Our Brazil Trip-October, 2011
link to YouTube video of our slides:


Message 1-Rio

We made it to Rio with no problems. We ended up waiting in the Tampa airport so long because of a delayed flight I think we could have drove to Miami faster than the flight.  The flight south from Miami to Rio was great. Only 8 hours, compared to some of our recent Asia marathons, this seemed fast. They serve a meal during the first 2 hours, then they dim the lights, we take a sleeping pill and wake up just an hour or so out from Rio for an early morning landing. It is only 1 hour ahead of eastern time so we did not have any jet lag!
We are staying on the beach along Copacabana, We have been to many of the great cities of the world but the geography make Rio one of the most stunning places we have been to. Incredible 1,000 foot rock formations towering all over the place. One morning was a national holiday and the Blvd along the beach was closed to traffic. We were able to rent some bikes and ride all the way along the boardwalk to Ipanema Beach.
I suppose this area of the city is much like Miami Beach except for the mountains guarding the city, skimpier bathing suits and it seems like everyone is about 20 years old.
This city feels very European to me. It has been settled since the 1500´s. Not many of very old building remain but lots of 100 year old structures. The beach area is very well done. So far, everything feels safe but we are pretty much staying in main tourist areas.
We have visited Corcovado , the mountain with the Christ Statue and Sugar Loaf, the mountain peak you see at the end of the Copa area.
You can really see the effects of the devalued dollar. Things are NOT cheap from our perspective. The Brazilian economy has been growing and the middle class seems large. Even the property values in the favelas are running over $150,000 for a house. Most of the tourists seems to be local and they are spending LOTS of money.
Our guides have told us that when the early Portuguese explorers first sailed into the Bay, they thought it was the mouth of a river so the named it Rio (river) Janeiro (January for when they arrived). In reality, what they discovered was just an enormous Bay like Tampa Bay. The Copa and Ipanema areas face the Atlantic so they get lots of waves and many people are out surfing.
We are told you can drink the water and even eat food from street vendors. So far no problems! People look mostly light skinned like Europeans even though I imagine most locals that we see, their families have been in the area for hundreds of years.
Portuguese has not been an easy language for us to remember but when I speak some bad Spanish most people seem to get what I want.

Tomorrow we fly through Sao Paulo to the Pantanal, an Everglades like area the size of the state of Florida. Supposed to be a great place to see wildlife, etc.


Message 2

Hi from the Pantanal

It has been a challenge finding an internet connection in the jungle!
We have just finished a stay in the Pantanal. It is the worlds largest wetland, 20 times larger than the Everglades. To fly here, we went through Sau Paulo, at 17 million, S Americas largest city. We eventually ended up in a frontier town, Cuiaba. Then traveled on increasingly bad road about 3 hours to a resort in the heart of the Pantanal. Only a few other guests, none from the US but English is the common language. Our guides are amazing. They can identify some small bird as it zips across the sky or just hear a sound and know what it is. We have seem 100's of birds new to us. Some of the highlights are the macaws, toucans,several species of owl, many types of hawks and LOTS of small colorful birds.  This time of year it is considered the end of the dry season so the animals are more concentrated around the water. In a few months, the entire area around where we are staying will be under about 2 feet of water. Many animals wander around our lodge; capybara are everywhere as well as 100's of caiman. The sound the male gators make, aS IT is mating season, is

impressive. We did an evening hike and saw three types of monkeys and an anteater as well as a tapir, coati and agouti.
As we have passed through villages it is clear that Brazil has a large middle class. Poverty is not nearly as evident as when you travel through Mexico. Brazilian people are mostly a blend of European mix, with african slaves brought in 200 years ago. Now, there are others coming in from other S American countries as it is a prosperous country..
In general it is kind of like like Wobegon around here, everyone is young and beautiful. The other travelers we meet are almost all from Europe a few from Great Britain so not lots of English except for the fact that the rest of the world all speak several languages. Our guides speak good English and have been very knowledgeable.
From the Pantanal we flew to Brasilia and then connected to Manaus.
Now we are in the heart of the Amazon.


