Our South American Adventure comes to an End

The adventure in South America began in Buenos Aires in large part to include a visit to the Iquazu Falls and ending some 8,000 nautical miles (9,446 ‘land’ miles) in Miami.  Along the way we stopped in 21 ports of call and explored 5 different countries. 

We also traveled on waters of distinctive coloration.  Southern seas near Uruguay and Argentina were a dark sapphire. As we headed north, port towns like Rio de Janeiro reflected a green tint to the sapphire. As we entered the estuary of the Amazon, bronze brown waters greeted us.  Up river in Parintins, the blog showed you the Meeting of the Waters, forest dark stream flowing alongside earth brown river.

As we continued on north, sunny clear days reflected the true turquoise of the Caribbean. There were highlights and missed opportunities but all in all it was a spectacular adventure and quite enjoyable.

Our last two stops were in Bridgetown, Barbados an St. John’s, Antiqua.  These are clearly resort ports where cruise ships come on a regular basis disgorging 1,000s of tourists along the way and the Ports clearly are focused on this tourist trade.  However, both islands have lovely beaches and some interesting historical links.

Bridgetown is the capital and largest city of Barbados. The present-day location of the city was established by English settlers in 1628. Bridgetown is a major West Indies tourist destination, and the city acts as an important financial, convention center, and cruise ship port of call in the Caribbean region. 

Proof Janeen was in Barbados with our ship in the background

Although the island was totally abandoned or uninhabited when the British arrived, one of the few traces of indigenous pre-existence on the island was a primitive bridge constructed over the Careenage area’s swamp at the center of Bridgetown. It was thought that this bridge was created by a people indigenous to the Caribbean known as the Tainos. 

Proof David was in Antiqua

Bridgetown is the only city outside the present United States that George Washington visited. (George Washington House, the house where he stayed, is included within the boundaries of the Garrison Historic Area.) Two of Washington’s ancestors, Jonathon and Gerrard Hawtaine, were early planters on the island. Their grandmother was Mary Washington of Sulgrave, Northamptonshire, England. In 2011, historic buildings in Bridgetown were designated as a protected area by UNESCO.

GW’s house in Bridgetown. We didn’t actually visit this place.

Our visit to Bridgetown did not include a tour so we just went ashore and checked out the various shops.

The settlement of St. John’s has been the administrative center of Antigua and Barbuda since the islands were first colonized in 1632, and it became the seat of government when the nation achieved independence in 1981.  

 St. John’s is one of the most developed and cosmopolitan municipalities in the Lesser Antilles. The city is famous for its shopping malls as well as boutiques throughout the city, selling designer jewelry and haute-couture clothing.  St. John’s attracts tourists from the resorts on the island and from the cruise ships which dock in its harbor at Heritage Quay and Redcliffe Quay several times a week.

After St. John’s we had 2 full days Cruising the Atlantic Ocean before arriving in Miami.  During the final days there were a number of activities and opportunities to enjoy the ship. 

This concludes the South American Adventure.  Our next scheduled trip is to Europe starting in October.  This will include a cruise in the Eastern Mediterranean, a couple weeks of wandering on our own around Italy, a week-long tour with a Renaissance art historian “In the Footsteps of Michelangelo and Caravaggio” through Florence, Rome and Naples and a Christmas Market River Cruise on the Rhine from Cologne to Basil.  Lots more adventures coming soon!

Line-Crossing Ceremony – Becoming a Shellback

Over the course of our travels along the Amazon, we crossed the Equator 3 times!  This necessitated the initiation of the line-crossing ceremony.

The line-crossing ceremony is an initiation rite that commemorates a person’s first crossing of the Equator.  The tradition may have originated with ceremonies when passing headlands, and become a “folly” sanctioned as a boost to morale, or have been created as a test for seasoned sailors to ensure their new shipmates were capable of handling long, rough voyages. Equator-crossing ceremonies, typically featuring King Neptune, are common in the Navy and are also sometimes carried out for passengers’ entertainment on civilian ocean liners and cruise ships. 

Throughout history, line-crossing ceremonies have sometimes become dangerous hazing rituals. Most modern navies have instituted regulations that prohibit physical attacks on sailors undergoing the line-crossing ceremony.

