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Trip Report São Paulo, Manaus, Tefé, Mamirauá, Buenos Aires, Colonia

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This is my third trip to Brazil and the first to Argentina (with just a day trip to Uruguay). I travelled with my partner, we are both Australian citizens in our late 40s. This time we went to the Amazon with a stop over in Buenos Aires on the return leg.

It's my third visit to São Paulo which I love partly, because I'm an art historian and it is a major contemporary art centre, but also because I love big cities. To forewarn you there will be rather a lot about museums and art galleries! My other key love is the natural environment and animals, hence the Amazon visit.

I'll try to label sections clearly--I haven't figured out how to do bold so I'll use CAPS.

FLIGHTS
This time we flew with our national carrier Qantas which goes to Buenos Aires three times a week. It's a non-stop flight (approximately 13-14 hours Sydney to Buenos Aires). Previously I've flown to Brazil with LAN Chile which stops in Auckland. There are only three airlines to choose from flying from Australia: Argentine Airlines, LAN and Qantas. Now, I'd say there's not a lot of difference between Qantas and LAN as Qantas appear to have recently downgraded the level of cabin service. For example, the sleeping masks given out by Qantas were unusable, they smelt of petrol! And they no longer bring water throughout the night.

We flew from Buenos Aires to São Paulo via TAM--a Brazilian airline. If you have several stops in Brazil get the TAM air pass. In terms of transfers, Santiago is very well organised, Buenos Aires much less so. We spent about an hour being misdirected around the airport, trying to find the TAM transfer desk--they don't have a permanent desk. Interestingly, British Airways came down to collect transferring passengers: they have a flight BA to SP. The check in desks for passengers in transit tend to be in odd corners of the main part of the airport nowhere near the departure gates, so if you are transferring there search near the duty free shop!

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    SAO PAULO

    HOTEL & LOCATION:
    We had five days in Sao Paulo. This time we stayed at Golden Tulip Park Plaza which is in the Jardins [Gardens] area. It's well located in terms of restaurants and shopping but there's a steep uphill walk to the metro which was our main form of transport, apart from walking and the occasional bus.

    It's very reasonably priced but fairly ordinary. I'd stay there again, however, as the staff are incredibly helpful and friendly and being so close to a great range of restaurants is to me a great advantage. I prefer to eat close to where I'm staying if possible, particularly when I'm jet lagged.

    The Jardins is a very pleasant area to stay, last time we stayed at Maksoud Plaza in Bella Vista which is closer to Avenida Paulista. The breakfast there is extraordinary, particularly the fresh juices: sucos. Fresh fruit juices are one of the joys of Brazil, very cheap and fabulous. My favourites are lime and a combination of pineapple and mint as well as cuperaçu (an Amazon fruit).

    The first time I went to São Paulo for a conference, I stayed at Itam Bibi which is not as good for public transport.

    ART and SHOPPING:
    The art galleries and museums in Sao Paulo are fabulous. Some of the commercial galleries that are worth visiting include: Galeria Fortes Vilaça, Galeria Vermelho, Luisa Strina. There's an excellent free guide that's available in most museums and galleries. It's also one of the best maps for navigating this enormous city.

    Public museums I would highly recommend include: the Museum of São Paulo (MASP), Museum of Modern Art (MAM), Pinacoteca, the Sculpture Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC). This time we went to MAM which had an interesting and controversial exhibition, a panorama of Brazilian art, but Brazilian art in this instance meant international artists influenced by Brazil. I was intrigued by this bold premise for a show something I could never imagine happening in Australia where our cultural influence beyond our borders is next to nothing.

    There was a Spanish three part exhibtion, Parangole, which also explored this idea of the impact of Brazilian art elsewhere.

    My shopping highlight is a shoe store in Villa Madalena, CAS. I first spied these shoes on the feet of a curator and asked her over drinks where she got her shoes, she gave me the address in Rue Fidalga. They also have a branch in Rio de Janeiro. The shoes are very comfortable and they have fabulous colours and designs with a range of heel heights.

    Interestingly this area, Villa Madalena doesn't appear in the English language guidebooks. In fact most guidebooks for Brazil are not very good. The Lonely Planet guide, you may recall, was written by that guy who confessed to not visiitng half of the places he wrote about. Using it last time I think I could tell several restaurants listed were no longer at the address listed, if they ever were. The best book for Sao Paulo is far and away the Unibanco guidebook which Amazon sells. They also have books for the Pantanal and the Amazon.

