Dispatches from Brazil… part two

| August 13, 2013

Following on from Mike and Chris Simm’s Dispatches from Brazil – Part One, read about their tailor-made holiday with Cox & Kings to Brazil.

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Manaus for our Amazon cruise
It is probably worth noting at the outset that there was no intention of letting us loaf around – the average day being constituted as follows: 0530 get up, 0600 do something, 0830 breakfast, 0930 do something, 1300 lunch, 1500 or so do something, 1930 dinner, 2130 collapse and fall asleep. Many of the ‘do somethings’ involved prowling the waterways in an outboard-powered canoe in search of wildlife, mostly birds, although we did spend a happy 20 minutes or so feeding bananas to a troupe of spider monkeys and saw the odd river dolphin in the distance. We were in a group led by a German-born guide, who, while possessed of that peculiarly German brand of earnestness, proved a congenial companion. Our canoe also suffered from the presence of an apparently sweet old German lady who, when denied front seats in the boat or a front-row seat to inspect something, had an unnerving tendency to turn into Rosa Klebb from the Bond film From Russia With Love.

We did, however, get to do things on foot on a couple of occasions. We did a jungle walk one morning, in the course of which we had to climb over a pair of fairly hefty bits of wood blocking the path about 2ft 6 inches above the ground. Mindful of the problems of my leg, I approached this task with a degree of caution, planting the right (less flexible) leg firmly on the other side and raising its more flexible partner to bring it over the obstruction to resume my progress. Unfortunately, at this moment the right leg set off of its own accord (possibly aided by somewhat slippery ground) before the trailing leg had gained sufficient height to clear the obstruction. My left leg therefore stopped moving forwards, while the right continued its progress, and a couple of nano-seconds later I found myself face down in the leaf mould. I was helped to my feet by Chris, who heard the crash, and returned wearing an expression combining concern, irritation and resignation, and a pleasant young German lass, who evinced only concern. End result – no harm done, and the expedition continued on its merry way.

Two days later, we rose at the appointed hour to go and inspect some water lilies and were led ashore and along some planking lying twixt water and a tent-cum-shop, at the end of which was a right-angled turn. Noting that the planking was marginally under water at the turn, I trod on it fairly carefully. I am ashamed to admit that at this point the peace and stillness of the Amazonian morning air was irrevocably rent by a stentorian bellow of “Oh b—–ks”, as the planking broke and my leg headed south into the fetid waters, with the other leg trying hard to follow (although somehow I managed to ensure the video camera remained safe!). Chris rushed back to help me, before I disappeared into the murky depths and her leg too went into the water. Somehow, between her and whoever was directly behind me, I was dragged out with one and a half very soggy trouser legs, and exhibiting the true British, never-say-die spirit, I carried on to see the water lilies. Having done so, I feel fairly safe in saying that had Monet come across them, he would not have felt the urge to set up an easel and break out the paints. After all this fun and frivolity, we headed off on a flight or two and paid our third visit to the Brasilia region – to Salvador.

In Salvador, we were accommodated in a former Carmelite convent. Given that our room could have doubled as a basketball court, I can only conclude either that the nuns were over-housed, or that a certain amount of internal restructuring work had taken place. Anyway, a very interesting city with a hefty (80%) African influence and an interesting old town, albeit an annoyingly hilly one.

We stuck our heads into a fascinating church service in which at one moment the priest was droning on in Latin and the next it was all drums, arms waving in the air and rocking to and fro. I was half expecting a ritual sacrifice to break out. I can’t help feeling that this sort of thing would perk up the average C of E service no end! I have been aware for many years that when it comes to matters of fixtures and fittings, the Church of Rome does not do subtle and understated, but the church of San Francisco just about topped the lot – they seem to have slapped gold leaf on absolutely everything that wasn’t actually moving at the time – it’s a dazzling sight! Other than these, we toured the rest of the sights by car and on foot, bought the obligatory souvenir painting (my masterly negotiating skills managed to halve the price!), and took off at 2210 (from one end of the day to the other!) for our final stop in Recife.

We arrived in Recife for a beach break, to get over what had gone before. As we toddled along the passageway, from aircraft to baggage hall, a small child in front of me dropped its doll, which lay on the ground with arm upstretched in a supplicatory manner. For some bizarre reason (not fuelled by strong drink!), I became possessed of the notion that I still had the skills which enabled me, some 45 years ago, to scoop up bouncing rugby balls while moving at speed. I therefore attempted to sweep up the doll with a view to handing it back to its owner. Inevitably, I failed miserably and, having got my torso well ahead of its supporting undercarriage in the process, found myself stumbling past the child at an increasing rate of knots, before crash landing on my cabin baggage. As I got up, assuring a somewhat less than supportive wife and others within earshot that all was well (the only thing damaged was my dignity!), I discovered that the kid had had a fit of the vapours and was yowling its head off – next time it can pick up its doll itself!

We arrived at our hotel at 1am to discover there was no immediate access to food or drink, but thereafter spent a pleasant couple of days lying around in the sun doing nothing whatsoever, before rousing ourselves for the two-legged journey home. This included hanging about for four hours in Rio airport which, it has to be said, lacks the shopping opportunities available at Heathrow (perhaps I should regard this as a benefit – certainly as far as the spouse’s credit card is concerned!)

TAM: this is the internal airline with which we took ten flights and which deserves commendation for punctuality and for not losing our bags during the many transfers. I am however fairly sure that if I go on Mastermind I could take their in-flight catering as my specialist subject. The various options are:

a) rock hard melon and soft papaya, followed by a 2-inch cubed bun containing traces of ham and tomato, and a pink yogurt (which comes in handy for dripping down one’s shirt front!
b) two crackers and a cube of yellow cheese, followed by a cake with a streak of chocolate
c) crackers, orange cheese and the same cake
d) half an ounce of peanuts
e) two biscuits with holes in – all washed down with water, Coke, or Zero Coke – we gourmets sure know how to live!

Right, that’s it, the story of our holiday – hope you haven’t found it too much of a bore (or shoved it in the delete box unread!).

We will see you all at various points later in the year, but for now all the best to you all.

Mike & Chris

View Cox & Kings’ holidays to Brazil.

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