Bruce and Marija go to Brazil

Old Sep 6th, 2009, 06:05 PM
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I love it that we are getting installments of this well written and engaging report at regular intervals; between this one and Lynn's wonderful trip report on the Africa forum, there's always something to look forward to these days..
But I hope we get to the Pantanal soon!
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Old Sep 6th, 2009, 06:10 PM
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More! More!
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 08:32 AM
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Thanks for reading! The Amazon and Pantanal are coming up next. This is it for Rio.

Dinner at Antiquarius

Since Bruce's birthday was approaching we decided to use it as an excuse to go to Antiquarius, considered by many to be the best Portuguese restaurant in Rio. The decor was interesting with antique filled rooms, definitely a very traditional feel, and a cosmopolitan clientele based on the languages beings spoken. This was the only restaurant we went to where people were "dressed up."

The couvert, at what I think was 22R per person, was excellent and included foie gras, pates, fried "things", and garlic bread. Items were replenished as they were finished, though I couldn't tell whether we were charged for them. For my main course I had their (not cheap) specialty of bacalao with scrambled eggs, ham, potato and who knows what else. The cod was excellent and we should have ordered this dish to share since there was enough for two. Bruce, however, ordered shrimp Antiquarius, a curried shrimp dish which was not nearly as good as the cod. With a bottle of wine the bill was steep (note service is not included in the prices on the menu) but it was an enjoyable birthday celebration.

Santa Teresa and Aprazivel

Bruce's meeting ended at lunch today so we decided to take a ride on the open air Santa Teresa tram and have lunch at Aprazivel (http://www.aprazivel.com.br). From the Carioca Metro station the tram stop was about a 15 minute walk, if you head in the correct direction. I had read many warnings about crime on the Santa Teresa tram but there was nothing frightening about it on a Thursday afternoon when it was crowded with tourists, and had lots of local kids hanging off the sides on the way down. We bought 60 cent tickets for the ride up from the station attendant, you pay the same amount on the tram on the way down.

I had asked at the hotel where to get off for Aprazivel and was told the name of the tram stop and was assured that the restaurant was on the square at the stop. Well, it was obvious that the instruction giver had never done this since there was no square at the stop. Instead, after pausing to ask several times for directions, we had to haul ourselves up a substantial hill and walk some more. Then to get into the restaurant we had to descend a steep flight of stairs that start at street level. Fortunately, it was well worth the effort.

We dined in the outdoor garden overlooking the bay and downtown Rio, an absolutely gorgeous setting. This is your chance to have real heart of palm, baked in the palm log, which is far superior to the canned heart of palm familiar from salad bars, cans and jars. We also had tilapia and some salt water fish, accompanied by a Brazilian chardonnay, and mango and banana desserts. Espresso concluded the very reasonably priced meal (certainly by Antiquarius standards). Both the setting and the food were the best we had in Brazil. We both highly recommend this restaurant! (Unfortunately we couldn't return here for our last meal in Brazil since we were laden with suitcases and would have had to drag them up and down the steep flights of stairs.) A walk back to the tram station, then the Metro, and we returned to Copacabana very pleased with out afternoon adventure.

Since our lunch was generous, dinner was just to keep our friends company while they ate close to the hotel at Arab, Av. Atlântica 1936. The pita bread , grilled to order, was the best we ever had, the baba ganoush was OK, and the caipirinhas subpar. Our companions enjoyed their more balanced Middle Eastern meals.

Empadas at O Caranguejo, a trip up Sugar Loaf and Bahian cuisine at Yoruba

Sugar Loaf, whose name is based on a misunderstanding between the native Indians and the Portuguese, is one of the distinctive peaks that hover over Rio. We admired it all week and decided on our last day Rio to take the cable car up. Of course you can't undertake something named Sugar Loaf while hungry, so we made a quick visit to O Caranguejo (http://www.restauranteocaranguejo.com.br) for lunch. It's a simple place on the corner of Ruo Barata Ribeiro and Xavier de Saviera, between Copacabana and Ipanema. There was a lot of good looking seafood just waiting to be cooked, and you might suspect that we're easily tempted when it comes to food, but we had to restrain ourselves since our companions were eager to mount the assault on Sugar Loaf. While our friends grazed on cheese empadas, Bruce and I devoured 4 shrimp and 2 crab empadas, all of them wonderful. Although I tried empadas at several places these were the only ones that I found memorable. Somewhat aggrieved at leaving so much food unsampled, we went with the plan and caught a cab for the quick ride to Sugar Loaf. The most important advice about Sugar Loaf is to have your cable car ticket available at all times since it is repeatedly scanned. After several scans I thought it was safe to rest my ticket in my purse and was rudely forced to reawaken it on short notice, not an easy task given the state of my purse. Two sets of cable cars whisk you to the top where you can see Rio spread out at your feet.

