Brazil – My Memoirs

Arriving Manaus

This traveling Sagittarian got her groove on with this latest trip.  Oh how I love to discover, and going to Brazil gave me lots of opportunity to be “out there” in the vast unknown.  Brazil is the 4th largest country in the world, Portuguese is their language and few speak English with the diversity of land, sea, countryside and cities being tremendous. So we choose to make our trip one that was nature centered and not too strenuous on the travel side of things, and we focused on the Northeast section of the country.

GETTING THERE –  We met up in Miami, 4 great friends and travel lovers, and enjoyed an evening in South Beach.  Early the next morning we boarded our plane for Manaus, and then caught our connection to Forteleza.  I love TAM airlines, as they make the trip very comfortable.  After spending the night at a hotel on the beach in Forteleza (the capital city of the state of Ceara) we were picked up by our driver for the 4 hour trip to our destination, Vila Prea.  3 hours on the highway, with a stop at a small roadside buffet for lunch, and another stop to drop the air pressure in our tires for the off road section of the trip we hit the point on the road that was all sand!

So Much Magnificents

THE BEACHES:  We spent our first week on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the area of Jericocoara (Jeri) and the village of Prea.  The first 4 nights we spent at Vila Prea, a lovely secluded spot about 45 minutes outside of Jeri.  Our villa had two bedrooms, a sitting area (my bedroom), and outside bathroom with 3 showers, with hammocks swinging on the front porch and the bathroom.   It was a delightful place to chill, and get our vacation energy flowing.  The food was outstanding, fresh, organic and flavorful.

Each morning I would go for an early morning walk, sometimes up to 3 hours, as I got my “Dora the Explorer” on and would venture out to discover the area.  Early morning was the best time, as the sun was not too hot and the wind was down.  By the time I was returning between 8 and 9, the wind was just starting its climb upward to 30 knot.  Let me tell you when it is blowing that hard the sand can really blast against you.  So the rest of the day was chilling on the beach, protected from the wind, lying in hammocks, or riding the big waves!  WAHOO!

Life close to the equator and south of it is a whole different experience.  I loved watching the arch of the sun travel straight up, the heat of the day build, and the shifting wind change the landscape daily.  The stars at night were mostly foreign to me, as I am not familiar with the southern hemisphere.  I slept two nights outside on one of the hammocks just to take it all in!

We spent the next 3 nights “in town” in a sweet pousada called Pousada do Norte.  A simple place on the outskirts of town near the beach, it gave us a little quiet in this town that likes to party.  All the streets are sand, and there are plenty of shops, restaurants/bars to entertain.  Each night people climb the sand dune for sunset, gathering to enjoy, connect and jump the hill at the end.  We got right into it, leaping off the cliff into the soft sand with glee.

Taking the leap together

We explored the town enjoying meals in a number of restaurants including the local Acai and Tapioca.    Tapioca is made like a tortilla, and then used to make both savory and sweet wraps.  YUM! Shannon and I took a dance class one afternoon which was great fun and in Portuguese, but we got it on!  And then we adventured.

Ready for adventure

Adventures – While in the area we took 2 dune buggy rides exploring the beauty and nature that is this region.  The first ride was from Vila Prea to Tatajuba.  Hold onto your hats ladies, this was a ride to be remembered. We flew across the beach, through Jericocoara and then beyond.  The trip took us along the beaches, up and over sand dunes that varied from a few feet to one that was about 50 ft high.

We stopped for a side adventure on a small river and of course all of this was in Portuguese.  None of us understood much but then we realized we were here to see the seahorses.  What a delightful surprise!  That is the thing about traveling in a country when you don’t speak the language, there are so many opportunities to learn and be surprised.

Then it was back on the “road” and the sea, as we drove up to some water that we needed to forge.  The driver drove onto a raft, and then two men poled us across to the other side.  In the morning it was one thing, as the tide was low, the wind was down, and the waves flat.  On our return with a high tide, outgoing current, and the wind blowing about 25 it was quite a feat!

Hammock anyone?

We eventually found our way to Lago Tatajuba, a fresh water lake with hammocks strung in the water, and food vendors waiting to cook you a fresh fish, or make you a drink.  It was an oasis of heaven and we enjoyed it all, including the ride on a swing that flings you into the lake.

Then it was back over the river and through the woods to our home (no grandmothers on this trip.)

Our second buggy ride was from Jeri and to Lago Paradiso, one of the most beautiful lakes I have been on.  The water is the color of the Caribbean Sea, surrounded by white sandy beaches, palm trees and very little development.  On the way we stopped at Lago Azur, and I was so delighted to get to be on a sailboat as there were two that ferried people over to the “hangout” spot.  Well I wasn’t about to miss out on an opportunity to sail, so instead of sitting on the beach I jumped on the first boat, and went back and forth a few times.  By the third time the driver handed me the tiller and allowed me to sail us back.  Thrilled?  You betcha!