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    Susan7,

    I'm so enjoying your interesting and informative report. The details about art galleries, shoes (loved the photo) and accommodation are very useful as I will be spending 3 weeks in Brazil in July, visiting the Pantanal, Rio, and Iguazu. We do have a transit night in Sao Paulo so I might squeeze some time for a visit to CAS.

    Good to hear of another Aussie's experiences on travelling to and around in Brazil. Did you obtain your visas in Australia and was it a trouble free process?

    Did you have any time in BA, just wondering where you stayed.

    Cheers,


    Pol

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    Hi Treepol,

    We had a week in Buenos Aires, which was fantastic! In BA we stayed at the Art Hotel in Recoleta. Scarlett posted this great list of hotels and I couldn't resist a hotel combined with an art gallery:

    http://www.fodors.com/community/south-america/hotels-in-ba-honeymoon.cfm.

    We both have two passports (my partner is from the UK) so I didn't need a visa for Brazil or Argentina. I've heard it's quite straight forward for Australians to get a Brazilian visa. Brazil has a very tit for tat approach to visas, if your country makes it hard for them, they will make it hard for you. I gather at the moment Australia is in the good books!

    Report back on the Pantanal, I haven't been, but that's my next trip. I would love to see a giant ant eater.

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    SAO PAULO Restaurants

    Brazilians do fantastic buffets and it's a great way to get a sense of the food of the different regions.

    The buffet breakfasts in the upmarket hotels are the best in the world, the range of exotic fruit is amazing. Also for a sweet tooth such as myself they have cakes for breakfast! Dessert at every meal, who could ask for more.

    Buffets:
    The restaurant at MAM has a really good buffet. I think it's about $R35-40 for all that you can eat. Brazilians tend to make several trips to the buffet having a salad course, a fish course etc. I tend to have one visit with little bits of everything. My partner, who has a post-holiday paunch, favours the multiple visit approach.

    To get to MAN by public transport, take the metro to Villa Mariana and then there's a bus that goes straight down beside the park: Park Ibirapuera. Get off near the overpass, or just ask someone to tell you where to get off. Make sure you have small change for the bus.

    For a buffet that features food from the state of Minas Gerais, just off Avenida Paulista is A Mineira. There's lots of pulses and things with beans, very healthy and very tasty. A Mineira, Alameda Joaquim Eugênio de Lima, 697.

    Japanese:
    In Sao Paulo there are excellent Japanese restaurants, particularly in the Japan-town area of the city called Liberdade. Sao Paulo has a very large population of Japanese immigrants, and the link to Japan is strong in the cultural area. One of the other art spaces, I forgot to add above is Institute of Tomie Ohtake--she was an abstract painter and her son is an architect who built the amazing building that houses the institute in Pinheiros.

    There are also great Lebanese and Arab restaurants: Espace Arabe which is a chain has an excellent "executive lunch" menu. It's in the main shopping street of the Jardins: Rua Oscar Freire.

    The Guardian has an interesting article on the top 10 restaurants in Sao Paulo:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/feb/24/sao-paulo-food-drink-restaurants

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    One other fabulous place to eat is the Municipal Market, near centro, try the pastel with salt cod (bacalhau). I'm also a big fan of the bolinha de bacalhau (one of many nice bar snacks or salgadinhos). The nuts and fruit are also amazing at the market. It's a short walk from the Metro along Rua 25 May.

    The fruit vendors will give you samples of the amazing fruit. We made a slight tactical error here, the first vendor we came to kept opening fruit and then we felt obligated to buy--the price was highly inflated, but I thought it was fair enough given the free samples. The previous time I went to this market with a Uruguayian colleague, I remember now that she kept moving, only sampling one fruit per stall, spreading the wear as it were. I think that's the sensible way to go.

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    Next stop the AMAZON:

    I wasn't sure how to visit the Amazon and the article below in the Sydney Morning Herald helped me decide on Uacari Lodge which has good green credentials:

    http://www.smh.com.au/travel/tiptoe-through-the-jungle-20090417-a9va.html?page=-1

    We weren't disappointed, I would heartily recommend this lodge to anyone who wants to visit the flooded forest, their philosophy and ethics were impeccable. To get there is a bit complicated. You fly from Manaus to Tefé and then an open power boat takes you about two hours upriver. The upside of this is that you are very, very far away from other tourists, we only saw the two other people who were at the lodge when we were.