After conquering Sugar Loaf our next task was to actually immerse our bodies in the waters that we had been admiring all week. Since the afternoon was late we settled on rolling up our pants and just wading, fudging the definition of having "swum" at Copacabana. Afterwards, as you would expect, we noticed that all that fresh air had awakened our dormant appetites, so after the customary caipirinhas on the hotel's roof, we headed to Yoruba, a Western African restaurant for dinner.

Our cab driver had a difficult time finding the restaurant at Rua Arnaldo Quintela 94, Botafogo, not far from Sugar Loaf and our hotel. Many of the non-radio taxi drivers don't have cell phones so when they're lost they have to stop and ask for directions. He circled for quite some time, running up a bill of 20R ($10), before depositing us on a dark street in front of a building that had no indication of being a restaurant. (When Bruce declined the cabbies reduction in cab fare and insisted on paying what was shown on the meter he was quite pleased and gratefully shook Bruce's hand.)

A man was quietly standing in front of an unmarked gate leading to a long walkway. Although he didn't look or act like the doorman to a restaurant, we inquired, "Yoruba?" and he gestured that his gate was the place. So we entered, with a mixture of relief and apprehension. The restaurant turned out to be quite an elegant place, decorated with African sculptures and green leaves over the floor. It was empty except for one couple that left shortly after we arrived. We wanted to try piripiri but it wasn't on the menu that night. (As usual, no one spoke English.) Our next choice was some sort of African fish stew that sounded unusual but the waitress recommended a Bahian crab dish and we relented. The food was good but not spicy enough for our taste. We regretted succumbing to the waitress's advice to order what was probably a dish bland enough for tourists. As the restaurant started filling up we noticed that many were ordering the large appetizer selection which we had skipped, concerned that it might diminish our appreciation of the more substantial fare. The restaurant called us a cab and we arrived back at the hotel within 10 minutes since every cabbie knows where Copacabana is.

So ends our stay in Rio. Tomorrow we head off for the Amazon.
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 10:39 AM
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thanks for the great read.

How is the language barrier in Rio? Do you think that it is very hard to visit Rio independently (no tour package) with limited Portuguese.
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 10:53 AM
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It's not at all difficult to visit Rio on your own. Not many people speak English but it's easy to get by. If you know Spanish or Italian that helps. We never had a cab driver who spoke English but that didn't matter as long as he understood where we wanted to go. The hotel staff spoke English so they handled dinner reservations.
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Old Sep 7th, 2009, 12:58 PM
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Marija,

thanks for posting this very entertaining and informative report - lots of good tips for other travellers here. I'm really looking forward to your report on the Amazon and Pantanal.

Cheers,


Pol
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 04:43 AM
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Trapped in Sao Paulo airport (again) and spooked by Lord Manaus

Our GOL flight from Rio to Sao Paulo was scheduled to leave at 8:00 AM from the International Airport so we set off in plenty of time, even before breakfast was available at the hotel. Declining the hotel's offer of an 88R fixed price ride to the airport was a good move since it only cost us 35R to get there. The plane took off half an hour late but, since we had an hour and a half to make the connection to the GOL flight to Manaus, we weren't too concerned, especially since the stewardess assured us that GOL waits for passengers from connecting GOL flights and that we should just ask at the connections desk for gate information.

At the connection desk, about 45 minutes before our scheduled departure to Manaus, the news was both good and bad. Somehow GOL felt it was good news to tell us that we were going to get a free lunch while we waited six hours for the next flight to Manaus. Seems that boarding closed and the plane took off without the two of us and without a Brazilian air force physician on our flight. (I mention the Manaus doc only as evidence that we didn't do something stupid but immediately located the desk and were ready to proceed to boarding.) I'm still not sure whether they actually changed the flight time from that shown on our e-tickets and boarding pass or whether they just left early. Unfortunately no other airline was going to Manaus in the intervening six hours, so we couldn't insist they put us on an earlier flight.

