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glover Sep 26th, 2018 09:54 AM

Glover goes to Brazil, Rio, Pantanal, Amazon
Normally we travel in January and February every year to escape cold Washington, DC.
But a couple things came together to convince us to take a second trip in September this year. 1. It’s our 20th anniversary. 2. September is a better time to visit certain nature areas that have long been on our list. 3. We each had an $800 voucher from Delta from a voluntary bump that needed to be spent by Sept. Researching Delta destinations where $800 would be a good trip price we came up with Brazil. Flights from National rather than Dulles (yay), through Atlanta rather than Miami (another yay). And in Brazil is the giant wetland area called the Pantanal, an area we’ve long wanted to visit. So off we went to Brazil for a month - several nights in Rio, 5 nights in the Pantanal, 4 nights in area near Amazon, 3 in rugged park area called Chapada dos Guimaraes, 3 in old colonial Salvador, and 3 at an Atlantic slope lodge a couple hours from Rio.

Our Flight from Atlanta to Rio was on a 717. Worst plane ever. Really minimal legroom, no electrical outlets, tiny video screen. Nevertheless managed to knock off 4 or so movies , 0 minutes of sleep as always. Changed some dollars for reals (re EYES) - still working on that Portuguese pronunciation. Jumped in airport taxi for Copacabana.

Stayed 2 nights at Miramar Hotel by Windsor in Copacabana. Had a decent room with partial sea view. Check in was very efficient and staff was later very helpful with info. Lots of English at this hotel. Great included breakfast buffet with good coffee! Chilled a bit in room on early am arrival. Dragged tired selves up to rooftop bar/pool area (wonderful view of beaches, favela, and hills). Ate delicious lunch up there. Walked along Avenida Atlantica beach street for a few miles probably checking out the scene, walkers, bike riders, sunbathers ( though temps only in 70s), vendors. Watched as guy on a bike rode past a youngish couple in front of
Us and ripped a gold chain right off his neck.☹️. A few people took up chase on foot, but thief was quickly gone. We commiserated with victims briefly (gringos). We had been careful not to bring along or wear anything of value. Rio has a pretty bad rep for this sort of thing. Later
We walked a couple doors down from our hotel to a recommended Portuguese restaurant Nomangue and had good fish dinner. Chatted up folks at the next table, who turned out to be Malaysians living last 30 years in New Jersey. Talked about Brazil itineraries and places we had visited in Malaysia. Went back to hotel and slept like the dead.

On day 2 of Rio we chowed down on included breakfast buffet - fresh fruit, eggs, lots of bread items, and great coffee. Then we set off on the usual Adventure to acquire local SIM card for phones. Despite chips allegedly being for sale at every newsstand, hotel staff advised visiting nearby shopping mall for more options and better service, so we took taxi there. All local phone services were represented in huge mall, so we chose TIM. No English spoken there and our Portuguese is nonexistent, but we got by with “sheep?” and pointing to phones. Sales rep got by with writing down basic parameters of common data/calls package and $12 price. He spent a long time entering passport info etc etc into system, put in Chips for us and we were off. Later husband discovered his chip not working. Back at store they told us his phone was not unlocked. He was confused about that for his very recent iPhone, but then realized it wouldn’t be unlocked until completely paid for, and he’d bought it on some kind of payment deal. Oh well, really only needed one phone anyway. Got more reals from ATM AT MALL.

Walked from mall to cable car stop to go up to top of Sugar Loaf mt for great view on fairly clear day. Saw marmosets for first time up there. Such strange looking little guys. They are fairly tame there. Signs say they aren’t good for environment? Maybe just because they scavenge and spread trash?

Found another taxi and took it to Corcovado to see Christ Redeemer statue. Nice cab driver pointed out some sites on way and waited for us about an hour at top. Fabulous views of Rio from there (higher than Sugar Loaf ). Fun day.

Later we walked several blocks down the Avenida Atlantica to a small tapas place I’d read about El Born. Had a series of decent tapas as servers brought them around on trays. Chatted up solo gringa woman sitting next to us - a Bostonian on a biz trip. She was on staff of international admissions for Northeastern University.

Next am we enjoyed another hotel breakfast seated at window onto Avenida Atlantica and sea view. Had fun watching lots of dog walkers. Cute chow like puppy wanted only to sniff other dogs nonstop, much to amusement of all of us in restaurant.