In the 18th century and earlier, the line-crossing ceremony was quite a brutal event, often involving beating pollywogs (the name for those who have not crossed the equator) with boards and wet ropes and sometimes throwing the victims over the side of the ship, dragging the pollywog through the surf from the stern. In more than one instance, sailors were reported to have been killed while participating in a line-crossing ceremony.

Sammie getting the party started

Baptism on the line, also called equatorial baptism, is an alternative initiation ritual sometimes performed as a ship crosses the Equator, involving water baptism of passengers or crew who have never crossed the Equator before.  The ceremony is sometimes explained as being an initiation into the court of King Neptune.  This was more like the ceremony performed on Marina.

Unfortunately, the line-crossing ceremony could not be performed on the first crossing – the weather just didn’t cooperate.  So, on the return crossing, the party began.  The Cruise Director, Sammie, called the group to order while the band made a tour of the deck.  Once everyone was present, and King Neptune was in place along with his wife, the first pollywog was called forward.  First required to kiss the fish, then have ice dumped over their head they were pushed into the pool!  

Now I admit, I was tempted to follow suit but the crowd was big and getting to the ‘fish’ and getting the ice bath really didn’t seem like what I should be doing.  

When we returned to our cabin we found our certificates!

A couple of days later it was Easter Sunday and the crew had set up some lovely decorations and the Easter Brunch was a wonderful culinary extravaganza.

Sally, Janeen, Jim and David – We all talked about taking an ice bath and jumping into the pool but decided it wasn’t something we really needed to do!

Amazon River – Final ports Parintins and Santarem

Our Amazon River adventure ended with visits to two final port stops –  Parintins and Santarem.  

Parintins is small, with a population of about 115,000 and is located on Tupinambarana Island.   Its primary claim to fame is the Folklore Festiva, a popular event each year in June and depicting Boi-Bumbá.  This is an interactive play which originated in the 18th century. It is a form of social criticism. Lower class Brazilians mock and criticize those of higher social status through a comedic Folklore story told in song and dance. Though not as well known internationally as Carnival and other Brazilian festivals, it is older and deeply rooted in the culture of Brazil.  Unfortunately, we didn’t know about this as there was a performance available on excursions which those who went said was very colorful.  

Parintins, like nearly all other Brazilian municipalities, was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples. Its discovery occurred in 1749 while going down the Amazon River, the explorer José Gonçalves da Fonseca, noticed an island located on the right bank of the big river Amazon. The foundation of the town began in 1796 established by José Pedro Cordovil, who came with his slaves to concentrate on fishing arapaima and agriculture.

While I went ashore, there wasn’t much to see around the cruise terminal area and the visit was quite short as a result.  Santarem, on the other hand, included a shore excursion – Highlights of Santarem.

Santarem, a city and municipality in the western part of the state of Pará and located at the confluence of the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers, was founded by Portuguese colonists in 1661.Before the Portuguese arrived, it was home to the Tapajós Indians, after whom the river was named.  Santarem is the second-most important city in the state and is the financial and economic center of western Pará. It is located some 500 miles from the two largest cities in the Brazilian Amazon: Manaus, upriver and Belém, located downriver at the junction of the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean.  With a population estimated at 305,000 people, Santarém is the third most populous city in the state of Pará. Bordered by both the Amazon and the Tapajós rivers that run in the front of the city, side by side, without mixing. The Amazon’s brown, milky water carries sediment from the Andes in the East, while the Tapajós’s water carries less sediment, is somewhat warmer and has a deep-blue tone. This phenomenon is called “the meeting of the waters” by locals. Until mid 21st century, the town was accessible only by water or air. A boating culture is still very much in evidence.

The first use of rubber was by the indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica. Rubber was used by the Maya and Aztec cultures – in addition to making balls for game, Aztecs used rubber for other purposes, such as making containers and to make textiles waterproof by impregnating them with the latex sap.

Charles Marie de La Condamine is credited with introducing samples of rubber to the Académie Royale des Sciences of France in 1736.  In 1751, he presented a paper by François Fresneau to the Académie (published in 1755) that described many of rubber’s properties. In England, Joseph Priestley, in 1770, observed that a piece of the material was extremely good for rubbing off pencil marks on paper, hence the name “rubber”. It slowly made its way around England. After many years of people fooling around with the rubber tree sap, Charles Goodyear developed vulcanization in 1839 making it much more useable for many products.