The airline rep, who spoke minimal English, took us to baggage claim to pick up our luggage, handed us our lunch vouchers and told us to check in later for the next flight. Supposedly all our info would be in the computer system. We went upstairs with her and saw the huge crowds at the GOL counters--seems that their computers were down and everything was being done by hand. The young woman confidently assured us that it would be OK by the time we checked in and then she attempted to flee. It took her a while to realize that we would remain glued to her until we had boarding passes in hand and our travel agent was notified that we would not be on the scheduled flight.

We contacted Brazil Nature Tours from the GOL offices and they made alternative arrangements, even though it was Saturday morning. Instead of going to the Amazon lodge directly from the airport, a five hour drive which can't be done in the dark, we would be transferred to a hotel in Manaus and picked up the next morning for the transfer to Anahvilanas. We insisted on an expedited check in and received that too. The rep (who had been scheduled to go off duty fifteen minutes before) was so relieved when we finally released our grip on her that she hugged us both good-bye.

Once these transactions were complete we found the sole restaurant that honors GOL vouchers, deep in the bowels of the airport. Might as well have lunch since there's nothing else to do with the remaining four hours before flight time. (Well there was a branch of Devassa in the airport where you can have a good beer.) In case you're keeping score, the record so far--two Saturdays in Brazil and both of them spent trying to escape from the Sao Paulo airport.

The flight to Manaus was long and boring, despite the crackers and juices that were meant to distract us.

In Manaus we were met by a driver holding a sign with our names. At the time that seemed prudent and comforting, since the guide books characterized Manaus as seedy and dangerous after dark. (We navigated Manaus without any troubles on our return from the lodge and took a cab to the airport for 40R. I don't think we would have had any problems taking a cab from the airport to the hotel on our own.)

Soon we were deposited at the Lord Manaus, supposedly the finest hotel in Manaus. Despite its lofty reputation it was deserted and dim on Saturday night, except for the woman at the desk and a combo bell boy/waiter, neither of whom spoke much English. Check in was a bit troublesome since we were voucherless and counting on the last minute arrangements that Brazil Nature Tours made. After a fairly lengthy delay, in which many pieces of paper were shuffled, a key was produced and we were shown to our room which overlooked the street where a large crowd of people were listening to very loud music. The room was spartan but reasonably clean and the shower was powerful enough for a good rinse. After rather cool days in Rio the heat and humidity of Manaus were oppressive, so the well functioning, though loud, air conditioner was most welcome.

We were now ready to face the next big problem: What's for dinner? Bruce stubbornly nixed my suggestion to forget about dinner and just lock the door until pick up in the morning. Given Manaus' reputation, I was apprehensive about hailing a cab and heading to one of the restaurants recommended by our driver, especially since the room didn't have a safe and we were carrying our treasures with us. The driver's comments about the dangers of the restaurants other than those he recommended didn't help either.

The hotel restaurant was dark and empty, but the busboy/waiter flipped on some lights and the air conditioner for us when, in a spirit of compromise, we finally entered. Although I didn't want to eat in a restaurant which may not have been used since the days of rubber barons, I know the disinfectant properties of alcohol and didn't have any problems with sampling a caipirinha while we reevaluated various options. The caipirinhas passed the test and Bruce proceeded to order dinner, despite my admonitions about possible dire consequences (from the food, not me). The fish was quite good and, despite my protestations that I wasn't hungry, I did manage to sneak food from Bruce's plate.

The next morning an elaborate multi-item, included- in- the-room- rate breakfast buffet greeted us. Even Bruce had to admit that the buffet items were not making their first on stage appearance, despite his prominence as an invited speaker at obscure conferences. Summoning my past public health training, I carefully outlined what we could safely eat--the sealed yogurt and a piece of cake. To our great surprise, two other people entered the breakfast room and sat down, shattering our notion that we were the only ones in residence.
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 07:55 AM
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Despite the inconvenience and confusion at the time all of this was happening, it makes for some humorous reading after the fact. Still chuckling about the rubber barons. So your enthusiam for capirinhas stems from your public health training.