Message 3-along the Amazon


Hi Again
Can you name the 2 countries that Brazil does not touch in S America?
Brazil is a country that works. When we flew from Cuiaba to Brasilia, our plane was late and we missed our connection to Manaus. A ticket agent was waiting at the gate with new tickets with our name on it, with another airline to get us to Manaus. Then there was a major thunderstorm and the mANAUS flight was 2 hours late but we haD an emergency number to call in Rio to let them know we would be late and when we finally got to Manaus at 2 am--our driver was waiting!! luckily as I was too tired to deal with anything at that point.
We stayed at the Tropical Manaus, which is the type of old style classic hotel in the jungle that presidents and kings stayed at 100 years ago. . Manaus is where the white and black rivers of the amazon join to form the main Amazon River. We travelled 3 hours upstream on the Rio Negro to the Anivilhanus Jungle Lodge. The Rio Negro is almost black with tannic acid so NO mosquitoes.. Our lodge is amazing for being in the jungle. Good food, clean water and satellite TV as well as internet sometimes.
As before, almost all the guests, only 20 rooms, are europeans, mostly Germans. But, the guides speak english.
Our guide Landro is an indigenous indian from the northern part of Brazil.. Hiking with him through the rain forest is a wonderful education. On a night game run we got to see four sloths and several boas in the tress. and today we fed the amazon pink dolphins and later today we fish for piranhas.. I dont think I really want to catch any!
Tomorrow we return to Manaus for another flight to Salvador, our last destination in Brazil.
The small villages we have visited in the forest and the Pantanal all have electricity and schools. People seem to be somewhat middle class and have the basics, tv and transportation. There are few indians remaining. Most people are a mix of european, indian and african.
I have been able to get many great pictures of wetlands, tropical rain forest, big birds, little birds, sloths, cuoti, agouiti, tapir, capybara, brazilian raccoons, marsh deer, boas and many caimans.
Some stray factoids:
Brazil has about 200 million people and is the largest catholic country in the world. It composes about 50 percent of all of S america. and is almost entirely in the tropics. We are now about 150 miles south of the equator. The economy seems to be doing very well.
From 1500 to 1822, it was a colony of Portugal. After independence the economy is feed by sugar cane, gold, coffee, oil and tourism..
It has 2 seasons-summer is the rainy season from Nov to April. Then the dry winter season. Both in the Amazon and the Pantanal the region chANGES dramatically with the season as water levels can change by 40 feet or more.
Answer===Chile and Ecuador.

Message 4

Again we were impressed with Tam Air. We had a very long day with a 3 hour wait on our way from Manaus to Salvadore not getting in until midnight but when we checked in they said we can get on an earlier flight, direct to SALVADORE THAT GETS IN 3 HOURS EARLIER. we had not even asked, great service.
Salvadore is on a huge bay and is the 3rd largest city in brazil.
we are staying the the old historic section of Salvadore, Pelourinho. AMERIGO VESPUCI sailed into the bay in 1501 and claimed the area for PORTUGAL. sugar cane was the cash crop and it was the capital until the mid 1800´s when they moved it to RIO THEN IN 1960´S THEY BUILT Brasilia and moved the capital there to encourage people to move inland. Most of the population is centered around the coast.
SALVADORE was the slave center and they imported 5 million african slaves to work the fields here until the mid 1800´s. Now it is the center of Afro-Brazilian culture. Music and art are central to the preserved area. The whole feel for the area is wonderful. Very alive, lots of things happening in the streets all the time. LAst night we went to a music-dance performance that was very original. In the streets the young men practice copoeira, which is a mix of martial arts and dance, I am sure it is where american break dancing started.The historic area is well preserved filled with buildings from the 1600-1700´s, of couse the most elaborate structures are the many churches. In fact one church, inside is covered in lots of gold leaf.
There is a heavy military police presence in the tourist area. So it feels safe. It seems like they are getting street crime under control. 
Our guide Carlos is very educated and speaks great english. He has filled me in alot about Brazil life. They now have a large middle class, which equates to about $35,000 per year. Bank savings interest is 1.5% and you can get a home mortgage but most people save and put 70% down when they buy a house. They have had many up/down cycles but are now in a good up economic cycle and the democratic government has been stable for awhile. He complained that the current govt is giving too much to poor people that they cannot afford.
They have federal taxes that vary with income brackets. They also have a social security system similar to ours. EVERYONE must buy medical insurance. Some jobs include some of the cost as a benefit.  
Today we will just wander around town, maybe take a short boat trip in the bay and then tomorrow we start the long trip back north to Florida and get back early tuesday!

Final Message 


We had a great time learning about and touring in Brazil. We covered LOTS of ground around Rio, flying through Sao Paulo, Cuiaba and the Pantanal, through Brasilia several times,  Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon region and finally Salvador. We were surprised to learn how long Brazil has been settled, since the 1500's with a rich and relatively stable culture. In the last 50 years they have gone through some dark times in getting past a military dictatorship and economic turmoil, but now they seem to have a stable, left of center, democracy. The economy is creating lots of middle class opportunities and there is a big emphasis on preserving their environment. They understand the importance of the natural resources found in Brazil. AND they are getting control of street crime.

The people are really a melting pot of local indian, European and African mixes. But as is found in other S American countries, it seems like the rich, the famous and the leaders are more European looking. 

We would go back to all of the places we visited!  In fact, sometime in the future, I can see us returning to the Pantanal and the Amazon during flood season, (mid Feb) to see how different it is compared to the dry season that we experienced.

Since the dollar is worth next to nothing these days  Brazil is expensive but not outrageous like Europe can be. We meet many young European couples on vacation. As they all know some English, we enjoyed their company even if we felt more like their parents at times.  

I think we have identified almost all of the birds we have seen and most of the insect bites have healed.

Walking through the dense jungle can be an adventure in removing ticks afterwards! But, until we see any gross worms wiggling out of our bodies, we are healthy and ready for more adventures.
 I miss hearing the racket that the chaco chachalacas make in the morning at 5am! And yes, in Ipanema they really do go "Ah!............"

Our podcast this month is combined Oct and Nov--a sampler of what we saw in Brazil.

The Video link to YouTube is:

Until our next trip-----PEACE!!!!!!!!!!!