South America remained the main source of latex rubber used during much of the 19th century. The rubber trade was heavily controlled by business interests but no laws expressly prohibited the export of seeds or plants. In 1876, Henry Wickham smuggled 70,000 Amazonian rubber tree seeds from Brazil and delivered them to Kew Gardens, England. Only 2,400 of these germinated, however, the seedlings were then sent to Malaysia where they thrived in plantation form – thus breaking the monopoly held by Brazil for the rubber sap.

In addition to rubber trees, Brazil Nut trees, coffee plants there was also this Cashew nut plant.

Our guide showed us how the tree is scored to release the sap and how it is harvested.  The trees will produce the sap for the better part of 35 years or so after which the production greatly falls off.  

The rubber sap being collected

After the rubber tree, our guide explained everything there is to know about the cassava plant whose poisonous roots are used to make manioc flour and, after processing, tapioca and flavoring. Once the plant has been harvested, it is cleaned and ground into small strands.  After all the moisture is squeezed out, the resulting material is dried and separated. One of the final products, from this, is tapioca!

The drying process. Just about ready for use , farina is the primary carbohydrate for baked goods.

The ’nut’ of Brazil, the Brazil Nut was our next highlighted plant.  Brazil nut trees are large tree, reaching 164 feet tall with a trunk 3–7 feet in diameter. It is among the largest of trees in the Amazon rainforest. The fruit of the Brazil nut tree is a large capsule resembling a coconut (4-6 inches in diameter and weighing up to 4.5 pounds) which contains 8–24 wedge-shaped seeds (the “Brazil nuts”) that are 1.5–2 inches long and packed into the capsule like segments of an orange. The fruit takes 14 months to mature after pollination of the flowers. Using a machete, one of the locals broke open one of the nuts and shared the contents.

This stop was quite enjoyable and there was a lot to experience and learn.

Back on the bus, we drove by the Fish Market – held along the bay where locals were getting stocked up for the coming weekend (it was Good Friday after all) but we didn’t actually stop.  

A quick stop was made at the Cathedral of Our Lady Conceicao.  This is a modest church with quite a plain interior ,clean and well maintained and used. We left as a service began.

The final stop was the Old Town Hall Building (the Joao Fona Museum).  The exterior of the museum is a lovely shade of yellow and in good shape. The museum is on the smaller side but has several nice exhibits. It’s a small museum featuring an interesting collection of stone pieces from the Tapajoara culture that flourished locally more than 6000 years ago. This building dates from 1867 and has been a jail, a city hall, and a courthouse.

While the Highlights Tour was enjoyable, the first stop at the Demonstration Farm was clearly the highlight.  

It was only fitting that as we were sailing away and out to the Atlantic Ocean that the rainforest was being refreshed again with a storm.

Manaus – the City that Rubber Built

We have been on a number of river cruises, admittedly in Europe, but this too has been a river cruise – after all, we went 900 miles up the Amazon River!  Going 900 miles was only about half way but the ship really couldn’t go any further.  Along the way we stopped at several ports but this will focus on Manaus – the City that Rubber Built.  It is the heart of the Amazonia and the cultural center of the upper Amazon region and an important river port with floating docks that can accommodate ocean going vessels including cruise ships. Surrounded by jungle, Manaus is the only major city in a 600-mile radius.

The city was founded in 1669 as the Fort of São José do Rio Negro at what is now the point where the Solimões and the Rio Negro rivers join becoming the Amazon River.  The city was formalized in 1848 with the final name of Manaus – named for the indigenous Manaós peoples who originally lived in the area.

Manaus was at the center of the Amazon region’s rubber boom during the late 19th century. For a time, it was “one of the gaudiest cities of the world”.  Historian Robin Furneaux wrote of this period, “No extravagance, however absurd, deterred” the rubber barons. “If one rubber baron bought a vast yacht, another would install a tame lion in his villa, and a third would water his horse on champagne.”   