Your experience on flights is what I often hear about. Throwing in a spare day could be a good tactic to combat the sorts of things you and the good Brazilian doctor went through. I'll keep that in mind when traveling in the future.
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 05:11 AM
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Lynn--thanks for reading (and commenting!). We usually follow your suggestion of building in an extra day to make sure we arrive on time at some "can't miss a day, gotta be there" destination. Since this was just a domestic Brazilian flight I failed to anticipate the problems we encountered. Lesson learned...
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 09:36 AM
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If you start adding an extra day for every flight, it eats up all of your vacation time. Oh well, it all worked out.
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 06:32 PM
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On the road to Anavilhanas

I anguished over what we should do in Amazonia: stay at a hotel or resort in the Manaus area and take day trips, get on a boat and stay on the water, go to a lodge close to Manaus, or maybe fly from Manaus to Tefe and head to Uakari Floating Lodge, an acclaimed bird watching destination? The New York Times came to the rescue with an article that mentioned Anavilhanas lodge, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/tr...ewanted=1&_r=1. This seemed like a reasonable compromise: close enough to Manaus not to require another flight but far enough away to be clear of hordes of tourists; small number of guests; interesting location in the largest river archipelago in the world; good guides; no mosquitoes since the Rio Negro is too acidic for them; and it just so happens, excellent food (http://www.anavilhanaslodge.com). We booked a four night package which rapidly dwindled to three nights as we involuntarily extended our stay in the Sao Paulo airport to take advantage of the free lunch.

The air conditioned Anavilhanas van picked us up from the Lord Manaus and we joined six passengers who had already been retrieved from the airport (transfers to hotels in Manaus and the airport are included in the rates). The English speaking guide handed out a small map and a description of our route, which turned out to be somewhat different from the one we actually took, and then got off the van--leaving us with the Portuguese-speaking driver. Based on two trips, the transfer takes about four and a half hours, which is somewhat more than the Anavilhanas website promises. The first part is a half hour or so river crossing on a ferry (which, since it was Sunday, came fully equipped with a loudly preaching minister), followed by a long, boring van ride on a well-paved road through old rubber plantations. About half an hour before the lodge we were stopped by a swine-flu roadblock during which the health authorities asked the driver if any of us were ill. (I wonder what would have happened if the driver said yes?)

During the drive I noticed that one of the passengers in the row in front of us was cradling a long black tube on his lap. Today I would assume it was a blow-gun , but at the time I was bored, curious and had gone through enough security checks to ask Bruce, in whispered tones, what he thought it was. He immediately recognized it as a Galileoscope (https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/), an inexpensive but reasonably good-quality telescope turned out in large volume to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the telescope. Turns out the three people in the row before us were astronomers coming from the same conference Bruce had been at. (One evening they set up the telescope at the swimming pool, using Bruce's camera tripod as the base, and we all admired the Amazonian skies.)
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 06:36 PM
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The correct links are http://www.anavilhanaslodge.com and
https://www.galileoscope.org/gs. Those right parentheses mess things up.
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Old Sep 10th, 2009, 06:54 PM
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The Lodge

On arrival at the lodge we were greeted with towels and several varieties of freshly squeezed juice, including one that was described as "the strange juice." Of course that's the one we drank and it was both refreshing and delicious. All meals and activities are included in the room rate except for beverages of any kind, although a liter of bottled water is left without extra charge in the room each day and can be taken to meals.

Housing is in duplex cottages, each occupied by two pairs of guests. The room and bed are quite comfortable, there's a hammock on the veranda, and (this is important) there is a powerful air conditioning unit which is under your control. The bathroom is large and has a shower with good water pressure and heated water; two sinks are outside the bathroom. Anavilhanas includes a separate dining area and a common area with a pool table, books, and free wi-fi if you have your own computer. Otherwise you have to pay to use the communal computer, or just give computers the cold shoulder while on vacation, as we did. There's also an attractive swimming pool on a bluff overlooking the river and an outdoor hammock room for recharging. The pool was popular between activities or instead of them.

All the meals were well prepared, and were served buffet style. They featured local fish, meat, a vegetarian option, some side dishes, and three desserts. Your room key has a wooden animal attached to it, and that's the animal you look for to find your table in the dining room. (Appropriately ours was the sloth.) Tables seat two so you don't have to put up with other guests unless you're feeling sociable.

