I first visited the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais back in 2006, when I accompanied our daughter-in-law Cledia to visit her family in and around Campos Altos. We returned in 2012, and again spent time driving around the countryside to visit more relatives.
I get the impression that this is a part of Brazil that is rarely visited by tourists, though I met lots of Brazilian people who had spent time in England!
Minas Gerais is a beautiful state, where they grow the BEST coffee and make the BEST cheese in Brazil - the pace of life in the countryside is slow and all the people we met were charming and welcoming. I hope these photos will give you some idea of why I love it so much.
Minas countryside (photos 1-11) - the area around Campos Altos is mostly high and hilly, and once you leave the main road you are driving along sandy tracks that seem to follow the ridges that divide the different farms. You could easily get lost, but you would never starve, as there is a huge variety of fruit growing by the wayside.
Campos Altos (photos 12-15) - this pleasant town in the Triangulo Mineiro was built around the cargo railway line that transports the locally produce coffee, beef and dairy products to the major cities of Brazil.
Agriculture (photos 16-24) - many of Cledia's family still live on farms in the countryside around Campos Altos, where they mainly keep cattle and other livestock.
Cheese (photos 25-33) Most of this set of photos were taken at the farm of Cledia's uncle who has recently won many awards for the best Minas cheese, but people make their own cheese even on the tiny farms.
Coffee (photos 34-43) I was really interested to see how everyone grows their own coffee, and the different equipment they use to roast and grind it. These photos were taken on the cheese farm above, at a small family run processing plant in Campos Altos and finally the huge warehouse, also in Campos Altos.
Charcoal (photos 44-47) - we also stopped to look around a charcoal burner's kilns, which was very interesting. He burns eucalyptus wood from the large plantations that are appearing in this part of Brazil, and told us that most of the charcoal he produces goes to the USA.
Rincao (photos 48-59) Pretty much all of Cledia's family were born in a village called Rincao (although everyone calls it Rincao, officially the name of the village is Altalandia) about 20km from Campos Altos. Her grandfather helped build the church. On our latest visit we called in to see brothers Paolo and Jose; two of their old neighbours who still live on the land where they were born (though they now have a new house alongside the original one which is only home to a clutch of kittens). These charming but very shy brothers grow all their own vegetables and coffee on a carefully tended plot, they proudly showed us their radio (they have to take the bulb out of the light to use it) and they made us the very best cup of coffee I tasted in my whole time in Brazil.