    Trip airlines (pronounced Trippy rather appropriately) is the only airline doing this flight and their website doesn't currently accept non-Brazilian credit cards. We ended up booking the flight and the whole package through the Brazilian eco-traval agent mentioned in the article above. You can skype or email them. Everything was very well organised except for the transfers, more on that next.

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    Thank you for this wonderful report, Susan. Treepol, we got our visas for Brazil last year at the Sydney office with no worries, $85 each, I think, and I think we had to go back a week later to collect them.
    Susan, we went to Ariau Towers, from Manaus. It was off-season (March) and so was uncrowded and lots of fun. I enjoyed the delicious buffets too, and trying raw Brazil nuts and other Amazonian foods.
    We found the TAM airlines very good, a bit of waiting around in airports though - our pass was Rio, via Brazilia, Manaus, Iguacu via Sao Paulo back to Rio.

    Thinking of getting a RTW pass, going to Buenos Aires, so am looking forward to your report from there.

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    Thanks Carabella, and good to hear that the Brazilian visa is easily obtained by Australians.

    MANAUS
    The package we bought included two nights in Manaus. We flew with TAM from Sao Paulo and arrived in the early afternoon. Someone was waiting for us at the airport and took us to our hotel, the Tropical Manaus, which is near the river outside of the town.

    Our flight out the next day to Tefé was 5 AM, there's only one flight per day, so I was a little anxious about when we would be picked up in the morning. The guy who collected us didn't seem to know anything about this pick-up which made me more anxious, but he rang his office and it was organised that he would pick us up in the morning at 3.45. Poor guy, I did feel sorry for him.

    Tropical Manaus is one of those hotels that can only be described as faded glory. It could be the setting for a Graham Greene novel. I have a soft spot for these places, that are more characteristic of Sri Lanka or India, than they are of Brazil. The hotel is absolutely enormous with very long dark corridors, it's arranged in a huge square shape with pools etc in the middle. They even have a zoo with macaws, monkeys and capybara.

    When we arrived my partner discovered the soccer team he supports (Liverpool) was playing on the television, so that was the end of him for a couple of hours. For soccer lovers, the coverage in South America is superb, not only do you get the European leagues you also get the various South American ones. To paraphrase, two Australian comedians, Roy and HG, "too much football is not enough."

    Last time we were in Brazil we went to a game in Pampulha, Belo Horizonte at a beautiful stadium designed by Oscar Niemeyer, and even though I have next to no interest in the game, it was extremely exciting and engaging. The barracking with drums is amazing.

    There are two main attractions in Manauas that I wish I'd had more time to see: the Opera House and the Meeting of the Waters. It's just after Manaus that the Solimões river (a white river) connects with the Rio Negro (a black river) to form what is called the Amazon. For some distance the different coloured waters don't blend because of differences in temperature and salinity, there are swirls of the different colours. We saw this from the air, but it would be good to see it from a boat. The black waters have less mosquitoes because of the salinity, but there's also less wildlife as a less fortuitous corollary.

    After the futebol, it was early evening so we went for a walk to Ponta Negra beach which was nearby and had a dip in the warm black water. It really does look like black tea. I've got to hand it to Brazilians they can create a beach atmosphere with the most minimal of promptings and Ponta Negra is no exception.

    Next morning we were collected and taken to the airport as planned (phew, big relief) and boarded our flight for Tefé at 5 AM. All went well until we got to the first stop Coari, the plane seemed to be circling after two incomplete descents. The pilot made an announcement which I only very partially understand, something about clouds, but what I could understand was the last bit "returning to Manauas."

    At this point I should mention that I've been studying Portuguese for the last two and a half years, but this message was way beyond my comprehension. Fortunately, someone explained the situation to us: the clouds were too low to land and we were returning to Manaus. I was in a mild panic worrying about what to do next, but fortunately the plane refueled at Manaus took on a new crew and we landed without incident at Coari and then Tefé. A lovely young woman from Mamirauá was at the airport to collect us (despite being 4 hours late) and we were whisked to the harbour and taken on a long boat to the Reserve without further incident.

