Belo Horizonte, May 2008

The name means “beautiful horizon” in Portuguese and should under no circumstances be confused with the French “Grandes horizontales” which has an altogether more louch interpretation. I stayed with my friends, Vivianne and Narinder, learned a little about the gem trade of the region, helped out in the shop and generally hung out with the “gossip girls”. This was a multi-lingual (not all female) group who met at a nearby pavement cafe to engage in the important task of stretching morning coffee to meet lunch while ensuring that everyone knew exactly what everyone else was doing.

Now, as you can see from the pictures, Narinder is a Sikh and his principals do not accord with astrology or superstition but he does have a sense of humour so, when the local soothsayer wanted to give a free demonstration, I was volunteered to take part. I duly had my stars read and reported back how pleasant and un-threatening the experience had been. The stars don’t really say anything to me, I’m afraid, but I can be sympathetic to other people’s beliefs and wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to sell an aquamarine crystal to a lady who was worried about the well being dug on her property. In my defence I can only say that it was an inexpensive one.

The astrologist gentleman had been very pleasant so when he called in to the shop just before I left I gave him a “lucky stone”, a chiastolite which has a cross shaped pattern running through it in the direction of crystal formation. Truthfully, the only reason I picked it out for him was because he originated from Chile and so did the stone. Months later I heard that he had returned to the shop to ask for a replacement as mine had been stolen in a robbery. It turned out that a thief had held him up at gunpoint and taken his wallet and little bag of lucky stones. He hesitated for a moment over the credit card, thinking aloud how difficult it would be to replace and this was enough to get him shot at point blank range square in the centre of the chest. No, the bullet did not bounce off of the lucky stone, that had already handed it over, remember, but it bounced off his sternum and exited under his arm thereby sparing his life. Only just.

I knew nothing of this at the time, of course, although the gossip group spoke of other shootings and mutual friends who had recently been murdered in the road tunnels in Rio de Janeiro. Mass hold ups take place every so often where gunmen close off the tunnels at either end and rob the trapped motorists of their valuables. Periodically something goes wrong and bullets get sprayed around. Yikes! No wonder Vivianne was extremely reluctant to let me take a trip to Rio on my own. I will have to tell you how I managed it in the next post.

How can people say that they’ve “done” a city, a country or even a continent? So many of the places that I’ve visited seem to exert a pull on me for ever afterwards, especially those places where I have stayed with friends. I can close my eyes and be back in Belo in an instant, basking in that convivial atmosphere, playing with a few gemstones, watching the occasional South American soap opera (which are to melodrama what the rest of us are to oxygen) and not doing anything very much at all. Enjoy the pictures.

Categories: Latin America


  • Chris says:

    have you managed to contact Narinder yet?

  • Narinder says:

    enjoyed reading and looking at the pictures .
    I a m going to read about your trip to Amritsar next it will take a while.
    Let’s meet for tea at selfriges when we are next in London like to see
    Chris as well

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