Along with room keys you're given your activity schedule which depends on the number of days you're staying. On any given day you're scheduled for two or three activities, each of which lasts 2-3 hours and includes 6-8 people. Except for archery, activities are away from the lodge and you take a boat to your starting point.

Activities

Our first activity, after lunch of course, was the jungle walk, a well guided two-hour trek through the jungle, stopping frequently to learn about native trees and birds. Although it was steamy and hot, the jungle provided good shade, the walk was comfortable, and the explanations and stories were interesting. After the walk you canoe back to the lodge, which turns out to be quite close. Although we heard a lot of birds, seeing them was difficult. That turned out to be true for our entire stay in the Amazon, we heard lots of intriguing sounds but rarely could we see the source. (Dedicated birders saw much more than we did, at least based on their animated conversations. No doubt, our inexperience contributed mightily to our failure to observe interesting flying objects.)

The next morning we were assigned to tour a small native village. Bruce was very unenthusiastic, still traumatized by memories of our very uncomfortable visit to a Maasai village in Kenya that had played out as a guilt trip. Unlike in Kenya this was a well planned, unstressful visit. Again the first step was a pleasant 20 minute or so boat ride on the Rio Negro, followed by a leisurely walk through the tiny village of 10 or so homes, stopping often to listen to our guide talk about life on the river. Most of the men were away, the women went about their activities without paying any attention to us, the children played, again seemingly oblivious to our wanderings. At the end of the visit there was a small display of beaded items made by the women but there was absolutely no pressure to buy and no attempt to sell. Fortunately I had brought some money and gladly bought beads to support the women's efforts.

After lunch and a cooling nap in the air conditioned room we headed out to our second activity--native bow and arrow shooting. This was a lame activity but Bruce enjoyed polishing his archery skills, despite having the grand prize of a free caipirinha unjustly snatched from his grip by a man who, without any penalty imposed, failed to launch his first 10 arrows! Speaking of caipirinhas this is where we tried some of the more exotic fruit flavored versions which we decided, after having drunk them, were inferior to the traditional lime ones.

The next morning we headed out for probably the most enjoyable activity--swimming with the remarkably friendly pink dolphins. You're given a plate of fish scraps and you can feed the dolphins from the dock or disrobe and join them. Bruce went into the water while I observed from the dock. The half-dozen dolphins know what's coming and are eager to get to know you. After an hour of playing with the dolphins we reassembled to walk into the fairly large (for the central Amazon) city of Novo Airao, population 15,000. Our destination was a workshop which teaches woodworking to reformed narcotic abusers. By then it was noon, the sun very hot and the walk tedious and uninteresting since the streets were deserted and the architecture drab. There are "motorcycle taxis" which require you to sit on the back part of the seat holding onto the specially designed vest of the driver, but these seemed even less appealing than trudging.

The workshop, which supplies Anavilhanas with many of its decorations, had a well stocked store from which you can purchase crafts made by the students. We bought a small sloth, just liked the one that graced our dining table, and some similar items. If we hadn't all been exhausted by the long walk we probably would have been more enthusiastic customers. The bad news was that we had to walk another couple of miles to get back to the river and the boat. Fortunately someone at the workshop took pity on us and stuffed us into a van for the trip back to the boat. I think the lodge is being a good neighbor by taking guests on this shopping expedition, and we were all happy to support a good cause, but the long, dusty walk should be made optional. (It's possible that the lodge doesn't want to compete with the motorcycle taxi business.) We returned to Anavilhanas hot and tired and decided to skip the afternoon activity--piranha fishing. Instead we lazed by the inviting pool. The report from the fisherpeople upon their return pleased us--too hot, no piranhas biting.

Our last evening, after dinner, we were scheduled for caiman spotting. The evening was pleasant and we enjoyed the boat ride, even if only one small caiman caught the attention of the guide. (He also pulled a snake out of a tree.) If we had known how numerous the caiman would be in the Pantanal, we could have easily skipped this activity. The next morning was our chance to go watch the sunrise, an outing that starting at 5:00 AM or so. Again, a beautiful boat ride and a glorious sunrise, accompanied by the sounds of the jungle. As we crossed the Rio Negro before sunrise, a very impressive fireball (a very large meteor) hissed and sputtered overhead, the first we've ever seen anywhere!

