Global Studies Program
Brazil 2001

Recollections by Sara Mason--Tiradentes (11/28-12/2)

Had an absolutely amazing hike today, despite the fact that a slate grey sky was constantly spitting rain on us. I thought it was funny how Harvey kept referring to this "dry forest ecosystem" as the constant dripping on my neck, the soggy ground, and slippery rocks kept me very skeptical.

Our local guide led us up through the forest behind our hotel, up one "hill", down into the grassy valley on the other side, up and over another hill into the town of Sao Joao del Rei to a concrete swimming pool that was fed by natural spring waters. We had asked him to take us to piscinas natural and, although these were technically pools of "natural" water, they weren't exactly what we had in mind. So after this misunderstanding, we set out to climb the next hill, and after we'd finally scrambled up rock, clay, and grass (all of which existed at a considerable angle), we had a great view of Tiradentes and our hotel. The whole valley below was shrouded in mist because of the weather and everything was kind of serene. The wind storming over the top of that hill drove the rain into our already dripping ponchos and packs. It was just kind of beautiful to stand there and take it all in. Then we turned back down the hill and straggled into the hotel, a cold, cramped, but conquering, crew, leaving our muddy boots on the porch in our wake.

Down time: Our host offered us fresh espresso, and we gratefully accepted. As we were sitting downstairs, drinking coffee from tiny teacups, our hotel manager came and set out pieces of papaya on a little tree platform, and, faster than you can say abacaxi, eight small black-and-white monkeys ("mikos") were feasting and frolicing. We even got to pet 'em a little. Into Tiradentes for dinner, and a carnage of carne ensued as Jeremy, Jen, and Marcus tried their darnedest to finish four enormous plates of pork, beef, and chicken. It had to be seen to be believed. Afterwards, we went down the road to an ice cream shop and I got a Brazilian banana split.

We learned 29 plant families in the past two days and did a fair bit of hiking. It all felt really good, and we're all tired but the good kinda tired 'cause you've earned it. And my favorite part today was that nobody really complained. At the end of the day, everyone was still enthused and excited, despite the exhaustion and the mud.

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