Took taxi to domestic airport for flight to Cuiabá and access point for Pantanal area. Flight stopped first in São Paulo. We had no idea SP was so large. Looked like acres and acres of white high rises- population 12 million or so.

Cuiabá is the capital of Mato Grosso state, and a pretty ugly city. We stayed one night at the Hotel Odara outside city center. There’s a big grocery store just across the 6 lane highway from the hotel. We wanted a couple things so walked about half mile down the street to get to the designated crossing, then half mile back up, and again returning. Drenched in sweat by the time we returned to hotel. Very hot and humid here. Ate a rather expensive mediocre dinner in hotel restaurant. Nothing else was easily walkable. But had a good conversation with the dining room manager, an Austrian married to a Brazilian who had worked on private yachts and other ships for many years. Next day we were picked up at 6 am by a driver and our guide From Pantanal Nature company for 4 hour or so drive to Porto Jofre in the Pantanal.

Our Pantanal package with Pantanal Nature was 2 nights at the Jaguar Camp on river in Porto Jofre (deep into Pantanal with best chance for jaguars), then 2 at Piuval Lodge, closest to Cuiabá, and then 1 night at Rio ClaroLodge, midway between other two. Moving from one lodge to another, along with some early am and night time safaris, made for a lot of riding up and down the Dirt surface Transpantaneira road. But every drive offered sitings of some sort: fabulous water birds, an anaconda, capybaras, etc.

Our 3 lodgings were fairly similar: basic but comfortable with a/c, decent beds and showers.
Meals at all were buffet style, overall pretty good for nature lodges in the boonies.
We did 4 delightful boat trips of several hours each while at Jaguar Camp, sited jaguars most times, including one swimming and another lying in wait for and then successfully snaring a young capybara from a capybara family standing on a sandy bank of the river. Since guides and boatmen are in touch via radio, any Jaguar siting resulted in a “jaguar jam” of viewing boats ( at one siting I counted 18 boats!). Also an astounding array of camera and video equipment, many professional. Generally boatmen and guides are respectful of one another, ensuring that all have a chance to see the beautiful animals. At Jaguar Camp we also had best view of the beautiful hyacinth macaws. They perched low in the trees on the grounds there each a.m. And we got good looks at giant otters feeding on fish. At Piuval lodge, which is more of a working ranch, we saw a giant anteater, a tamandua, rheas sitting on nests. We also got back on the horse and went for a nice trail ride there.

Husband said of Pantanal: “Now I know what phrase ‘teeming with wildlife’ really means”
It was spectacular. We saw 90 or so species of birds, including many new to us. And we saw a couple dozen “other than birds” wildlife species as well. After our 5 nights in the Pantanal we were driven back to budget airport hotel in Cuiabá - Slaviero Slim Hotel. It was quite the bargain at a little over $50, including breakfast. Fast WiFi, lots of outlets, strong shower, efficient check in and out, free airport shuttle, though on a cooler day we could have walked to airport as it was virtually across street. Our guide recommended eating dinner just a few doors down at a churrascuria called Airport Grill. This too was a major bargain. For about $7 each we ate unlimited really nice salad bar (3 or 4 different beautiful greens) and endless meats brought around on skewers by servers - beef, chicken. Lamb..... with a caipirinha and 3 beers our bill cameto 30+ dollars. Amazing.

Next day we slept in a little and ate hotel breakfast. Then took shuttle across street to airport for 12:30 flight to town of Alta Floresta. Flight delayed till 1:30 on Azul Airlines. On arrival in Alta Floresta we, along with 5 others, were picked up by rep from well regarded Cristalino Ecolodge for 4 night stay in Southern Amazon area.

Cristalino Lodge, southern Amazon
After a brief stop at Cristalino’s sister hotel in Alta Floresta, where the two of us were joined by our assigned guide for our stay, the van drove us on the hour or so bumpy ride to a boat ramp, where we then took a lovely half hour boat ride down the Cristalino river to the lodge. Our guide pointed out a burrowing owl on fencepost along the road. Gracious hospitality manager Viviana greeted us at the dock. We walked a bit along nice trails to our “superior” room #16 farthest from dining area. Room is large,half of a duplex. Big king bed, couple chairs, small desk area, lots of cubicles and shelves for storage. Indoor and outdoor showers. Big windows on all sides Small porch area with hammock and bench. Vaulted beamed ceiling with ceiling fan (no ac here). Simple spare furnishings with jungly feel. Simple, but classy.

