Without doubt, the majority of my favourite destinations are usually nature hotspots in the form of forests, waterfalls, deserts or mountains. I like trekking, adventure sports and admiring greener than green landscapes. But this doesn’t mean that I totally reject urban experiences, much as the average budget traveller would. Following the mantra of ‘don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, I’d had a good time in San Jose, Costa Rica and Managua, Nicaragua amongst other concrete jungles, so despite Campo Grande not being a capital city and barely anything showing up when I researched it on the Internet, I figured I’d give the main city of the Mato Grosso do Sul state in the south of Brazil a try, especially as it was a Saturday, when I might get a chance to sample the nightlife.
I left Bonito in the early hours, but only after stuffing my face at the breakfast table. The transport to Campo Grande cost 100 reais, more expensive than if you caught public transport at 67 reais, but given the public bus would only arrive at night, I decided it would be best to leave early and make the most of the day. At about 11am the van dropped me at Hotel Nacional, which was luckily only about 8 blocks from my hostel, Pit Stop 3 (50 reais per night), situated smack in the centre of the city. It’s a small mother and son operation and they give you a key to come out and in as you please. There isn’t a placard as such outside advertising the hostel, but the number is very clearly displayed. The owner said this was so as to stop horny couples ringing the bell in the early hours, given that there was a lack of motels in the city centre. ‘We are not a putaria (whorehouse),’ she emphasised.
I decided to make the most of my day and caught a bus (you need to buy a pre-pay card for 3,25 Reais at a newspaper stand or pharmacy as they don’t accept cash on board) to Shopping Campo Grande from the main avenue (Afonso Pena), and then walked onwards towards Parque das Nações, the city’s main attraction according to my Internet research. The walk from the shopping centre to the park is a good 10 minutes along a highway, though I must say there were barely any cars circulating at all. The park itself is rather big, has a few lakes and statues and would be quite apt for morning jogs. In the space of an hour wandering around in the drizzle, I probably saw about 10 people, some of whom asked me where they could find Pokemon in the vicinity. ‘Pikachu is at the bottom of the lake,’ I replied.
If you were to go from the shopping centre and just follow the main road, you would get to the Museum of Indigenous People in about 20/25 minutes. The entrance is 5 reais, a decent price given the range of artefacts it has, and I spent around an hour perusing the rooms, one dedicated to indigenous culture and history, the other to the characteristics of the region, such as geography, wildlife and climates.
I’m one of those characters that likes to read everything written in a museum, but the texts here were very repetitive when describing the various tribes, so I stopped after a few and merely admired the range of clothes, head-wear, tools and photos on display. As I went through the other room’s section on animals found in the Pantanal, I mentally ticked them off my checklist. Mr. Anaconda, when wilst thou appear?
I returned to the centre, which by this time, about 5pm, was an absolute ghost town, and only a handful of places to get to get food were open, so I ended up getting some sweaty salgados, pastries if you will. I’d been told that sushi was prevalent in Campo Grande and that they had it at good prices. The people who told me must have assumed I was very well dollared up, as 78 reais (20 USD) is rather a steep price in Brazil, especially if one is to eat alone.
I got back to the hostel and more guests had arrived. They were from various parts of Brazil; Rondonia, Cuiabá and Brasilia, and we all got on swimmingly. Later on we went out for some beers and I found that people outside of Rio are extremely friendly and I felt that they treated me less a foreigner and more as one of their mates. Many of them had never met someone like me before; a foreigner who could communicate with them in ease in their own tongue. Of course, here lies in the value of speaking Portuguese, as it gives you access to the average Brazilian, and not just fellow tourists or those who pursue foreigners to practise their English or simply get laid with somebody exotic. Thus the topic focuses not on who you are, where you’ve been and what your home country is like, but on topics such as politics, academic areas (two of them were engineers), and such banal issues ranging from the excessive cost of swingers’ parties in Brasilia to pros and cons of married life.
The next day, my bus on to Goiânia wasn’t until the afternoon, so I burned some time in the morning by having a walk around (Campo Grande on a Sunday was still a ghost town) and watching Narcos on Netflix.
In summary, Campo Grande wasn’t the most interesting or intriguing of places, but if you’re on your way between destinations, perhaps if you’re going on to Foz, it’s well-located. I was happy to have stayed there so as to have met some Brazilians and have interesting conversations, but it’s certainly not the type of place to capture your heart and make you stay longer than a day.
Next stop: another urban experience. To see a friend in Goiânia.