If you stay three nights you don't get to do all of the excursions. We didn't go on a canoe trip through the small branches of the river, on the tour of the archipelago and on an excursion to some distant caves.
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 06:47 AM
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Overall we were very pleased with our stay at Anavilhanas. Although time consuming to reach, even once you haul yourself to Manaus, the result is a comfortable, enjoyable, mosquito- free "Amazon-lite experience." The extraordinary setting, the small number of guests (32 max), good guides and great rooms and food all contribute to a memorable stay. (If you're a serious explorer who doesn't need creature comforts and wants to hack your way through the jungles, eating insects and plants, obviously this isn't for you. If you're an extremely serious birder or wildlife enthusiast who wants nonstop observing, you'll also probably be restless.) This is also not the place for families with small children who might be bored by the structured activities geared to adults. You can't just return to the lodge with Junior, since you're all out on a boat together. Other than the swimming pool, pool table, and, of course, the caipirinhas, or reasonably priced wine, there's not much to do if you don't participate in the outings.

Seaplane to Manaus and on to Sao Paulo

The day before we were to leave I watched a seaplane come in to retrieve some guests. I couldn't help but think how fascinating it would be to fly over the archipelago to Manaus. An aerial view would give us a better notion of where we had been and of the vastness of the rivers and jungles. And we had never flown on a seaplane. What better place for a seaplane than the Amazon river? (We would also arrive in Manaus in less than an hour but that didn't really influence the decision since the cost of the plane was great enough that it wasn't worth it just to knock off some time in the van.)

The owner of the lodge explained that several groups of guests at the lodge arranged to take the seaplane that I saw for the return to Manaus. He asked if we would like him to enquire whether the other 2 guests leaving the day we were wanted to share a seaplane with us. We could take a smaller seaplane that seats 5, reducing costs. Unfortunately the other couple thought it was too expensive (and it was pricey), but we viewed it as an unique opportunity and decided to go it alone, paying a supplement to fly over the Meeting of the Waters, since that would require another half hour or so of flying.

The seaplane was scheduled to land before the van took off for the airport so if, for some reason it couldn't land, we could take the van back to Manaus. We put our luggage in the van so we wouldn't have to deal with it in Manaus and arranged to meet the van driver at 12:30 at the airport, four and a half hours after he left Anavilhanas and that was exactly when the van arrived at the designated rendezvous.

As we had hoped, from the seaplane we enjoyed wonderful views of the Rio Negro, the Anavilhanas archipelago, and the surrounding area. What a great way to travel! From the air the Meeting of the Waters, the confluence of the dark Rio Negro with the muddy colored upper Amazon River, or Solimões, as it is known in Brazil, is absolutely amazing. For the first stretch the line between black water and brown water is absolutely straight, then you start to get increasingly complex eddies of each color surfacing within the other. Quite a sight.

We landed at the Tropical Hotel outside Manaus where the seaplane is headquartered, received lapel pins indicating that we had flown on the plane, and were led inside the hotel where, once the broken credit card reader was repaired, we charged our trip, no doubt paying for the stupid lapel pins as well. A perfunctory inspection of the Tropical didn't impress, and we decided we were glad we didn't stay there and try to daytrip. (We did meet some people who had stayed there and they weren't particularly pleased since they felt captive and taken advantage of at the hotel which is a 50R cab ride from the center of Manaus, and much further from any interesting rain forest. Manaus has some strange "fixed fare" taxi system where it's supposed to cost you 50R, regardless of where you go, though we paid 40R to go from the main square to the airport and 50R to go from the Tropical Hotel to the main square in Manaus.)

At Anavilhanas there were interesting sculptures on the dining room walls and, when we admired them, the owner told us he had bought them at Galeria Amazonica in Manaus, (directly behind you when you stand facing the main door of the famous Manaus Opera House, http://www.galeriaamazonica.org.br/ ).
Locating the shop was easy and shopping inside was even easier: air conditioning, interesting, well priced merchandise, excellent displays, helpful staff and a couch to plant the spouse on while you shop. In fact, it was much too easy to shop. What was I thinking when I bought a three-foot long wooden mask and a 40-inch long miniature blow gun that I thought was a decorative cane?! The blow gun, which wouldn't fit in a suitcase, ignited intense interest at each of the seven security checks we had to pass before arriving home, despite our clever attempts to reinvent it as a cane, complete with a rubber foot swiped from the tripod. I'll never buy a miniature blow gun again if I'm flying, even if it is a steal at $25. There were several other stores on the square but I didn't bother to check them out since I couldn't possibly carry anymore treasures.