We really enjoyed our 4 night stay here. The lodge is very well run and everything is top notch,
as would be expected at this very high price point. Each day included a very early am and late afternoon activity, walks with guide on property trails, including to both of lodge’s 50 meter viewing towers, or boat rides on river. Guests could also swim in river or go kayaking. We had expressed an interest in birding, so followed an itinerary that focused mostly on that. We were very pleased with our guide Jared, a very enthusiastic bidder from the US. Very knowledgeable, energetic, and easy to be with. He was usually accompanied by a boatman, Valgerio, who is no doubt a guide in training. He is an excellent bird and wildlife spotter, charming, with developing English. I think we spotted about 90 some bird species here (some overlapping those in Pantanal ) and lots of other interesting jungle dwellers - a beautiful tiny poison frog, a tapir, a large yellow footed tortoise, the largest moth in the world (a white witch), a herd of peccaries. The very high we viewing towers yielded two different stunning species of aracaris and 2 stunning species of cotinghas. We were up by 5 am every day and asleep by 9 or 10 at the latest. Meals were served buffet style in the attractive open air dining room. Food was great, interesting, well prepared, and varied. All delicious. Don’t think the lodge was full during our stay, but we enjoyed meeting maybe a half dozen couples or so while there, from US, UK, and Germany. We paid our bills and ate a nice included lunch back at the in town sister restaurant on our final day. There we were introduced to the lodge’s owner Vitoria da Riva Carvalho, who pretty much singlehandedly saved the extensive property from deforestation, mining, etc. We told her how much we’d enjoyed our stay, and she asked us to tell all our friends. Consider it done.

Have I said how hot it was? Very hot in both Pantanal and southern Amazon. Possibly hotter than I’ve ever felt, and we’re from Washington, DC where summers are hot and very humid. This is the end of their normal dry season. Nevertheless we had a welcome nice afternoon storm at Cristalino. It was pretty buggy too. Used a lot of insect spray and wore my covering rainforest clothes, but nevertheless toted up more small bites, stings, and ticks than on any prior trip, presumably none life threatening..... at least so far, ha ha. Definitely worth it though.
No matter the heat in sunny afternoons, nice motoring on the rivers always.

From Alta Floresta we flew back to Cuiabá where we were met by a driver arranged by Pousada at our next location,

Chapada dos Guimarães.
Coincidentally, Our driver turned out to be Fernando Buttara, a young man we’d met earlier at Pantanal. He’d been guiding some Brits who shared some of our boat trips. He helped us find birds that our own assigned guide there didn’t know. A really nice guy with great English who told us lots about the area as he drove us about an hour from Cuiabá to Guimarães. Chapada dos Guimarães is a National Park located at the “geographic center of South America. “ Dramatically different scenery as it is mostly rocky/craggy plateau with interesting rock formations and many, many waterfalls.

Here we are staying 3 nights at the small and simple Pousada Charme just on the edge of this small town of perhaps 15,000, a jumping off point for visits to the park. At the moment we’re the only guests of our delightful hostess Val who speaks only Portuguese and some Spanish.
When we arrive and realize town restaurants aren’t really walkable, Val insists on driving us into the center where we have a relaxing pasta dinner at Pomidori, possibly the only restaurant in town open on this Monday eve. With the help of Val, who introduces us to staff, our smattering of Portuguese phrases, hand signals, and Spanglish, we get the job of ordering done.

We crash early in order to be ready for our 5am pick up by well respected bird guide Braulio Carlos. We got really lucky with Braulio. We were arranging this on fairly short notice and found that many locals were already busy. We finally managed to arrange an expensive full day trip through an agency and we ended up with one of top bird guides in Brazil apparently!It was a long but very productive day - finding more than 80 species. We went to spots where Braulio knew he could find things we might not have already seen in Pantanal or Amazon, and we were always successful. As it turned out, none of these spots were actually in the park, which is more known for certain high viewing spots for seeing macaws at certain times of day. We paused midday for a good and simple buffet lunch at restaurant Trapiche. Not only did Braulio know his birds but he was a great source of information about the ecology, economy, history, and culture of the area and Brazil (though born in Peru). He delivered us back to our Pousada at 6pm or so, where he recited from memory the 80 plus birds we’d seen and Mr Glover wrote them down. After a well earned and needed shower, Val called and had a pizza and beers delivered to Pousada for us. Again we were asleep by 9 or so.

