16/18.- Ouro Preto, abandoned gold mine
If you want to go to one of the abandoned mines in Ouro Preto, you can contact one of the travel agencies in downtown Ouro Preto. If you want, you can go on your own, take a taxi, and buy the ticket once there. The visit to the mines lasts a couple of hours. The visit starts in a small room where you can see the objects used when the mines were active. An English-speaking guide will give you some information about the process of digging for gold. After the explanations, comes one the most exciting parts of the visit, the descent on a wagon 100 yards down inside the mine. Once in the mine, the guide will take you on a tour. During your visit you will walk among big pillars of rock. These pillars were left in order for the mine not to collapse (unfortunately in some parts of the mine the columns were not big enough, and big chunks of rock fell while workers were in the mine). The guide will teach you how gold was collected, and will tell you why it tends to accumulate under the granite layers. The rooms inside the mine are perfectly illuminated, but a torch may be handy. Although the mine is many yards below the surface, the rooms are big enough not to be a claustrophobic place. The visit to the abandoned mine will end in a room flooded with water. Water, filtered through the rocks, is pretty transparent. If you want, you can bring your swimming suit and go for a swim. The experience of swimming more than 100 yards below the surface is quite unique. After the swim it will be time to go back to the exterior with the old wagon. The guide will finish the visit with a demonstration of how gold was separated from other materials with a pan. A guide will fill the pan with river sand, and after some stirring and shaking all that will be left will be a golden powder, pure gold! This powder is said to bring good luck. If you want, you can put some on your hair. To get back to town, you can take the agency minibus, or a taxi.
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