Therefore, the baron’s idea was to build a theater, not a simple concert hall, but a majestic building that would bring Manaus closer to a European capital like Paris.  To carry out the work, not only professionals such as architects, builders, painters and sculptors were brought from Europe, but also various materials: Carrara marble, Murano chandeliers, pieces of worked iron from England and tiles from France. The construction started in 1881 and was completed in 1886.

During the rubber years, the monied class of the city built a grand opera house, with vast domes and gilded balconies using marble, glass, and crystal, imported from Europe. The construction of a theater became a requirement of that region, as it began to experience unprecedented economic and cultural growth due to the global interest in the sap of rubber trees in the Amazon rainforest. It was an elite theater for the wealthy society rubber had created.  

When the seeds of the rubber tree were smuggled out of the Amazon region and cultivated on plantations in Southeast Asia, Brazil and Peru lost their monopoly on the rubber production. The abrupt end of the rubber boom resulted in many people leaving its major cities, and Manaus fell into poverty and the opera house, called the Teatro Amazonas, was effectively closed for most of the 20th Century.  After a gap of almost 90 years, and a major restoration in 1997, the Opera House was re-opened and has continued to thrive.  Touring  the place, the opulence that was used for the building is apparent on every level.  

Amazon Opera House features a 30,000-piece Lego replica of the Opera House, a gift from LEGO Denmark in 1986 to the former LEGO factory in the City of Manaus, Brazil.  The factory closed, and abandoned. The property was eventually sold to a new owner. The replica was found and donated to the Amazon Opera House Museum.

Manaus is a very large city but as with all large cities there are haves and have nots.  When we wandered around on shore, our first day in port, we walked through a number of small market areas and shops.  There was a surprising range of shops available –craft shops with thousands of handicraft items (beads being a big deal) to shoes, electronics, appliances and other commodities around.  There were also a number of open-air stalls with hand craft items available.

Meeting of the Waters – where the two rivers, Solimões and Rio Negro join, there is a distinct demarcation between the two.  The Rio Negro shows up as a clear black water while the Solimões is a muddy brown.  The flow (current) and the bio ph of the two rivers is distinctly different resulting in a clear separation between them as they flow together.  It takes several miles for them to finally mix – with the muddy brown becoming the characteristic of the Amazon River.  

The month of March is the rainiest month of the year but our trip was blessed with good weather the entire time.  However, with the amount of rain that occurs, both locally and up river, the level of the water rises some 25 to 30 feet!  Homes along the way either are built on stilts or built to float.  Those that are floating use balsa wood logs as their foundation.  These logs, some 3 or 4 feet in diameter will last a very long time – some as long as 50 years.  So, as the water rises so does your house.  An added benefit of having a floating house is that if you don’t like your neighbors you can easily move!

As the area is located along the equator, the temperature doesn’t fluctuate very much.  There are only two seasons – hot and hotter.  

Additionally, there clearly is an abundance of growth – things grow very quickly and become huge.  An example is the giant Lilly Pads we came through along the way.  A surprise was seeing corn growing and to learn it is one of the major exports of the area.  Strange place for sure.

Of course, there was some shopping available after our tour.

Our visit to Manaus was for a couple of days and quite enjoyable.  

The Adventure on the Amazon River

In the middle of the 16th Century, a Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana became the first European to sail the Amazon River travelling most of its length.  Legend has it that he battled 

fierce female warriors “doing as much fighting as ten men”.  He named the river “Amazonas”, after the Greek myth of warrior women.  Our journey along the river will cover almost 900 miles, or about half the full length of this might river.  

A little perspective on the size of the Amazon

Today this is one of the widest and deepest rivers in the world.  In some places, the river is almost 300 feet deep and 50 miles wide.  The River begins as hundreds of tiny streams high in the Andes Mountain.  Some streams start less than 100 hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean but due to the Andes Mountains, they are forced to flow East to the Atlantic.  Tributaries continually merge and form ever larger streams and rivers.

Lots of growth – a biodiversity place for sure

Our journey up the river passes by a handful of small villages and a couple of large cities.  Where there are small settlements, these are usually the result of indigenous peoples who have staked a claim and just not wanted to move away.  The large cities are the result of large tracks of land that have been cleared making it possible to have large buildings and industry.  However, it is critical to note that the River can easily rise over 30 feet in the rainy season thus causing flooding if the areas are not properly constructed.