At Mr. G’s insistence we took the next day “off.” Driving around with Braulio day before we had gotten a sense of the lovely geography of the area. It seemed that visiting the various park sites (waterfalls, caves, viewpoints) would have required more guiding, $$$, and hot walking than we were up for at this point. Besides, just sitting here on our room’s balcony has afforded a nice sunlit flyby of a pair of brilliant macaws, and there are hummingbirds in our courtyard’s bougainvillea. We’ll chill here this afternoon and then take Val to dinner tonight! Tomorrow we fly back to Rio for a night and then go on to another nature spot the following day. To be continued..... more Rio, Regua lodge, and Salvador, and ?

mlgb Sep 29th, 2018 08:10 PM

OK I'm going to remember this..." but we got by with “sheep?” and pointing to phones" for my upcoming trip to Portugal, since my Portuguese is similarly non existent!..

And of course..which cotingas? I'd love to hear more about your "lifers" too...

crellston Sep 29th, 2018 11:12 PM

Excellent stuff as always glover. Almost tempted by Brazil - if you hadn’t already sold me on Panama!

glover Oct 2nd, 2018 02:36 PM

Our hostess Val invited us to view the sunset at a nearby overlook that is also the geodesic center of South America. We drove just 10 mins or so. Not a spectacularly clear day, but a decent sunset nonetheless until we we eaten alive by mosquitoes etc. Later we took Val to dinner at a restaurant she chose - a simple place on the plaza in town with outside seating.
Discovering they were out of fish, we had beef stroganoff (this seems to be a thing certain Brazilian restaurants). More google translate conversations with Val at dinner. Following day she arranged a driver to take us to Cuiaba airport for our flight to Rio.

Back in Rio again for a night, we stayed this time in Ipanema (the beach neighborhood just next to Copacabana) at Sol Ipanema Hotel. No time to appreciate our ocean view room. Arriving in the evening, we just walked around corner to the Zazu Bistro for dinner. A cute little place with good vibe and decent food. Sort of fusion. I had chicken curry! Talked a bit to Argentinian/Brazilian couple sitting next to us.

Next am after hotel buffet breakfast in small and busy dining area looking out on beach, we were met by our transport to the lodge at REGUA. Our driver, Alcenir, for the 2 hour 70 mile trip is very cheerful and talkative. He apologizes for his English, then rushes ahead with little difficulty. Once finally out of Rio and its burbs and cloverleaves, the ride affords some nice views of farm and ranch land. Beautiful second half of drive.

REGUA in the Atlantic forest
The acronym stands for Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu. The reserve was established as an association, receives funding from various sources, and is managed by the charming husband and wife team Nicholas and Rachel Locke. Interested folks should check the website for details of the reserve. The birding lodge on the reserve has maybe a half dozen rooms, basic but comfortable with a/c and decent showers with hot water. There’s a lovely common dining and living room. Meals were buffet style, but food was good, lots of interesting local vegetables, chicken, pork, soups, lasagna. Rice and beans of course. Every eve at 6:30 free caipirinhas were served and guests’ plans for next day were discussed. We had the opportunity to meet both managers Nicholas (Brazilian raised in UK) and his Argentinian wife Rachel and their adult son Thomas, who serves as a lodge host. They were all delightful.
And we enjoyed mingling with the few other guests present during our stay, a German couple who have been visiting the area for decades and studying orchids and a Dutch/Spanish couple with an interest in birds. We attempted to solve the world’s problems around the dinner table,
but came up short.....

We loved it here and highly recommend it to anyone interested in seeing birds of Brazil’s Atlantic forest. We saw more than 100 species during our 4 night stay, including many new to us. Some of our favs: Bare throated bell bird, saffron toucanet, rufous tailed jacamar, brassy breasted tanager, plovercrest hummingbird, and crescent chested puff bird. Also whistling heron. But so many more. We walked the property’s two trails, which included nice water views, a blind for looking out on the water, and two towers in the forest. We hiked one longer trail a drive away with one of lodge’s bird guides Adilei, an excellent bird spotter and identifier, a quiet kind of guy with only “bird English.” We also did one of Lodge ‘s offered full day excursions - this one a long drive up to 4200 ft elevation to another reserve Macae de Cima, birding mostly along the road.

Finally justified packing a bathing suit by taking a swim in lodge’s small nice pool. Wasn’t too startled when one of the reserve’s tapirs strolled casually by the pool. A half dozen tapirs were reintroduced on the reserve a few years ago. One fell in the pool not so long ago apparently and it took quite some effort to get her out!

