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Day 6 – Part A

Kirkby Stephen to Keld

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England v Costa Rica

A beautiful day in Belo Horizonte, check out of Mercure LifeCentre very smooth – printed boarding passes for my flights home after the game (with the England team unfortunately). My biggest concern was what to do with my bags while watching the match.

So I hatched a plan to take an early taxi to the airport, store the bags in a locker and go to the Estadio Maneirao – “soak up the atmosphere”, watch the game and head to the airport get bags and off.

So step 1 get a taxi to airport shuttle service (Belo Horizonte airport is over 40km from the city)… Fair play, taxi man Eugenio – armed with his smart phone and translator app tries to cross sell and up sell me a taxi all the way to the airport… I tell him I’m not interested… I had a plan… He was intrigued. So I tell him what I’m doing and he simply says (well his HTC smartphone said to be precise), “give me your luggage – I will look after it for you”… “I just so happen to live near the stadium”.

My Daily Mail induced anti trust antennae were twitching… But I also knew he had a simpler plan. “Why should I trust you?”, I ask his smartphone. HTC responded in a random fashion, mentioning God, honour and household appliances – and a very unusual reference to Hockey at the end. HTC then says “my neighbour lives in USA for 10 years I take you to meet him – Hockey”.

I’m thinking – that’s where Wayne Gretski went… Would mind meeting him. So I take a big gulp and say “go on then”.

Tracking my journey on Google Maps, I see we are heading to the ground – and I write down everything I can about Eugenio, taxi badge number, phone number, and eventually his address when we arrive.

It turned out he lives in a smart but modest block of flats about 5 high and 4 on each floor. We take my bags and head inside. There is a knock on number 301. I’m thinking “here we go – I’m either next weeks organ transplants, or this chap is legit”.

To my relief a lovely middle aged lady opens the door, gives Eugenio a peck on the cheek and the start rattling off In Portuguese. I couldn’t pickup if he was saying “what’s your stocks of adult liver like Mavis?”… “Or do his eyes look handy? His hand gestures seemed to be more about carrying bags. Mavis then calls over Carol… Her daughter – I’d guess about 25. She is a sweetheart, and it she was the one that lived in the US for 10 years with her father.

We have a chat to align what’s going on, they invite me I’m sit me down offer me breakfast, ask 100’s of questions making sure I’ve had a fantastic time in Brazil and listening to where I’ve been and what I thought. Carole’s young son staring at me the whole time. It turns out Hockey is Portuguese for OK.

We took a pic or two:

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We then exchanged hugs, and Carol assured me she would look after my bags and bring them to the stadium when she collects her boyfriend after the game.

Eugenio bundles me back into his taxi – and drops me off at a fantastic bar/restaurant right next to the ground. I then realise I’ve left my work iphone plugged in at my hotel 40km away. HTC to the rescue – I ask Eugenio if he’s heading back into town and if he would kindly collect my stuff – “no problem” HTC replies.

I met some very different England fans in the bar, mainly because they were charging R30 (about £8) to get in. The 2 gents I met were from England but one of them used to lecture at the University in the Brazilian city of Salvador. It was very interesting learning about expat life in Brazil, and bloody handy having someone around that could speak the language.

After too many Caipirinha (the fact we didn’t get started on them sooner in the trip is a real shame), we headed off to the stadium. It really was a beautiful sunny day – about 24c… England fans were in good voice, and there seemed to be a lot of Costa Ricans.

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You might have seen that I parted company with my treasured flag – The less said about that ridiculous situation the better.

I should say that the flag was very popular at the bar – I would guess at least 50 Brazilians had their pictures taken with it, which was nice, and a Brazilian film crew found it interesting enough to stop and capture it hanging there at the Juscelino Deck Bar.

Inside the ground there was a different atmosphere, the England team suggest the game would be more of an experiment than a competition – fair enough.

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Eugenio was good for he word, met me as planned with my luggage and reclaimed iPhone. He took me to Carol and her boyfriend said our goodbyes and off to the airport.

It was a typical Brazilian taxi ride in rush hour on a motorway – mad.

When we got to the airport I asked for Eugenio’s address and he have me a hug after handing over my bags. I’m not sure I ever been hugged by a taxi driver before. I think HTC had run our of battery so he may have thought that is the international way of saying goodbye.

Dispute a very busy airport after a 60,000 mass exit, the only thing worth mentioning was that Phil Neville was on my flight to Rio. A couple of merry England fans started singing – “if Phil Neville can play for England so can I”, which lightened the mood for all of us troubled England followers.

I boarded my Rio flight to London as planned (Duty Free in Rio is shocking by the way). And my lovely wife was waiting for me at Heathrow. Smooth as silk.

So the adventure is over. I’m going to joy down a few highlights and key learnings a to close out the blog, but just want to take a day or two to make sure I don’t miss anything.

So until then… All together now – “If Phil Neville can play for England so can I…”

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Park Life

As my lovely wife Lisa will testify… I can’t sit by a pool for very long.