We stopped in the village of Boca Da Valeria – it has a population of between 75 and 100 and of course we far exceeded the local population by showing up.

Janeen with one of the locals ready for battle

The meeting of two rivers – merging streams the Rio Solimões and the Rio Negro at Manaus is where the Amazon formally begins the journey to the Atlantic Ocean.  

The dark (black) water is the Rio Negro and the brown is the Rio Solimões

Where these two rivers meet, there is a significant color difference between them and this color change is maintained for many miles before the two river flows combine.  This “meeting of the rivers” is a celebrated trip which we will be taking in several days.  

The river is so deep that some large ships travel quite far upriver.  Oceangoing ships regularly visit Manaus, nearly 1,000 miles upstream.  

Manaus – clearly a large city

Our ship will be docked in Manaus for a couple of days along with lots of container ships and other large ocean-going vessels.  A bunch of shallow draft floating hotels can reach as far upriver as Iquitos Peru – another 750 miles or more – which would be an interesting adventure for sure.  

As the Amazon nears the eastern coast, the river becomes a tangled network of tributaries.  Any delta that the Amazon River ever had no longer exists as the currents in the Atlantic keep the outflow moving.  Instead, the river enters the Atlantic in a broad estuary 150 miles wide.  The drainage basin has gradually sloping terrain – the river falls about 2 inches for every mile or so and there are ocean tides that effect the river and its banks very far upstream

The Amazon Rainforest has the highest biodiversity of any region in the world.  New species of plants and animals are continually being discovered.  Rainforest structure consists of various levels – emergent, canopy, understory, shrub and ground layers.  The canopy itself can be more than 100 – 130 feet above the forest floor.  Below the canopy ceiling there are often multiple levels.  

Chart showing the various ‘zones’ within the rainforest.

The lowest part of the canopy may be 5 to 20 feet above the floor.  Walking through a rain forest isn’t a problem – you’re not swinging a machete to clear a path, that would be in a jungle environment.  

The Rainforest is made up of various levels

The Rainforest is mostly clear at ground level and trees are buttressed by massive root system to stabilize it in the soft shallow forest soil.

The Amazon Rainforest is home to at least 427 mammal species, 1,300 bird species, 378 species of reptiles and more than 400 species of amphibians.  The number of insects is not known – way too many to count.  One in 10 known species in the world lives in the Amazon rainforest.  

Our adventure, along the Amazon River, is the better part of a full week with stops at major ports and small villages.  I must give credit to Capt. Tom Anderson for his various enrichment talks during the cruise. Much of the information, and pictures, about the Amazon came from his talks. There is really something to be said about a visit to this part of the world – it really does bring you close to nature 

Oceania Marina – Our home for over a month!

Construction of Marina began in August 2008 in Genoa Italy and was completed and placed in service in January 2011.  Coming in at 66,000 tons carrying 1,250 guests, it is a wonderful place to call home during our month-long voyage.   

Once we got on board, we found our way to our cabin, started to put stuff away and then wandered around to get some feel of the place.    

While wandering around I saw this picture of Mary Hart, from Entertainment Tonight Fame, she is the godmother of Marina.

I’m not sure what the role of a godmother for a ship is, do you?

There is a fitness center (yes, I’ve actually seen it!), a full spa treatment facility (Janeen has already had a mani-pedi) and various pools to relax in.  As yet we haven’t donned our bathing suits, but there is still time for sure.  There is a miniature golf course, shuffle board, paddle tennis, card games, bean bag toss along with various quiz events and scavenger hunt opportunities too.  Needless to say, lots of other things to occupy your time.  In the evenings there is usually some sort of diversion in the Marina Lounge – singers, dancers, magic shows and entertainment.  Yes, there is a casino but can only be open when we are out cruising the South Atlantic (not that I need to go in and lose any money).

One of the first enrichment programs we attended was by Captain Tom Anderson (USN Retired) in the Marina Lounge. He speaks periodically over the cruise.  The basic premise of his presentation was how much the geography of South America has influenced development.  For example, on the west coast, Chile is bounded by the Andes which run north to south and make it virtually impossible to cross west to east between Chile and Argentina.  

Two major Barriers – Andes Mountains and the Amazon River area makes for three distinct areas that cannot be easily connected.