By light of day Manaus was much more appealing than we remembered it from our Saturday night visit. The Opera House's dome glistened, though the Opera House was not open for tours when we were there, the large square in front of the Opera House was an inviting place to sit. Since we had to be at the airport to meet the Anavilhanas van we didn't have time for lunch in Manaus, although we did stop at the Africa House, right on the square, for some freshly squeezed juice.

From Manaus' modern airport, after partially unwrapping the blow gun and discussing it in great detail with airport security in a language they didn't understand, we flew to Sao Paulo, for the third time, spending the night at the airport Marriott before flying to Campo Grande and the Pantanal. The airport Marriott met all airport hotel requirements: free and frequent shuttle, clean, good bed and acceptable food, even late at night.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 03:11 PM
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I'm still waiting for the fire ants ...
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 03:52 PM
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Fire ants coming right up, part of Bruce's birthday celebration.
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Old Sep 14th, 2009, 06:40 PM
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"We booked a four night package which rapidly dwindled to three nights as we involuntarily extended our stay in the Sao Paulo airport to take advantage of the free lunch."

As would anyone. Who can pass up a free lunch?

A blow gun would have been more interesting, but probably not to the endangered species.
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Old Sep 14th, 2009, 06:59 PM
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"Except for archery, activities are away from the lodge and you take a boat to your starting point."

I hope archery is not too close to the lodge. Especially if people are shooting who don't know how to launch their arrows. It wouldn't be safe to head to the bar for a capirinha.

An anthropological faux pas with the blowpipe. Oh well, cane, blowpipe, telescope, what's really the difference anyway.

That's nice you got a seaplane ride.

The caiman spotting activity is humorous, given you were headed to the Pantanal.

Your comment allowed me to overcome my disappointment of not trying a passion fruit capirinha when I was in the Pantanal.

The dolphin swim!
How many people are in the water at the same time with the dolphins?
How clear or murky was the water?
Why didn't you go in too?
Did they provide snorkel gear? Wet suits?
How cold was the water?
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Old Sep 15th, 2009, 06:28 PM
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Lynn, thanks so much for continuing to read. Yes, no need to spot caiman in the Pantanal--too many to count!

The pink dolphins come each day to the dock of a restaurant. There were 7 of us and a similar number of friendly dolphins. No need for snorkel gear or wet suits since the Rio Negro temperature is pleasant. The water was somewhat murky which is why I stayed on the dock and observed (and took video).
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Old Sep 15th, 2009, 06:34 PM
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Why the Pantanal?
As we sat in our upgraded business seat on TAM, a consequence I believe of my asking for an exit row seat with more leg room, and not so they could keep better track of the now unwrapped blow gun/cane which was of utmost concern to security until Bruce just took it and hobbled off, I remembered how I had first learned of the existence of the Pantanal.

Two years ago, I was lured to the South American board from the Africa board to read about atravelynn's adventures in some place called the Pantanal:
http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...ny-jaguars.cfm

Lynn's reports are always amusing and informative and this was no exception. While admiring the photos I suggested to Bruce that he read the report for enjoyment and not because we'd ever go there. Neither of us was even exactly sure where all of this high drama was taking place and I knew we would never sit out in the cold at midnight to watch hairy wolves being fed in some seminary, or make lists of birds whose names we couldn't pronounce or spell and whose song would go in one ear and out the other.

Fast forward a couple of years and we're heading off to a conference in Brazil but not quite sure where to go after Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon. Since we're not beach types, and have fairly recently seen Victoria Falls, the Pantanal seems like a natural fit. After all, it's the only other place we know anything about. So, despite our initial certainty that we'd never end up in the Pantanal, we're on our way.

I won't pretend that Bruce and I are dedicated wildlife enthusiasts. This report contains none of the detailed, painstaking lists and descriptions that are the footprints of a serious visitor, especially a birder. We were in the Pantanal to see some interesting animals and birds and to just enjoy being Pantaneros.

(For serious discussion of the Southern Pantanal consult:
http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...n-and-ilha.cfm
To decide if you should go to the North or the South Pantanal see: http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...n-pantanal.cfm )
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