserved colonial buildings and churches. It is quite far from any typical foreign tourist circuit in Brazil but is a well known weekend getaway for Brazilian tourists from relatively nearby Goiania and Brasilia. Even though it was the weekend it was quiet. Very quiet. One thing we have struggled with so far in Brazil is weekends.  I don’t know where everyone goes but it is empty and dead. Even a big city like Cuiaba was completely shut down on a Sunday.
We had a day and a half in Goias, which was enough. It is small enough to walk around in a couple hours, poking your head into whatever churches are open at the time (for us this was basically none). We ended up doing what pretty much everyone else was doing, sitting in the little central plaza eating ice cream all day. We had been looking forward to trying the local food and the first day had an amazing cheesy lasagna but on the second day (Sunday) the only place open that we found served us a rancid empadao, a local food a bit like a pot pie. But the town was cute and clean and relaxing which is more than can be said about most we’ve seen so far and we enjoyed it.

We left Goias on a direct bus to Brasilia. Buses in Brazil so far have been really really nice. I know they have a reputation for great sleeper buses but not only that they have been running on time, haven’t been too busy and have been quiet. No loud movies and music accompanying crazy driving. They also generally have wifi and toilets on board. They are pricey because of the distances involved but overall are quite good value for such things. These days though more and more people are flying as the domestic flights are similarly priced or even cheaper than the long-haul routes. The countryside out here is mostly green rolling hills of mixed grassland and clumps of trees. Still lots of cattle ranches and agriculture.

5 and a half hours later we were met at the station by our couchsurfing host Diego and another wicked thunderstorm downpour. Prior to arrival in Brasilia the following conversation occurred:

Sasha – “Diego just messaged us to say that we need to wear pants and shoes for the sightseeing today.”
Ammon – “I guess I’ll change to my clean pants, make a good impression.” (If you know me, you know how dirty they were.)

On arrival:

Diego – “Hi guys, we are going to visit the National Congress. We don’t have time to go back to my house and I forgot to wear long pants even though I sent you that message. Do you have any I can borrow?”
Ammon – “?!?!”
Sasha – “Ngghhpfffttsstt” (The sound one makes when trying not to drop dead laughing as you realize that the only pair of pants to lend are Ammon’s dirty ones he was specifically trying to avoid wearing.)
Ammon – “Sure, no problem” (with knowing glance at Sasha, willing her to not lose her crap)
Diego – “Thanks”

He then proceeded to put on filthy pants about 1 foot too long for him so we could do the guided tour of the government building. We were laughing the whole time like little schoolkids because the tour was in Portuguese and we couldn’t stay focused.  It was interesting as we got to see the senate and congress rooms (the first I’ve ever actually been in), though empty, as they had the day off from the elections the previous day.

National Congress
In the senate

Brasilia was purpose-built in the 1950’s to become the new capital of Brazil. It was built on a grand scale in a pre-planned manner using the latest architectural styles and utopian ideas of the day.  This original part of the city is quite spread out and well organized with a superblock housing concept for residents with big open spaces between apartment blocks with dedicated commercial streets. There were also separate hotel, transportation, banking and entertainment sectors and an artificial lake. It all feels a little disturbingly communistic now in style and things are a lot more run down that originally planned, but Brasilia is still in better shape than most cities in the country. It is not easy to get around and we were lucky to have someone driving us. Distances are far and transport confusing enough that I doubt I would’ve enjoyed it much on my own. The layout of the original city has been described as that of an airplane, with a central “fuselage” of museums, monuments, giant plazas and government buildings and the housing in the wings. You wouldn’t know this from the ground other than noticing the wide, open monument corridor.

The central corridor
National museum

Over the course of that afternoon and the following day we would spend most of our time in and around this corridor with Diego and his sister Bruna. Diego actually dumped us on his family and went back to Goiania to resume his studies so Bruna picked up the slack and we had an amazing day together. We haven’t laughed that hard in a long time, and learned a lot about Brazilian culture too. Most of the museums were closed when we tried but we were able to visit a few cathedrals. Cathedrals built by atheists are strange but amusing architecturally.

The Metropolitan cathedral
Inside the Metropolitan cathedral
Inside the Dom Bosco church
A tiny church

Not that we loved Brasilia but we were having such a good time we were sad to be leaving after only 2 nights but we had a plane to catch…
Ammon

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