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    A really interesting and well written Trip Report. Thank you, Susan7. You have stimulated dreams of travels to Brazil.
    I look forward to your next posting. Keep on enjoying.

    ~MarnieWDC

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    Thanks guys! I was inspired by your report, Marija. As you noted, there aren't many reports written about Brazil and they really help to give you a feel of a place in a way guidebooks don't.

    UACARI LODGE, MAMIRAUA RESERVE

    http://www.uakarilodge.com.br/

    The floating lodge is in the area called the flooded forest, but we visited in the dry season so you go hiking on tracks through the forest. In the wet season, canoes are used along the trails.

    The lodge has five cabins with ten rooms, which means only 20 or so people can stay at any one time. I think the rooms can accommodate three but mostly they have twin beds. The rooms are basic but quite stylishly done with good mosquito nets, private bathrooms and verandahs with hammocks.

    Power is provided by solar panels on the roof of your cabin, so if you leave the light on it's your shower that won't have hot water. It rained quite a bit while we were there so the shower was mostly warm. There are small fans beside the bed but they only have about an hour's worth of power. Waste goes into a reservoir below the cabin and the contents are buried. They are working on an alternative way of treating sewerage.

    The food is fantastic, every meal is a buffet with incredibly inventive uses of corn and the seasonally available vegetables, fish and chicken. They also make excellent use of the Amazon fruit: graviola, cuperaçu.

    When we were there, there was only one other couple who were quiet but very considerate: everyone was respectful of the environment and the people, no one chatted loudly in the forest, and most importantly, as all the trips are made as a group, no one was consistently late or ever more than 5 or so minutes late.

    There's an English speaking guide and two local guides from one of the villages in the Reserve. They were fantastic. The local guides could identify animals at very long distances. Both had very nice senses of humour. One of the guides, Joel, saw a large snake at a considerable distance, it was perfectly camouflaged to look like a ball of vines, only with binoculars could the rest of us see it. You must take binoculars as many of the animals will be seen only at a distance.

    On the day of arrival you have an orientation walk in the forest. After travelling for so many hours I was a bit dazed and not especially well attuned to looking and listening for animals, the humidity was also quite tiring. The other couple were travelling from one end of the Amazon to the other so they were very well attuned to looking and listening. They were taking the slow boats from Belem through to Columbia. Their trip reminded me of my pack-backing days through Asia, it made me quite wistful hearing about their open-ended journaey.

    The next day I felt much better adjusted and realised that years of looking for well camouflaged Australian wild animals was quite a good preparation for the Amazon. The heat and humidity also felt more tolerable wearing just long shorts and runners. I had thought the mosquitoes would mean wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts, but actually they were not that bad, my backyard in inner city Sydney at dusk has more. I think with tropical strength insect repellant shorts are fine, plus with runners you can walk much more quietly. I managed to be almost soundless by the end of the trip.

    During our stay we made a visit to a local village where most of the staff of the lodge live. This was optional. I was impressed by the way this visit was handled, one of the elders took us around and being a keen vegetable gardener I really enjoyed the visit and talking to him about what he could grow and how he dealt with bugs.

    There were two soccer pitches in this small village and the locals support Rio de Janeiro teams because that's what they receive on television via their satellite dishes. Joel's house was painted with the badge of one team, Fluminense. There was lots of good-natured teasing and banter about who was happy and who wasn't after the recent final. At the end we bought beads made from seeds, which as I suspected, were confiscated by Australian customs.

    The other trips were all fixed: most morning trips started at 6.30, then we returned for lunch. After lunch was siesta time in the hammocks and then there would be a trip at about 3.30 pm. We visited the two women researchers collecting data on the boto vermelho (the pink dolphins), their numbers are dropping because they are being used as bait. The lead Brazilian researcher is trying to publicise this and to lobby the government to prevent it. It is illegal to hunt the boto, but the problem is enforcement. We saw lots of the dolphins during our stay, most of which are tagged on their dorsal fin. They are amazing animals with necks like ours and unlike other river dolphins they can go backwards; an adaptation, the researcher told us, to catching fish in the flooded forest, along with their elongated noses.