I got a second shot at sailing when we arrived at Lago Paradiso, as our driver saw my great pleasure and asked  a friend to bring his boat around.  Gail and I took a 50 minute sail up the lake taking in the view from the water.  Spectacular!  The boats are a simple wooden boat, with no hardware, just wood and sail.  I loved them.

Amazon –  Our next part of the trip took us back to Forteleza for a night and then to Manaus.  Our overnight in Manaus was on a Sunday when most places are closed.  Not being a fan of cities, I was challenged to find my pleasure, but I did in a park near our home that was renovated a few years ago, and the Opera house.

The Opera house in Manaus was built over a 15 year period in the late 1800, to help Manaus become one of the leading cities in the world.  It is now a world class Opera house, and the site for film and theatre festivals.  We lucked out and there was a festival going on while we were there, so we jumped in and got tickets for a show that night.  It was a musical comedy, all in Portuguese, held in the road on the stage.  We had a blast, laughing at the physical comedy and enjoying the beauty that surrounded us in the marble, chandeliers and magnificence of the theatre.

Hot tubs aboard the Premier

Next morning we were picked up by our driver and brought to the check point for our Amazon cruise.  There we were greeted and told that for the first 3 nights we would be upgraded on the Premier, their luxury boat.  It is bigger than the boat we booked, holding up to 30 rather than 18 people, with more amenities.  Thank you, we said and boarded our new home.

The first leg of our trip was down the Rio Negro (and yes the water looks black), to the Meetings of the Waters.  This is where the Solimoes River meets the Rio Negro to form the Amazon River.  It is an amazing natural phenomenon.

Meeting of the Waters

Because of the difference between the speed, temperature and ph balance of the two rivers when they meet

they do not mix for almost 100 kilometers. It is like looking at black coffee meeting a café con leche.  They swirl around one another like oil and water.

Then we headed up the Solimoes where the river is plentiful with its ph balance, and fast flow nature abounds in and around it.  We were all surprised at how much humanity sits on the side of this river, in the form of farm land and electric light at night.  It is a fertile home to many, as we discovered on our first night excursion.  We sat in large motorized canoes with our guide, who would use a searchlight sporadically to check out for traffic on the water, and wildlife around us.  The reflect eyes of nature would shine back at us announcing a Cayman (the local crocodile), birds or mammals along the water.  We saw plenty!  Then it was off to bed.

Each day was spent with an early morning canoe adventure, breakfast, another outing, lunch and then some rest time.  We would go out again around 4, and sometimes out after dinner.  I loved the sunset tour, as we got to see the light change and the bats come out.  With the ph in the water so balanced it is a great home for mosquitoes, and happily the bats help to keep the population down.

Shannon with her Piranha

We fished one morning, catching lots of piranha.  I caught a catfish, and a trout as well.  Our guide Hugo and one of the passengers got bit as they tried to unhook their piranha.  They have very sharp and plentiful teeth!  We encouraged them to drip some blood into the river to help attract more fish, which seemed to work.

Wednesday was hump day, and we headed back to Manaus to switch boats and directions.  We boarded the Amazon Clipper and were delighted to be on this smaller, more intimate ship.  Our new home was simple, and although the cabins were a bit smaller we all seemed happier to be aboard her.  We hung up the hammocks that Shannon and Jill bought on the top deck and settled in for our adventures up the Rio Negro.  Goodbye mosquitoes as the ph in this river does not allow for as much life to thrive, which excluded mosquito breeding.   YEAH!  We still say plenty of wildlife in the jungle, river and sky including the famous pink and grey dolphin.  They are beautiful but tricky to get a photo of, so I would just sit back and enjoy the show. One morning I stayed back from the fishing expedition, as the dolphins played around our boat for almost 5 hours.  It was sweet.

Amazon Clipper

Our new tour guide was Wayne, a very knowledgeable and humorous local.  He took us out on night ventures, walked through the Amazon jungle sharing knowledge of the vegetation and wildlife, and touring through some villages.

Giant Water Lilies

His years of being a tour and river guide show as he was so comfortable with all of the nationalities on board, and shared many funny stories of his many adventures since being a young man as a canoe driver.

Girls in Jeri

THE PEOPLE – We did a few trips into villages along both rivers.  They are beautiful, hard working, friendly people, who live close to nature and her rhythm.  Along the river the shore changes almost 30 ft, rising during rainy season to the tree tops, and dropping in the dry season to expose 20 – 30 feet of its bottom.  That’s what we saw, with many of the tributary rivers completely dried up or just a trickle.  Adaptability seems to be a strength of these people as they move their homes, and travel the river for their livelihood.  The sense of community was strong in each of the villages we visited, and I loved seeing the children our playing together, with such warmth about them. 

Even in small villages we saw recycling!

So much more to share, but for now I’ll say how happy I am to have had this opportunity to jump into humanity, explore Mother Earth on a new continent and bath in the abundance of Nature!
Oh the places we shall go….

posted on Thursday, November 11th, 2010. follow responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Brazil – My Memoirs”

  1. Cheryl Roby says:

    Beautiful travelogue, thanks for sharing.

  2. Maxine says:

    Nancy, this sounds divine!