Sad to be leaving Brazil after what has been a fab and varied visit. Our last port of call was a place on the Amazon called Parintins which is famous for its boi Bumba dancing – a mix of Afro caribbean and Brazilian exuberance. The cast were fantastic and I loved every minute.
I even found a tiny bit of street art (that reminded me of Vhils from Lisbon) and the pedal bikes here are used as they only have three actual 4 wheel taxis in the town.
Back on board we finally had our “official” and fun event for polliwogs (those who hadn’t crossed the equator by sea before) and once you have “kissed the fish” (kind of like becoming a Newfoundlander) and you’ve been dunked into the pool you become a shellback!
The equator crossing that evening was the 3rd time we’d crossed on this cruise. Here’s the jump from the southern to northern hemisphere recorded for posterity.
And today – as we head back into the Atlantic we celebrated with caviar served by the officers in the pool. (Normally in the surf but obviously there’s none of that here!)
I spent a few days in and around Manaus – which is actually on the Rio Negro which is a very wide offshoot of the Amazon. Something about the ph level of this river makes it highly acid and all I understand about that is they don’t seem to have any mosquitos – and that’s a great thing.
Manaus is a bit of a tired city but with a few old (and to be honest a bit crumbly) buildings. These are the best ones.
In it’s heyday it was a super luxurious place as the rubber barons made a lot of money thanks to lots of rubber trees and slave labour and Mr Goodyear who figured out how to process it. That was all great for the city’s fortunes (if not the slaves) until the Brits came and took the seedlings away so they could propagate them in Malaysia and Indonesia and that was the beginning of the end for Manaus.
It has a main town square (with wave style flooring very reminiscent of Lisbon squares) as well as the fish and handicraft market.
The market also sells a lot of “natural viagra” potions and pills and certainly I saw a lot of people carrying back small packets after visiting there (!) but they all swore they were fresh Brazil nuts!
This part of Brazil is known for its pink dolphins. We headed out 90 minutes down the Rio Negro – first to visit a very small indigenous village – 27 people now but was once part of a rubber plantation – hence the example of tapping the rubber tree below. Also they make hammocks – everyone in Brazil has at least two hammocks and they travel with them everywhere – have hammock will travel!
And then we went to see the so-called friendly pink dolphins. Very pretty but not so friendly in the end – one swung round at me (I think he thought I wanted his fish?!?) and whacked me on the forehead above my right eye. You can see me holding my head just after it happened. I think I will stay on land in future:)
A much safer way to see the dolphins – the pretend ones!
Day 1 – bump on forehead.
Day 2-bruises on eyelid too.
Now at purple colour stage and bored of this look!
The very rich rubber barons liked showing off so they thought it would be a fab idea to build an opera house in Manaus – in those days this was truly the middle of the jungle – and even now it must be one of the remotest opera houses anywhere in the world.
Most of the materials were designed and imported from Europe and it is based on the typical design of the time except for the unusual ceramic dome – just to be a bit different
The interior holds 701 people (because the governor’s box held 15)
Note the TA in wrought iron in the windows and the Carrara marble.
…and the ceiling is pretty cool. Not only 4 paintings to do with the arts but if you look at it from below you can see it replicates the base of the Eiffel Tower which the painter has seen partially completed in Paris. Hopefully you can see this below
Upstairs there was a reception room for the extra rich with more beautiful painted ceilings to admire.
I got to see an excellent jazz show there in the evening so we saw the place lit up in all its glory. It was nice that a lot for the locals came to see the show (I think the got free tickets) as well as those of us from the cruise.
Here’s a short video of the jazz guys in action.
Great night out.
Now we are well into the Amazon. It is very peaceful drifting along this massive river (at some points 80 miles wide!) and then into a narrower channel to reach Micah Lake. Waters are very high now and they are expecting floods soon.
And at some points it is very clear to spot where the river Amazon (brown) and river Tapajao (clear) meet. It can take six hours to cross the river by boat – it’s that wide. Makes the Thames or Yarra look like a tiny stream. No bugs either – we’ve been so lucky with the weather.
And we tried our hand at piranha fishing. I didn’t catch any but others did – results below. As my friends have remarked – no dangling hands in the water here ….
As we continue to head up the North East coast of Brazil en-route to the Amazon, we made a stop at Natal.
Another pleasant small city with squares and colonial buildings.
We then headed off to a school for street kids of all ages where they are learning capoeira. For the un-ititiated, this is a combo of dance and martial arts which came out of the black slavery that existed in the 19th century where the slaves pretended to the farmers that what is mostly a dangerous martial art that can kill was just a harmless dance!! Some pics below and a couple of video clips.
As we sailed out of Natal, a lot of the local boats and bars started playing music and waving at us – fun and a gorgeous warm evening.
I am now in the north eastern part of Brazil which has a different feel to it. Still big cities but more friendly and laid back than in the South (at least that’s my impression).
Olinda is about 5km from downtown Recife and provides nice views from the main (and somewhat dilapidated) church over the City of Recife
Olinda is another town full of colourful buildings that I never get tired of seeing. And they like their mosaics too!
Below is a typical handicraft area from this part of Brazil. Lots of colour, African influences art, wooden carvings and a lot of cheesecloth?!
Then back down in Recife we recommenced our Jewish heritage tour visiting what has now been proven as the first ever synagogue in the Americas. A lot of Sephardic Jews left Portugal and came to Brazil after the Inquisition but had to live as Jews in secret for many years. They had a brief respite when the Dutch came into power and were allowed to worship freely but then the Portuguese returned and they went back into hiding.
This synagogue was only discovered in the 90s and was first thought to just be an old building but further excavations allowed them to find the Mikvah ( under glass below) which means it now attracts scholars from all over the world to see it. It has been well preserved. Also interested to see the original steer name and the current street name both being displayed.
The photo below was one in the museum area above the synagogue – and also there is one of my Dad. I thought this chap could have been related to our family as he looks like my Dad and my uncles! What do the Babani’s think?
Finally we visited the main square and the official centre of town and then the museum that houses a lot of the papier mache figures used at carnival time – quite the collection!!
I especially like the combo of Batman Mao and me – what a motley crew!
A stop in the small seaside of town of Armação dos Búzios involved a boat ride on a local schooner with various stops for those who wanted a swim (not me). It was the town that Brigitte Bardot made famous in the 60s when she stayed there with her Brazilian boyfriend to escape the paparazzi in Rio.
It was formal night on the cruise that evening so we all glammed up a bit for a yum meal at the Keller Grill on board. All very tasty as usual.
Next stop, the UNESCO protected and former Brazilian capital of Salvador de Bahia – as we head north on the Brazilian coast it becomes more humid and there is also more African influence in the cities with a touch of Christianity and voodoo. It is a place that everyone told us was quite dangerous but we had a good time wandering about having first ridden up the elevator to get to the upper old town and of course there were loads of tourist police about so that helped:).
The colonial houses are wonderful pastel colours and we got a sunny day rather than the predicted rain so that made me happy.