Thus, concentration of development is therefore restricted to the coastline.  Similar geography on the eastern side of the continent exists with mountains which restricted the expansion of various cities.  Rio de Janeiro is a good example.  Restricted on the west by mountains, the city is locked in, making expansion of the city virtually impossible.  These cities, while strong and doing well, are not really interlinked, thus making the transportation of goods and services difficult.  It was an interesting perspective of how South American has not had the kind of development similar to North America.  

Janeen found a line dance class and joined in.

As Oceania makes a big deal about it having “The Finest Cuisine at Sea” there are a variety of culinary opportunities – 4 specialty restaurants along with cooking classes.  Recently we participated in one of the cooking classes – “Pucker Up: Love and Lemons”.  

Joining with 24 fellow passengers we met in the Culinary Center with Chef Leah and began our preparations for a limoncello cake, risotto and escalloped chicken with capers and preserved lemon.  Risotto was prepared in stages teaching us the “secret” of creamy rice which absorbs the added flavorings as it slowly releases the starch crema.  We added lemon zest, preserved lemon (instead of salt) fresh peas and grated parmesan to our final dish. Meanwhile, our scone-like cakes were baking filled with air pockets and crunchy outer layer to absorb the lemon simple syrup later.  

Sou chefs measured the oils into our skillets and presented us with marinated, pre breaded chicken cutlets which we browned (80/20) removed to plate and fried capers to add to the plate before squeezing lemon juice over the meat.  Leah shared limoncello and sparkling wine flutes to drink with our chicken and risotto. The cakes having soaked up the syrup, we were ready to top them with lemon gelato prepared for us by sou chef Michelle. Recipe sheets were given out to make notes on for preparing at home.

On our second night, on the ship, it was Janeen’s birthday and we celebrated at the French specialty Restaurant – Jacques.  

This was a wonderful meal with truly a French character.  At the end of the meal, instead of offering us dessert, the staff arrived with a birthday cake for Janeen and proceeded to sing the Happy Birthday Song!  It was quite a wonderful surprise.

The Grand Dining Room is large with views off the stern of the ship.  

We have eaten there several times and always had attentive service and good food.  They do have a dress code – well, it is really ‘resort casual’,  no sandals for men.  The Terrace Dining Room is a buffet style but with lots of choices and attentive staff.  The do make a point that the guest doesn’t reach for the food, the staff places it on the plate for you.  Another dining option is Waves, located next to the pool on the 12th deck, it offers burgers to order and other taste treats including ice cream and smoothies.  However, the place we go first, in the morning, and back throughout the day, is Baristas.  

This is first a coffee bar and second (later in the day) a drinks bar.  Pablo, who anchors the place, makes really nice lattes and cappuccinos to order.  

Of course, there is a library cozy with chairs to browse with lots of books, a puzzle table. .  Hidden away are various places to sit and read, relax and just take in the day.  At the top of the forward part of the ship is Horizons – with sweeping views ahead and a full-service bar.  It is also the spot for the Captain’s introduction of his team on one of the first nights.

Of course, there are Future Cruise Consultants on board ready to book your next adventure.  Since I already knew I was going to do that, I wandered in to meet with Cecelia to discuss what options there would be.  

Cecelia put together our next Cruise

She put together a nice package and helped us to book our shore excursions too.   We will be back on- board Marina in October for a Mediterranean adventure starting in Malta visiting Montenegro, Croatia, Greece and ending in Rome Italy.  Yes, there will be a blog when this happens.

This makes the 45th picture of Janeen holding a life ring!
Door art for our cabin.

There is lots more to come about the our adventure in South America – we still have another 2 weeks to go!

Rio de Janeiro – Part 1

Founded in 1565 by the Portuguese, Rio de Janeiro was a domain of the Portuguese Empire. In 1763, it became the capital of the State of Brazil, and in 1808, the Portuguese Royal Court moved to Brazil, Rio de Janeiro became the seat of the court of Queen Maria I of Portugal. She subsequently, under the leadership of her son the prince regent John VI of Portugal, raised Brazil to the dignity of a kingdom, within the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil. Rio remained as the capital of the pluricontinental monarchy until 1822, when the Brazilian War of Independence began. Rio de Janeiro   served as the capital of the independent monarchy, the Empire of Brazil, until 1889, and then the capital of a republican Brazil until 1960 when the capital was transferred to Brasília.