So I jumped in a taxi and headed up the hill/mountain to see what the locals do on a leisurely Sunday afternoon. The place to go is Parque Das Mangabeiras.

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It’s a pretty special place with all walks of Belo Horizonte life… From kids flying their kites, families having picnics, impromptu bands performing (Dire Straits seemed to be the artist de jure…) to a small choir of teenagers belting out one number, after another – all just for fun. Each group choosing their own part of the park, which winds it’s way through the trees to a summit. The strangest was a group of 20 something’s re-enacting mid evil battles with large plastic swords and other plastic weapons.

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I met 2 more Americans as I looked for the peak – which I was told give a great view of Belo Horizonte. One was Miguel – a Realtor from Los Angeles…. Very nice guy but unfortunately nothing like Phil Dumphie (that one if for all you Modern Family fans). The central pond was teeming with Carp – Mads… I think even we would have caught a fish here!

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Getting to the top was very rewarding… The view was spectacular.

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I walked all the way back down into town, which was a very nice 5 km walk, past Praca Do Papa – where apparently Pope John Paul II held an outdoor mass in 1980 (one for the Catholics out there!). Again more people, both kids and adults flying kites. It looks like it’s some kind of competitive sport where they attack each other’s kites – probably more interesting to watch that read about!

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It was late afternoon before I got into the city centre, and rewarded my hard work with a beer – and met Matt and Sam from Wakefield. Poor buggers had just arrived from London to watch England in the decisive last group game and last 16. Their spirits were still high and up for a few jet lag preventing beers. We were later joined by another lone ranger – Shawn, a salty sea dog Pom from Sydney serving in the Australian Navy. Amazingly he is touring around Brazil by coach! He’s looking forward to his 24 hour coach trip to the Brazilian city of Salvador next!

Coincidently he told me about his trip from São Paulo had him sat next to a very annoying character who Pete, Al and I met in Manaus. Can’t remember his name but he seems to think he’s a celebrity for dressing up in a dog/horse costume and doing a funny dance with real celebrities and post it on YouTube… Poor Shawn got 8 hours of that!

We all watched the USA v Portugal game which was a belter. I wished USA could have hung on for all 3 points. But they are still in it!

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Matt told me all about his pub in Wakefield – the Graziers Arms. Sounds like a fun place if you’re ever in Wakefield.

Brazil play their final group game today, so the city centre will be nuts!

I like Belo Horizonte.

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Some pics to catchup on:

Not sure if you’ve seen this one – Manaus Opera House by day:

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Manaus Opera House after Brazil v Mexico

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Meeting of the rivers to form the Amazon (not sure if you can see the divide of black and brown river?)

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Our friends the Uruguayans:

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Police were very friendly in São Paulo:

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Caution… Brazilian beer doesn’t agree with everyone!

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What’s all the fuss about with Corinthian fans? Very nice people… (Ok he a São Paulo fan!):

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Al and Pete toasting their decision to go home:

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A taste of Brazil 2014

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Belo Horizonte

English translation is Beautiful Horizon, which at the moment I can’t disagree with:

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São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Natal and Brasilia are cities I’d heard about before World Cup 2014 – I must admit I hadn’t read a great deal about Belo Horizonte. The only thing I knew was that England suffered a shock defeat here by USA in the last Brazilian World Cup in 1950 – how times have changed…

It’s much larger than I was expecting, about 2m residents and the city landscape is largely modern tall tower blocks of offices and apartments. So it did surprise me to when I read here that it has a long history and not just a recent product of rapid growth in Brazil.

After checking into the Mercure LifeCentre – a very nice hotel by western standards, I headed out to see what was going on. The early sea of blue and white Argentinian shirt reminded me that Argentina
were playing here earlier in the day – Messi scoring an injury time winner against the very plucky Iranians. So the mood was high and streets were rammed with revellers and police (I’m told Brazilians and Argentinians don’t get on – plus an expected sprinkling of grumpy England fans to spice things up):

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Not hearing too much English, and now operating as a Lone Ranger – I soaked up the atmosphere and then found a quieter area for some dinner and a Backer pilsner or two.

The weather is also beautiful today bright sunny and mid 20’s. A perfect leisurely Sunday ahead for me.

I’ll post someone pics from the previous match and nights out now that I’ve got a good internet service.

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Museu do Futbol

A bit starved of Football, I thought I’d check out Brazil’s cultural heart for the game – based at the Estádio do Pacaembu, which was only a 10 minute taxi ride from the majestic (compared to our hotel in Manaus) Panamby Hotel São Paulo.

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Not only was it free, it was also very impressive – a warm welcome from Pele:

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Each World Cup is featured, and a lot of history on the game since it was introduced to Brazil in 1892.

It was about all I could fit in before heading to the domestic airport for my flight to Belo Horizonte.

Al and Pete have decided to abandon ship and leave Brazil, and start their epic journey back to Australia almost 2 weeks earlier than scheduled. Hope you have a safe flight chaps – and you know I’ll miss you both.

So my remaining 3 days will be different, but determined to make the most of it.

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