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

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

Jan 6th, 2010, 02:27 PM
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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.
Susan7 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2010, 08:00 PM
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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!
Susan7 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 06:25 AM
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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...
Marija is online now  
Jan 7th, 2010, 01:37 PM
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I'm an optimist so I hope the typical one is your experience!
Susan7 is offline  
Jan 7th, 2010, 04:09 PM
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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!!
Susan7 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 02:47 PM
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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:


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!
Susan7 is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 08:18 PM
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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.
Carrabella is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 09:34 PM
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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.
Susan7 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2010, 07:08 AM
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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.
K_brklyn is offline  
Jan 17th, 2010, 03:23 PM
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Thanks K! I see there's now a Time Out guide to Sao Paulo (October 2009), that could be a good one, their guide book to Buenos Aires was excellent.
Susan7 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2011, 08:24 AM
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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!
Elizabeth_S is offline  
Aug 11th, 2011, 05:42 AM
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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.
Susan7 is offline  
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