Over the years we have all heard about Rio de Janeiro what with the beautiful beaches, the annual Carnival and of course the statue – Christ the Redeemer on the mountaintop.   Our visit was only for a day and we had booked a jeep tour taking us to Tijuca National Park and the Botanical Garden along with a motor trip through the City, past stadiums used for the 2016 Summer Olympics and along the vast beaches.

The Tijuca National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an urban national park in the mountains that ring the city of Rio de Janeiro. The park is part of the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Preserve, and claims to be the world’s largest urban forest covering some 15.28 square miles.  With several beautiful waterfalls and an abundance of birds and other wildlife it was a beautiful spot to visit. The mountain air and the sounds of nature filled Janeen with good chi, she said. 

The views during our visit to the Tijuca National Park were wonderful. It truly was a beautiful day to visit this area of Rio.

We stopped at the Chinese Overlook – so named in order to honor the Chinese who brought the cultivation of tea to Brazil in the nineteenth century.  The gazebo was built in the early 1900’s in an oriental style and is strategically located in a clearing some 1250 feet high above the City.

While we were off “jeeping”, Sally was taking the Sugerloaf Mountain Cable Car.  The Cable Car is said to be the third-oldest cable car and goes to the top of the 1300 feet high mountain.  She took a couple of nice shots for sure.

Sally, taking a short break during her adventure of the day.

Our adventure in Rio was only one day, there is so many beautiful pictures that I will continue our trip on the next blog.  

Rio de Janeiro – Part 2

Once we left the Tijuca National Park we headed towards the Botanical Gardens.  As I may have mentioned in the past, whenever there is a Garden option for a tour, I have to sign us up as Janeen LOVES to visit gardens.  This place did not disappoint.

Founded in the early 1800’s the garden was opened to the public in 1822.  Covering about 350 acres, the park lies at the foot of the Corovado Mountain and contains more than 6,000 different species of tropical and subtropical plants and trees including 900 varieties of palm trees (no, I didn’t count all the ones we saw but we did see a lot of them).  With all the plants, naturally there are a bunch of birds – some 140 species of birds call the place home.  

Our guide seemed to know a lot about virtually everything in the Park and kept picking fruit off the various plants for us to sample.  

Back in the jeep we headed towards the water and drove past some of the most famous beaches in the world.  Sure, everyone has heard of Copacabana and Ipanema but there are several others of note – Joatinga, Barra da Tijuca and Flamengo to name a few.  

Many areas of the beaches are blocked off by the Hotels across the street and have umbrella’s ready for their guests, plus of course services available.  One of the interesting things we saw was the use of watering hoses to keep a pathway cool for walking from the pavement to the water.  

While I don’t normally do this, I would suggest reaching out to his tour company Jeep Tour Brasil should you see yourself in Rio de Janeiro 

Did you know that Rio de Janeiro has the largest number of companies that operate air taxis? Not something I would have thought.
Lovely orchids growing along the way.

Our time in Rio was limited but we packed a lot of sigh seeing into our day for sure. There is a good deal of wealth in the city but an equal amount of poverty too making the contrast between sections of the city very apparent. Given the opportunity we would certainly return to this place for more exploration.

Búzios – A very Lovely Beach Resort Area

Armação dos Búzios (or Búzios) was our stop on day 10 along our adventure.  Búzios is a Brazilian resort set on an ocean peninsula east of Rio de Janeiro. It’s known as an upscale vacation destination with numerous beaches. However, it has a long history going back to 1000 CE when the first indigenous population settled and created a small community.  In the 16thcentury, the first Europeans arrived.  The next several hundred years had fisherman, pirates, African slaves, and various Porgugues, French, English, Spanish making inroads to the area.

Here we are on the pier getting ready for our tour.

Whales were also hunted to extract their oil, which was used both for lighting the city of Rio de Janeiro and for export. The bones of the captured animals were buried on a beach located next to Praia da Armação and has become one of the most famous beaches in Búzios today. Later, the area was used for farming and cattle raising as fishing has been prohibited on this stretch of coast. After prohibition ended, the local economy remained based on fishing and small-scale agriculture for a long period, until the middle of the 20th century when a famous actress, model and activist who started her career as a model, Brigitte Bardot took refuge in Búzios to get away from all the paparazzi who followed her everywhere.  