    In terms of wildlife sightings, my favourite was the sloth. I heard David Attenborough talk about them on the radio yesterday. He said if he was reincarnated he would come back as a sloth. They digest their foot very slowly and only need to defecate once a week, but as he amusingly pointed out, they don't just drop it indiscriminately from the trees. Apparently they share a communal toilet and they all have to climb down to use it. They have very cute smiley faces and their coats are apparently the habitat not only for algae, but also beetles.

    We also saw lots of birds, monkeys, including the pink-faced uacari, caimans, of course, they are very plentiful, and the fish called pirarucu, which can regularly be heard and seen flapping its tail as it comes up for air. At night in the cabins you hear all sorts of interesting noises below you.

    In sum, this is an excellent way to see the animals and the people of the Amazon and the profits from your visit return to the community. While we were there a tourism researcher was visiting to investigate the possibility of starting another lodge in another community. I sincerely hope that also succeeds, so that there are more opportunities for local people to benefit from tourism.

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    Uacari Lodge sounds great. We wanted to go there but I just didn't want to add more travel days. Fortunately we enjoyed Anavilhanas which was only a five hour drive from Manaus.

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    I can understand that. There's lots that can go wrong trying to get to Mamirauá! Plus you have the compulsory two nights in Manaus either side of the four nights in the Reserve.

    Interestingly, the English-speaking guide said they think of their main competitor as Cristalino Lodge in Alta Floresta, Matto Grosso which might be another one for people to consider.

    http://www.cristalinolodge.com.br/

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    G'day there Susan..

    It's a breath of fresh air reading your reports. I'll be doing my first ever solo travel come May this year and Brazil is the selected destination and I'm truly excited. Am somewhat a newbie at solo backpacking and have been pulling my hair out trying to plan out my travel and things to do. Read all the travel sites and Lonely Planet Brazil wasn't much help. Thanks for the tip and now I have more notes to summarize and conclude my final plans for my trip.

    I'll be basing myself in Sao Paulo, like you, I adore the arts but I plan a trip to Iguasu Falls, Ouro Preto, Rio (though I'm a bit afraid of heading there on my own) and Recife.

    Great job with the report!

    Cheers!

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    Hi Gwen,

    Thanks! You will meet lots of people backpacking and particularly traveling alone! One of the young women in my Portuguese class just came back from a trip through Columbia, Argentina and Brazil and she had a fabulous time.

    For Rio, you might consider this bed and breakfast network: http://www.camaecafe.com.br/

    Although my class mate mentioned there are really good hostels in Rio. I'll ask her where she stayed.

    Next time I go to Rio, I'd like to stay in Santa Teresa. We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast in Botofogo the first time, which was a good location but I wouldn't stay there again.

    I made a day trip to Ouro Preto last time, you can easily get there by bus from Belo Horizonte. If you have time, do a range of the colonial towns: Mariana, Tiradentes, Congonhas. The architecture and art of Aleijadinho (the litttle cripple) is really interesting.

    Have a great trip!

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    Gwen--I think in Rio Ipanema and Leblon are the best places to stay for a single traveler. There's lots of restaurants and activity in the area. Rio isn't at all scary if you use common sense. I wouldn't stay in Copacabana (though we did).

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    Hi Gwen,

    Here's a fast response from my back-packing classmates, one stayed at the Lighthouse, the other stayed at Harmonia. Both of these places sound ideal for someone travelling on their own:

    "There's a small group of hostels that all share a small courtyard on Barao da torre in Ipanema. They're all pretty good."

    Referring to Harmonia and the Lighthouse she reports that:
    "They might not be swish in terms of styling and accommodation but the people there are really nice. They really make you feel like family and are great for taking you out at night and giving you info on where to go/how to get there.

    This is the lighthouse:
    http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/The-LightHouse-Hostel/Rio-de-Janeiro/12838

    This is harmonia:
    http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Harmonia/Rio-de-Janeiro/1115

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    Susan and Marija. Thank you so much. Obrigada! Boy am I glad I joined this site. It's great advice there and though I'm not particular on style, it's a friendly and safe environment that I am looking out for.

    Yes, I've read that it's a short journey from Belo Horizonte to Ouro Preto... good to know it's only an hours bus journey.

    I was considering booking on of them tours in Sao Paulo to Foz de Iguacu but being on a really tight budget (and one who dislikes following tour groups), What's your advice on this? I was thinking of making my way there and book into a hostel and from there, join groups heading towards the fall. What do you guys think?