Just like at Pantanal and Amazon our routine at REGUA was pretty much up at 6 and out walking in nature by 7 at the latest. Simalar walks later in afternoon. Asleep by 9 or 10 each eve. Definitely NOT our At home DC schedule. Over 4 days we had just a little rain here and there, some partly cloudy days, and a very clear and sunny day on our last day. At 4200 ft it was cool. At the lower elevation lodge it was HOT. Still we had grown to love the place and hated to leave..... but we needed to go back to Rio for a City night and dinner so we could fly to Salvador next day.

glover Oct 2nd, 2018 02:41 PM

Mlgb. Glad to have you following along! Cotinghas: Spangled, pompadour, black and gold.
lifers: To be determined abundantly reported later - possibly at least 40

crellston: Yes, you MUST come to Brazil. But think you will really enjoy Mexico and Panama too!

mlgb Oct 3rd, 2018 10:10 PM

That spangled cotinga is a stunner, pompadour is kinda cute but I guess the B&G is the target. Any new manakins?

glover Oct 8th, 2018 09:54 AM

Mlgb - blue manakin comes to mind.....

glover Oct 8th, 2018 12:02 PM

We flew back to Rio and stayed again at the Sol Ipanema Hotel. Chose it for its proximity to beach and relatively reasonably priced oceanfront room. I could even open the window! Unheard of these days in high rise buildings. This time Rio was hot, sunny, and clear. Beach was hopping. Based on some reviews, I ‘d made us a dinner reservation at Quitéria Restaurant a few blocks from our hotel. Though we were of course eating earlyish, don’t think the restaurant ever got more than half full, despite its reputation as popular. What a find! Happy hour extends to 8pm. 2 for one drinks. Small but interesting menu. Reasonable prices. Wonderful food! Had lovely service from Priscilla, who spoke great English, having worked and lived in Australia for 6 years. We shared a great salad that was a mixture of chickpeas, black eyed peas, another grain (red bulgur?), chopped mango, slices of avocado, and watercress. I had really well cooked grilled fish and banana salad that was fab, husband had bbq like ribs that he declared wonderful. Next am we were off to Salvador, Brazil’s original Capital, now a UNESCO site.

Uneventful couple hour flight to Salvador from Rio on Avianca. We accepted our lodging’s offer oftransport from the airport and were driven to our lovely boutique hotel Casa Amarelindo. We were so comfortable here that we extended our 3 night stay to 4 nights, even coughing up the extra bucks to change Avianca tix. As it was Mr. G’s bday on Oct 5, we went upscale here. The hotel is located in the very old historic and lively Pelourinho district of Salvador - full of beautiful old churches, other Colorful restored buildings, and cobbled streets. The hotel was restored and is owned by two Frenchmen. Common rooms, guest rooms, restaurant, and rooftop bar area all beautifully designed and thought out. Great service from all staff. Had the largest bed ever, which appeared to be 2 doubles melded together. Our own little balcony with a view, through tropical foliage, to the bay. Best bathroom ever with 4 options for showering. Included breakfast could be served wherever you wanted, so we opted to have it delivered to our balcony every am. And what a breakfast it was: Eggs, fruit, juices, Breads, yoghurt, ham and cheese, and different combinations of wonderful pastries (A banana tart one day, an apple one another). And of course the signature great Brazilian coffee. We have never been so well spoiled.

We spent our days wandering the town, in and out of baroque churches and a few small museums. We took in a performance of Balé Folclórico da Bahia, an ultimately thrilling show of Bahian folkloric dances of African origin, including capoeira, the amazingly athletic martial arts/dance. Well worth the small admission charge and hard concrete step seats. Great costumes and great athleticism. We ventured into Uber/taxi use. Mr. G wanted a harbor boat trip on his bday. Hotel staff knew only of day long tour that included two beach/island stops,etc etc. on Internet I found a dive company that allegedly offered sunset harbor tour via catamaran. Sounded perfect. Jumped in taxi and provided address. He got us to the coastal neighborhood of Barra but then had no clue thereafter. Stopped and asked dozens who sent him another direction. Finally I handed him my phone to call the dive company and she directed him. Our “catamaran” turned out to be a big noisy motored dive boat. At the beach we got in a rowboat and were rowed (Against the current) by our boatman out to the dive boat. We had our own private “tour”, Though the driver spoke only Portuguese.
Fun nevertheless to see town from the water, the very old lighthouse, a couple forts. The elevator that joins the upper and lower parts of the town, the old market building, a beautiful sunset, and lots of folks on beach, paddle boarders etc. Needless to say we opted for Uber on the way back, which worked wonderfully at about a third of the price of our circuitous arrival in taxi.

