Brazil can breathe a great sigh of relief. Disaster has been averted. Despite the predictions that Rio de Janeiro was unprepared and with many expecting the Olympic Games to be an embarrassment, Rio 2016 has just about delivered. Sure, it was a little rough around the edges, with some accommodation not quite up to scratch and a few visitors finding themselves the victims of petty crime. But that raw, fresh Olympic experience was the main reason for bringing the games to South America: to give a continent of sport-loving people access to the world’s biggest sporting event.
Exploring the Amazon rainforest sounds like an impossible task. It is an impenetrable, unforgiving place. Countless explorers have disappeared in its depths, snatched by disease, starvation, animals, or hostile locals. Even now, when we know so much about the Amazon, it retains a certain aura. We know that the Amazon basin produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen; we know that it holds around one fifth of the world’s freshwater; we know that about half of the world’s species of animal, plant and insect live in the Amazon. And yet, we don’t know anything for certain. It is too big, too impressive, and too important for us to think we have conquered it.
Once an important mining hub, now a relic of Portuguese colonialism, the city of Ouro Preto is nestled proudly between mountains in what was once known as the ‘Vila Rica’. This gorgeous town, famed for it’s quaint cobbled streets and Baroque architecture, went from being the centre of Brazil’s gold rush in the 18th century to a small town that relies mainly on tourism. Meaning ‘Black Gold’, Ouro Preto was the state capital of Minas Gerais until 1897, before industrialisation and development saw Belo Horizonte take over.