    Gosh! I'm really nervous and excited about the entire experience. I love your report on Sao Paulo. Very detailed :)
    Again, thanks so much

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    Gwen, I haven't been to Iguacu so I can't help you there. Why don't you post a question here, another forum to try is the Lonely Planet one, which I think might have more up to date backpacking information. Travellers tend to be older on this forum, like me! I still have the heart of a backpacker but not the body, LOL.

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    TEFE, MANAUS, the flight problems saga

    There was a change in the itinerary from when we booked the Amazon package, instead of spending the last morning at Mamirauá, we returned to Tefé in the morning. Six hours in Tefé is three hours too many, there's excellent restaurants and an interesting food market, but otherwise not a lot to see. It's a small bustling Amazon town but one where if you walk outside the commercial district, you feel a bit intrusive. We had a great per kilo lunch--a buffet where they weigh your plate

    We were taken to the airport two hours early, not great either, but retrospectively I understand the logic. Everyone put their bags in a queue in front of the check-in counter and there was clearly great concern about that order. Once we went through to the small departure gate and were preparing to board, the reason became clear. There was one too many passengers, there was a request for a volunteer to fly out tomorrow. A man came forward and everyone cheered. Relief, we returned to Tropical Manaus with no further incident.

    We didn't have as much luck flying out of Manaus the next morning. The guy taking us to the airport arrived a little late, we had a 6 AM flight booked with a connection in Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires. I didn't worry too much about the lateness until we got to the airport. The same scene we had seen in miniature at Tefé was repeated at Manaus: there was a very long queue waiting to check in.

    I think most people, particularly in busy periods (this was the week before Christmas), get to the airport 1.5-2 hours before a domestic flight, not the usual 1 hour (we got there 50 minutes before). I should add this seems to be a feature of flights in the Amazon rather than other places I've been to in Brazil.

    One hour before the flight the check-in counter opens. We were right at the back of the queue and when we got to the counter the guy told us the bad news: the flight was overbooked and the last five of us couldn't make that flight. I always had a bad feeling about this leg of the trip, but it was whether we had enough time to transfer at São Paulo!

    We were both pretty shattered. The guy did the usual passification: we'll get you on business class to BA. The next flight to São Paulo was at 3 pm, he gave us boarding passes for that but said he couldn't do the other flight which he said wasn't a TAM flight, there are lots of code shares that can be a bit confusing. He tries to get us on another flight with no success, there's muttering about tomorrow, but nothing is definite. He said he had worked in Amsterdam and this kind of thing would never happen in the first world, I replied that I thought most airlines did this kind of overselling.

    His instructions were to go to the LAN counter at Sao Paulo: our itinerary said it was a LAN flight operated by TAM but we didn't have the code for the TAM flight. On the way to Brazil, it said the same thing and it was a TAM flight. Anyway, he clearly wasn't going to solve the problem of the connecting flight so there wasn't much more we could do.

    We were offered hotel accommodation until the later flight--back to Tropical Manaus. By this stage I'm thinking this hotel is magnetic! I finally got to have breakfast there--which I have to say is truly excellent. From there I email our hotel in Buenos Aires to say that we may be delayed a day, having done that I feel much more relaxed about the situation.

    We were delivered back to the airport at 1 PM, by now I'm convinced that's the time to arrive for a domestic flight. We stand in the queue for an hour until the check-in counter opens. I have the boarding passes in my hand. A man sees the yellow slips and pulls us out of the queue, indicating we should go to this priority counter. I'm thinking there's a mistake and am a bit reluctant to jump the queue, my partner pushes us ahead. This was probably our saving grace.

    One woman speaks some English and that combined with my paltry efforts in Portuguese enables me to explain what happened earlier. I think your leverage in these situations diminishes very quickly. I ask if they can get us on a connecting flight to Buenos Aires. She was very patient and seemed to be trying a lot harder than the earlier guy.

    She gets in her supervisor who doesn't speak any English, so it's just my inadequate Portuguese. My partner has a minor hissy fit with me, thinking it's too difficult a situation to handle in Portuguese. I'm getting more and more philosophical about the situation, so I tell him to just let me try to get the connecting flight. He calms down also, and we are in the hands of the supervisor.