Tried several different restaurants for dinner. One night at our hotel, a lovely garden space. Food and service were good, but we were the only diners. Another night we ate dinner outside on one of the big plazas at restaurant called Cuocu. Good, not great. Live music cranked up in plaza while we were there, as well as a few barking dogs. A fair number of panhandlers around, gently kept at bay by biz owners. Another night we walked a little farther afield to a restaurant oddly named Psycho, in an old restored house across from a very large old convent that has now become a museum/hotel. Street up there was a little darker and dicier seeming. Restaurant had nice open view out to bay, casual cozy feel inside. Nice vibe. Food average.

Our final day in Salvador took shape when we received an email from the dive boat company that they had found Mr. G’s glasses in the boat and would keep them there for retrieval. So we decided to Uber back to Barra lighthouse, climb it for a view, visit its nautical museum, walk down ave to dive shop and retrieve glasses, and Uber on to Museum of Modern Art (MAM) where an outdoor jazz concert “JAMaoMAM”occurs on Saturday eve. Then we’d go on to a restaurant Mistura Conterno near there recommended by our hotel. It was a sunny hot clear day, so view from and around the lighthouse was wonderful. Nearby beaches were packed. Little museum was nice, with English translations. Not so nice: Very loud campaigning by the evil right wing presidential candidate Bolsanaro in open bus near light house.

We arrived at MAM early for concert without any idea whatsoever of protocol. People began to arrive around parking lot and then line up at a ticket booth. We fell in line. There seemed to be 3 levels of pricing but we had no idea of difference. The woman at the booth asked us an incomprehensible question and then, getting “no intendo” responses, asked us for 8 reaies each and gave us wristbands. Then we followed others to next line up place. All went through a bit of security search and we went down hill to a big open area next to bay. There were several food and drink vendors and an outside stage set up as well as rows and rows of 3 legged stools and fewer rows of actual plastic chairs (would that we had known to buy those more expensive tickets). Eventually capacity crowd showed up. Before music began at 6, all milled around with drinks, taking photos of beautiful sunset over bay. We enjoyed music and the scene. Brazilian samba/jazz. Good female singer, several drummers, 2 saxes, clarinets, keyboard. We stayed for half of show and then walked back out to look for taxi/Uber to restaurant. It appeared close by, but streets were very confusing. We asked a taxi driver in parking lot to take us, and he kindly suggested it was an easy walk, even getting out of taxi to point to restaurant’s light up a hill. Of course, we could see it, but how to pierce it - as it seemed in a fortress on a hill. We carefully crossed a 4 lane highway, walked a half block and came across a gated driveway with guard. He immediately identified us as restaurant customers (no chance of us being mistaken for locals here in Brazil, given our white hair and rainforest clothing). We walked up hill to very elegant white tablecloth restaurant where we had made an 8pm reservation. Naturally we were nearly the first customers. We were happy to see and be seated next to a young guy in a T shirt. He turned out to be an international biz consultant, an Italian working on a project in Brazil and on weekend holiday to Salvador. We had nice conversation with him. And he proved a great translator later when our server had a question for me about my lamb entree. Eventually the restaurant filled up with couples and groups. The food was very good and the service very refined. Huge tables, fancy linens, lots of silverware, French service I’m guessing. A different server for every course practically. Salad, entrees, desserts, couple drinks about the same price as a good DC resto. Hadn’t been in this kind of restaurant for some time. Realized I don’t like them much anymore. No longer really enjoy the formality and having all those folks waiting on me. Asked staff if Uber drivers came into the fortress and they said yes. Nevertheless ours had a hard time finding us. But ultimately we got home.

Next day before we left Finally got to see a little more of the parading drum corps Pelourinho is known for. This corps was a youth group. Had seen a more informally organized group old older men drumming on a corner another evening. Interesting and loud.

