When Natália was done with work, she and her fiancé Gustavo joined Bruna and me for beers. I spent the night at Natália's apartment and then next day I saw more of the city with her mom (and my mom's Brazilian best friend) Sandra. Sandra doesn't speak very much English, so it was a real challenge for us to communicate, but it was a good test for my Portuguese! I definitely still have a long way to go...
Later that day we left for Ibitipoca, which was about a 2-hour drive from Juiz De Fora. It was a rather stressful drive because half of the time was spent driving on an unpaved road (the only way to get there) in a very heavy rainfall. We even shared the road with a herd of cattle at one point. Literally, they were right next to the car. Natalia has a very small car, about the size of a Geo Prism, so you can imagine how hard it was for her to drive on a road that an American would have only gone on with an ATV or at least a vehicle with 4-wheel drive.
Thankfully, we made it there safely and the rain let up so that we could explore the unique village of Ibitipoca. It is a very laid back atmosphere with small shops, bars with live music, and restaurants. For how small of a place it is, it was very lively. We stayed at Natália's fiance Gustavo's parent's house. They own 3 different stores there. Joining us were Natália's father, girlfriend Lúcia, and her 12-year-old son Victor. They were all a lot of fun even though they spoke little English. Natália definitely spent much of the time translating! Natália's father grilled some delicious Brazilian BBQ and then we went to a very unique and eccentric bar famous for it's delicious mixture of Chachaça and honey. Coincidentally, I ended up chatting with a guy because he had a Harley-Davidson shirt on and he (in English) explained to me that he would be moving to Pennsylvania next month to begin his PhD in Biology at Penn State!! What are the chances? Just incredible.
There was some sort of celebration going on there while we were there, so there was loud music and really loud fireworks lasting until about 5am that night. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep! But we still woke up early, eager to go hiking in the park at Ibitipoca. At first the conditions were cloudy and foggy, but soon after we began our hike, the fog lifted and we were able to see some of the breathtaking views.
I'm so glad Natália took me to Ibitipoca, it was just so beautiful and really the first time I was able to experience Brazil's beautiful landscape outside of a city. There were soo many stars visible from where we were at, too.