    The supervisor did it, we got a very tight connection at Sao Paulo! I'm so happy I thank her profusely! As it's total bedlam at this stage with complaints left and right, she looks bemused and then very pleased that she's made someone happy.

    When we get to São Paulo we have to run to the next gate, we are both wondering if the bags will make it. Then, another minor miracle, the flight is delayed an hour, because some bags weren't X-rayed, I fear that's probably ours! Anyway at roughly 1.30 AM we arrive in Buenos Aires. We easily find the counters taking passengers to the city and prepay for a cab.

    It's about 2 AM by the time we get to the city. I'm a bit worried that the hotel might be locked up as it's a smallish one, I'm not sure where that irrational fear comes from, but hurrah, it's open. There's a very droll man on reception who hands us our booking card with a flourish. We sleep very well that night!

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    Glad to read that you finally made it out of Manaus and caught the plane to BA! We flew out of Manaus midday in August and check in at GOL was very easy, no lines at all. I was impressed that the airport was very orderly and not particularly crowded. I wonder which, if either, of our experiences was typical? Our flight from Rio to Sao Paulo to Manaus was the nightmare...

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    BUENOS AIRES

    We stayed seven nights at the Art Hotel in Recoleta, as mentioned earlier. It's a great location and the front desk are incredibly helpful and friendly. Thanks again to Scarlett for her excellent list of mid-priced hotels. My partner took over in the language department, he did Spanish in high school and had been swotting up for the trip. I found myself a bit tongue-tied, as despite the similarities between the two languages, the pronunciation is very different.

    While there's not much on Brazil on this board, there's a wealth of excellent travel reports for Buenos Aires and very active local experts. So I will concentrate on the art things that aren't addressed as much with the odd digression about food (as everyone says the food in BA is superb: the pizza, the icecream, the beef, the alfajores)!

    First stop MALBA. This is a museum of modern Latin American art, and it's an incredibly intelligently and beautifully put together permanent collection. I want to do more research on the collection itself to find out more about it.

    Brazil doesn't have anything comparable. The Museum of São Paulo (MASP) has an excellent collection of European art but nothing like this outward looking southern view (MASP claims to have the best collection in the Southern Hemisphere of European art and I'm inclined to think that's right). The Cisneros collection in Venezuela (which I haven't seen) might be the only rival to the MALBA collection. So artwise, Argentina's public collections are much more regionally outward turning--this is also evident at the Museum of Fine Arts.

    I was delighted to see two of Lygia Clark's Unidades of 1959 at MALBA. My engagement with Latin American art started with this Brazilian artist. In my view, if you were going to collect her early abstract paintings, this series is what you want. Despite being squares, the white zips or strips along the sides distort the shape and they seem to gently hover and shift. She wanted to create an "organic line" and this subtle movement is how she achieved this at the start of her career.

    The choice of these two works for this collection also makes sense in terms of Argentinian art of the 1960s, which explored movement in a very different way. It's those kinds of choice--that make sense both in terms of the local art and are excellent works by the artist--that make for excellent museums and which provide toe-holds for the next generation of artists and students.

    I could rave on about the Gego sphere at MALBA--she's a Venezuelan artist who I also adore--but I think I'll stop there.

    I should add that MALBA has a great restaurant and its fabulous for people watching. If you want to visits lots of art venues you can pick up the excellent free guidebook at MALBA, Mapa de las artes. Thanks again to Scarlett for that recommendation.

    The Museum of Fine Arts has free entry and a very good collection of Argentinian art. I was interested that there wasn't much conceptual art on display. I had expected to see more works by Alberto Greco, Roberto Jacoby, Marta Minujín, amongst others. This is also interesting for me, there's a different logic organising that collection that I can't properly discern, it's certainly not just following the north American narratives of twentieth-century art, although it's not ignoring them either. Australian perspectives used to be more like this and I lament the loss.

    We went to a number of other smaller spaces and centres, including Foundation Proa. This space has curated shows and is well worth visiting, it is in the heart of a very touristy part of La Boca near the water. It's a very strange experience moving from the noise of the main tourist strip to the quiet air-conditioned comfort of this elegant modern building. I highly recommend the restaurant for lunch, there's a great view and it's a haven of calm and cool. There's also an interesting mural along the balcony wall that has an inverted silhouette of the view.