Saw scarcely another North American in Salvador or Rio either for that matter. Think Brazil doesn’t market itself much to US and its economic and security problems probably have an effect as well. We enjoyed seeing the old capital Salvador and what remains of its original Afro/Brazil culture. But like most of these UNESCO sites the historic area is almost all just about shopping now. Streets lined with small shops all selling the same half dozen things. And of course most longtime residents get displaced by the restorations. Next to the Pelourinho tourist “triangle” was a whole “no go” area crossed off on our map. Driven across it by taxis the area appeared to be falling down, with virtually no one on the streets and a few buildings transiently occupied.

tripplanner001 Oct 8th, 2018 03:56 PM

Late to your party but enjoying your impressions of Brazil nonetheless. Did you find different levels of wildlife activity in the Pantanal or the Amazon? Just curious as if one area is more active than the other given the time of year. I just cannot imagine the level of humidity to be worse than DC though. Chapada dos Guimarães sounds like exactly the type of place I would enjoy too.

glover Oct 9th, 2018 08:48 AM

Hi tripplanner. Where are you off to next? Glad to have you aboard. Re Pantanal/amazon wildlife activity, guess I’d just echo what others say - lots of activity in both places, but much easier to SEE in Pantanal. We were stunned by the amount of birdlife visible all along Transpantaneira road and on all trips down rivers there. No such road for Amazon, and sitings from boats on equally lovel river trips were much fewer.

tripplanner001 Oct 9th, 2018 08:58 PM

Thanks for the explanation, Glover. Sounds like the Pantanal would be more up my alley. Definitely going on the list; a return to Brazil is fairly high on my list.

Where to next? Australia. We’re leaving for 2 weeks starting Thanksgiving weekend.

glover Oct 14th, 2018 02:05 PM

Back in DC now, with some time to wrap up my report.

We spent 3 final nights in Rio before returning to the U.S. Originally we had thought to do some day trips or even an overnight from Rio. But after 3 1/2 weeks of travelling we were feeling lazy and decided to just chill in Rio itself a bit more.
We returned to the Sol Ipanema Hotel where we had stayed earlier in the trip. It's very centrally located near Poste 9, facing Ipanema Beach. Their prices for an ocean view room were the most reasonable I could find, and I just wanted that ocean view.
Per my request they put us on a high floor - 14 out of 15. We enjoyed 2 more meals at what had become our favorite restaurant Quiteria a few blocks from our hotel (in the Ipanema Inn). One of our full days was quite cloudy, though mostly dry, and a nice temp of maybe 75-80F. Scarcely anyone on the beach - so we decided that was a good day for a walk. We walked from the hotel to the viewing point just at the end of Leblon beach - on the hotel side of the street on the way out and on the beach itself on the way back. The beach street is well manicured and maintained. We liked the black and white tiled sidewalks, and the flower filled areas in front of most of the hotels that line the street.

The remaining two "must sees" for us in Rio were its old theatre and botanical gardens. We had thought to do a tour of the theatre until I discovered on line that jazz singer Diane Reeves (a Detroit native and a grammy winner) would be performing in concert at the municipal theatre on one of the nights we were in town. We weren't familiar with her, but are jazz fans and knew we'd likely enjoy the concert. I spent a morning registering for and navigating various sites in Portuguese in order to purchase tickets on line and have the code visible on my phone. A major technological victory! We scored two great seats in the first balcony at the "old folks" discount of about $25 US each. such a deal. Did some research to come up with some kind of restaurant that might be "easy" to locate near the theatre in Centro Rio. The couple old traditional Brazilian ones didn't have very good reviews. Found a little middle eastern restaurant "Al-Kuwait" that seemed like it would fit the bill.

