Belo Horizonte – The Final Days

The view from my new place

Despite paying a non-refundable £70 a night for a hostel in Rio for the next week, I ended up in Paddy’s spare room looking out over a hillside covered by houses. Added to the beautiful views was the inexplicable benefit of a padded toilet seat, something I witnessed several times in Brazil but never before or since. Personally I think they are on to something. Paddy had been living there for around 9 months, deciding to avoid fellow English people and fully immerse himself in order to learn the language properly and get to know the locals. His main income was through teaching English and he had got to know several different types of people through this. Paddy’s plan was to show me as many different sides to Brazilian culture as possible in a week, mainly through a variety of club nights with a different type of music each night. He had a great little group of around 7 guys, 3 or 4 of whom would come out each night, a different combination every time but always a few.

There were some real characters in here, and it was my first time really hanging around with the locals and getting to know them over more than one evening. Most of these guys were engaged to their childhood sweethearts from their local town and had very happy lives. All of this went out of the window when arriving at the clubs though, as it immediately turn into a hunt for women. I’d never seen guys so single minded. There were times when they would come back to me with a girl and a rather random conversation would follow:

‘Hey, this is my English friend Martin.’

‘Tudo bem.’

‘See, I have an English friend.’

And off they went, back into the midst of the club to try everything they could to seduce the girl. When I asked later why he does it when he is engaged the response was rather comically, as if to convince himself: ‘Ah it’s ok, I won’t do this when we are married’. I have my doubts but each to their own. Another interesting character amongst our group was a policeman. He told us it was his duty to carry a gun, declare it to the nightclub security and be on hand to assist should there be any issue.

There was also no second thought to driving home after a night out, with no consideration taken of the amount drunk. One night our driver decided to chase a taxi full of girls that we had not even spoke to, a truly surreal experience like something out of a film…

‘Follow that cab!’

God knows what they hoped to achieve, and as expected, when they arrived at their destination, a few words were exchanged in Portuguese and we went home. Paddy told me other stories of his friend pulling over on the way home to shoot at streetlights. It’s not until you step back from the environment that you realise how crazy these guys were, yet also very down to earth guys with normal everyday jobs.

Across the nights out I witnessed the unexpected treat of a Queen tribute band, a quite unique experience watching people dancing to Funk Carioca, Funk Ostentcao and some slightly more chilled Setanejo.

Among the chaos we had some lovely walks, our daily trip to the local restaurant to sample the wonderfully refreshing Acai. Each morning was pretty similar.

‘Ahh man, don’t think I’ll be drinking again tonight’

One tub of Acai later…

‘I feel like a new man, fancy a beer?’

Peaceful views over Belo Horizonte

There was a beautiful viewpoint we made our way up to and sat for an hour or so in the sunshine, looking out over this huge city talking about old times and laughing about our schooldays. Such a refreshing change from football now that the Brazilian passion and excitement had been drained from the atmosphere.

‘Remember Scudder?’…’Remember when Spruce kicked the ball in Mr Elwell’s face?’…’I wonder what Luke Hindmarsh is doing now’.

Simple conversations that will only be funny with a certain group of people. This really was a beautiful way to pass my last few days in Brazil.

Another lovely afternoon was when we were invited round to the house of Paddy’s student, Helcio. His niece was celebrating her 15th birthday, so we came around for lunch in a beautiful apartment complete with 1960’s décor. As expected, the youngsters congregated in a separate room while Helcio took us to the rather well stocked alcohol cabinet. After suggesting several different types of cachaca to try out, I was starting to feel the effects to the point the 90-year-old grandma – smallest lady I had ever met – was telling me at the table that I couldn’t handle my alcohol. After a lovely little afternoon, we went our separate ways and my time in Brazil was drawing to a close. All that remained was the final that evening.

It would be fair to say after 6 weeks of drinking, parties, great experiences with new and old friends, and the most wonderful celebration of football, the final was a bit of an anti-climax. With no Germany or Argentina fans nearby there was little or no public interest, so we ended up watching in a low-key environment back home on the rooftop terrace. A tense but dour and goalless 90 minutes left Andre Schurrle to cross for Mario Gotze – who’d just turned 22 years of age – to turn the ball into the Argentina net in extra-time and lead his team to a 1-0 victory, as Germany became the first country from outside of South America to win the World Cup on this continent.

The culmination of the greatest show on earth meant it was time for me to return to England, return to reality, and make some plans for the future. On one hand I was glad that England failed miserably,. If we’d won the tournament, it would’ve been a trip that would simply be impossible to beat. Wouldn’t have minded one win though.

This trip had been incredible from start to finish. After my initial apprehension of travelling alone was eased, I witnessed some remarkable natural environments, some amazing cities, and most of all some wonderful people from all corners of the earth celebrating the beautiful game. Memories to cherish for a lifetime. Having always been decent at languages at school, I thrived on the opportunity to learn and practice some Portuguese. Even if you only pick up a few sentences, it adds a unique element to any trip. It certainly gave me the bug for life on the road, going from day to day not knowing what adventure is around the corner. This experience immediately left ideas running through my head of what was going to be my next adventure…

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