    In terms of restaurants more generally, I think it's hard to go wrong in BA. We followed the guidebook at times. Time Out seems pretty reliable. We went to a great Peruvian restaurant they recommended as there was an interesting account of the popularity of cerviche--it was called "the new sushi." YUM!
    At others times, we asked in the hotel.

    The smell of the pizza drifting out of one place lured us in--Ugis in the Micro Centre. We later discovered it was a chain. I think they only do one kind of pizza, it was ridiculously cheap, but heavenly, great for a quick lunch. Follow your nose, I would suggest!!

    On Christmas day we went to a parilla recommended by the front desk, La Flora, which was nestled into a side street, and it was great. I think Time Out mentions this "tucked away" quality of things in Buenos Aires, that just wandering about you will encounter things of interest. On Christmas Day, most things were shut so we saved up a walking tour for that day. Again, Time Out has a good walk on the origins of the city.

    Getting around is very easy: we walked, took cabs, took the subte. I really enjoyed the visit and I'll definitely be back!!

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    COLONIA, URUGUAY

    And last but not least, Colonia. Colonia is a one hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires so it's an easy day trip and just before Christmas the idea of going to somewhere quiet had a big appeal. You can also go to Montevideo from Buenos Aires: the ferry trip takes three hours. I'd really like to go to Montevideo to see the Joaquin Torres-Garcia museum but we thought six hours of travelling in one day was a bit too much. Next time!

    It was raining the day we went so it was a bit miserable walking around, fortunately it did stop in the afternoon. The mosquitoes were quite fierce, so I'd definitely take replellent if it's been raining.

    Colonia is a pretty town with a cluster of small museums, some tourists shops, restaurants and cafes. Unfortunately the Azulejos (tile) Museum is currently closed for repairs but there are five other small museums that are open. I liked the eighteenth-century Portuguese house:

    http://www.welcomeuruguay.com/colonia/museums-colonia-sacramento.html


    You will need to have Uruguayan currency for the museums but most of the other places take Argentinian pesos or US dollars--the same goes for the ferry. Credit cards aren't accepted in most places.

    The return journey was delayed about four to five hours because of high winds. In the newspaper that morning high winds were forecast, for some reason the ferry company brought the wrong boat across, a single hulled ferry, and we were only able to return to Buenos Aires when the catamaran that brought us over in the morning was sent to collect us. As it was Christmas Eve, you can imagine many of the passengers were very distraught by the delay.

    My conclusion? I want to go back to all three countries as soon as possible!

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    Great report, Susan. We also spent some time at the Tropical in Manaus, waiting for our boat to the Ariau, but we actually stayed right in town for a night before our flight out to Iguacu- no problems with TAM, BTW. We were able to get tickets (half price for seniors!) to a "Belle Epoch" concert in the marvellous Opera House - wonderful singers, including Carmen Monarcha, who sings with the Andre Rieu tourers, and to meet the cast backstage afterwards.
    We did do the boat trip to the "Meeting of the Waters" from Manaus - it was more impressive from the air flying in, but may be better in the dry season. (We were there in March). The trip includes the Ecological Park, which is well worth it.

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    Thanks Carabella! What a treat going to a performance at the Opera House, sounds fantastic.

    Tropical Manaus is quite strange isn't it? In the grounds you can play archery of all things, it's all set up, but seemingly completely unused. We walked right round the grounds and discovered these two old swimming pools as well, they have built new ones I think. The old ones were full of enormous insects! All the airline staff stay there as it's close to the airport, and there's a constant procession of them in and out.

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    Nice trip report! You are so right about the guidebooks for Brazil. I almost learned that the hard way when I used a phrases from a guidebook to purchase cold medicine and almost ended up with laxatives! Villa Madalena is a nice artsy neighborhood with great music, crafts, art galleries, food and jewelry stores.

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    Hi Susan7 - great trip report - I'm considering the Uakari Lodge for late January of next year. We will be traveling for 10 weeks and the visit will come very early in our trip - which means we'll have a fair bit of luggage. Did you leave luggage at Tropical Manaus for the 3 nights you were at the Lodge? Thanks!

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    Hi Elizabeth, We didn't leave luggage there, but I think you probably could leave it at Tropical Manaus as you stay there overnight at both ends of the package and they have a huge left luggage facility.

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