Friday, 11 June 2010

Dirty Business.

Mariana is only 14 kms away. A short bus ride away, a smaller and flatter town of equal beauty and even more colour. It started more ambitiously than its neighbor but somehow got overtaken on the way. And it doesn't seem to give a fig about it, confident, sleepy and happy with itself. A place where one can have a taste of how a time machine would be like.

As all these towns were build for and from the gold of the surrounding mines, their glory and expansion (but not their beauty) muted with it's demise, a visit in one of these mines is mandatory. Mina de Passagem is just outside Mariana and after a colourful ownership record, was shut down in 1985. Eerily maintained, with 35 km of tunnels and a natural cavernous lake, with it's 19th century hydraulic machine still active, sweetly fine-tuned and manicured by Antonio, made for an interesting day. Antonio has been 36 years at the mine, four as a miner and since then taking visitors up and down the mine's 315m steep descent. He says working on the tram is much better than down the pit. And after seeing the mine itself, the perforated walls for the dynamite, the labyrinthine tunnels, the humidity and the shrine to the Candomble Orixa of beauty, the abandoned tools and the site of so many tears and blood I do not blame him at all. Gold is a dirty business and you wouldn't want to dip your fingers in its filth.