Called an Uber to take us from Ipanema to Central - mid rush hour traffic. We both admitted later feeling a little anxious during that trip. The streets on the way looked very dark and empty. (Later realized that was partly due to the driver's tinted windows. ha ha.) But clearly we did drive across some neighborhoods empty of pedestrians. We were relieved to arrive in Centro then and find the sidewalks and streets filled with pedestrians finishing work. We walked down the block of the street where we thought we would find the restaurant, but of course we didn't find it and after a few blocks turned back toward the theatre. Decided to stop and ask two guards in front of the "Naval Club." As is frequently the case in this situation the guard looked at me as if I had 4 heads when I asked "onde fica o restaurante Al-Kuwait?" She basically said she had no idea and neither did her colleague. BUT as I turned to walk away she called to me and indicated she would bring someone to help! A charming older man and fluent English speaker arrived. Nothing would do but we should come into the club and at least sign his book, if not take a tour. We signed the book but declined the tour as he merrily chatted away about himself, the bldg. etc. He said being the guide for the club was his retirement job (he used to work in advertising) and that he had just had his 72nd bday - and Mr. G said "So did I!" The guide then introduced himself "My name is Edward" and Mr. G said "So is mine!" At that point I had to take a picture of these two handsome, fit, bearded 72 year olds. Edward told us he didn't know the restaurant but the street was close by (we knew that we'd just cruised it) and he had a hunch where it might be and why it was difficult to find. He insisted on walking over with us to look. Low and behold there was the small and casual Al Kuwait tucked inside a little alley off the street of its address. He left us there in the kind hands of a very good server and went off to the theatre in hopes of scoring a ticket to same concert for himself. After we were settled in enjoying drinks, tabouleh, kafta, and bread, Edward showed up again with a newspaper in his hand. He handed it to Mr.G and said he wanted us to have it. He pointed to a picture of right wing Presidential Candidate Bolsanaro and said "This man will save Brazil." I held my breath hoping Mr.G would not get involved in a big political disagreement with our kind guide. He did not. We just thanked Edward for the paper and moved the conversation to other topics. Later I regretted not saying something mild like "Well we hope he DOES do that for you. But we are somewhat concerned for you as he's being compared to our US president who we don't feel is representing us well." Edward then walked us back to the theatre (he had managed to get himself a ticket). The theatre is breathtakingly beautiful. E pointed out some paintings and other things of interest. We found our seats in different locations. Though I think he hoped to reconnect with us after the performance, we didn't run into him again. It was a good concert. Dianne sang mostly in English, but a song or two in Portuguese. She appeared with a base player, drummer, and keyboardist. She described Sergio Mendes as an early mentor. She has a great range, did some nice scat, and projected a lot of warmth. Worked to connect with the Brazilian audience in a nice way.

We spent several hours on our last Rio day in the Botanical Gardens. It's huge and lovely. Scarcely anyone there on very warm Wednesday afternoon. Highlights were several pathways lined with magnificent Royal Palms, amazing cactus area, orchids, and bromeliads. We were also delighted to see a beautiful toucan, the by now ubiquitous marmosets, as well as another troup of monkeys (capuchins probably). An American woman currently living nearby told us she runs in the gardens often and sees all manner of wildlife - including snakes such as boas and pit vipers. She recommended the gardens' "Atlantic Forest Trail" for the best chance of seeing those. That interested us since we'd just spent 4 nights in the Atlantic Forest beyond Rio.
Didn't see any snakes though - just the troupe of monkeys.......

It was a great month long trip, and we felt ready to go home! We took the taxi ride from hell from our hotel to the airport. Our driver was fine, but the drive in Rio rush hour in pouring rain was dreadful. Bumper to bumper all the way. Took nearly TWO HOURS!! Reception at hotel had told us we could leave at 7 or 7:15 to be at airport at 8. Somehow, having seen Rio's rush hour traffic, we disbelieved that. good thing too. So instead of arriving at airport at 8pm for our 10pm flight we arrived at 8:30.
We made sure we gave the driver a big tip for the miserable long drive in the rain and traffic. Delta agent at checkin said that drive has been known to take 3 or 4 hours on occasion. The roads look to be in pretty good shape, lots of lanes, cloverleaves, etc and a couple tunnels. But they are clearly not enough for the traffic. We kept expecting our flight - which went to DC through Atlanta- to be delayed or cancelled since it seemed pretty well timed and located with Hurricane Michael. However, it went off smoothly. Though I wasn't that excited when the pilot announced "we're going to get everyone seated and back out a little early - and hopefully we'll be able to beat that storm." uh yeah, I hope so too. We folded ourselves into our minimal legroom economy seats (the worst plane ever was a 767-400 not a 717 as reported earlier) with nary a USB port nor an electrical outlet and the world's smallest video screen for our NINE hour flight. Thanks Delta - sure I'll be happy to let you know how I liked the

Kay2 Oct 17th, 2018 11:56 AM

I am so jealous!
On my trip last year to Brazil, I wanted to visit the Pantanal, but wasn't comfortable with the information I was receiving and was hesitant to strike out into that part of the country on my own without firm plans. I must persuade my husband to return with me so I can get to the Pantanal. Sounds great.

yestravel Oct 18th, 2018 07:10 PM

Sounds like another great adventure.

xyz99 Mar 28th, 2019 06:53 PM

Wow, what an amazing trip! Thanks for all the good info and details. We are hoping for a trip to Brazil (Pantanal, Rio and we'll see what else) in 2020. Now that you mentioned it, maybe REGUA?

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