Búzios was a perfect spot to get away from them and while she had a very enjoyable stay, her presence soon spread around the world and tourism began to become the most important economic activity in the region.

Three Fishermen Statues just offshore of Armação Beach is a perfect tribute to Búzios’ long history as a fishing community. At high tide, the full-size figures are knee deep in water as they tug together on a fishing net.

Today Búzios has a stable population of about 30,000 but during summer the population more than triples.  It’s not easy to get to the area as you have to fly into Rio De Janeiro and transfer to the city. 

 Our ship was anchored off the city so our first views were of the beach areas and lovely city as it moved up the hillside.  Once ashore, we joined our tour group for a bus tour of the area with stops at various pictures spots and lots of information from our guide as we travelled along.

Our home Marina for over a month during our South American Adventure

Santos Brazil

Santos, our port of call on day seven.  As we cruised into the dock, it was very clear this is a port with lots of shipping going on.  There were a number of freight terminals, what appeared to be grain towers and lots of ships waiting to get in and unload. 

Some of the buildings and terminals along the Harbor – plus the skyline in the distance

Founded in 1546 by the Portuguese nobleman Brás Cubas, it is located mostly on the island of São Vicente, which is harbor to both the city of Santos and the city of São Vicente, and partially on the mainland. It has a population is 433,656.  

Before we event started our scheduled adventure, which was after lunch, we decided to go ashore and take the shuttle bus to the Praiamar Mall.  This shopping mall is huge and not unlike any other big mall we have been in over the years.  

Of course, there was a Starbucks and a Calvin Klein, Sleep Doctor, IPlace (really an Apple store) Lacoste, Levis and many more.  Our goal was to find some band aides for Janeen and a computer cable for David.   Without a location map and anyone speaking English it was a challenge but we were able to accomplish both tasks and get back to the Ship for lunch.  

After lunch we walked of the ship, found our way through the dockside throng of people and finally boarded our bus for the afternoon excursion.  Our guide Bianca gave some highlights about the city – seems all the grain silos we could see were for soy beans and a very large refrigerated building was for orange juice!  Santos is one of the largest shipping ports for coffee and there is a long history of coffee production and sales going back several hundred years.  The orange juice just struck me as being strange – large tanker trucks and ships are specifically designed to support the transportation of this juice from inland to the harbor.

Our first stop was to the Coffee Museum.  The Coffee Museum is housed in what used to be the Coffee Stock Exchange, where Brazilian coffee was weighed and traded before being sent through the Santos Port and overseas.  

The museum was Inaugurated in 1998 and quickly became one of the main touristic attractions of the City.  The concept was to preserve and make known the history of coffee in Brazil and in the world. Originally the building was the main auction house for coffee beans that would be shipped around the world.  

Lovely stain glass ceiling above the Auction floor.

The evolution of the coffee culture and the political, economic and cultural development of the country are closely connected to coffee since the second half of the 18th century and up to current time.  Our group of  explored the  building at our leisure and of course had the opportunity to purchase coffee and other items at the end of the tour.

After the Coffee Museum, we walked through the old section of the City – many of the buildings having been abandoned and left to ruin – while others are being restored maintaining the historic fronts and building all new structures inside.  Our next stop was The Pele Museum.

The Museum takes up the entire building but the public area is just the first floor.

One of the most highly regarded football players (soccer) know around the world is Pele.  It seems he has a connection to Santos and said if they (the city) would create a museum in his honor, he would donate all of his vast collection of all things football.  Opened in 2014, the site aims to highlight the success and the memory of the ” king of football.” For this, it exhibits a collection of items that tell Pele’s history.  The museum is filled with photos and various trophies and cups of the football star.  

After our visit to the Pele Museum we went to the botanical gardens which are located in the center of Santos.  This botanical garden covers more than 22 acres and has more than 300 catalogued plant species, divided into 20 botanical collections, such as Amazon and Atlantic Forest, hardwood, 65 species of palm trees and endangered species.  Work on the park began in 1925 in the old Municipal Nursery Gardens, located beside Santa Casa hospital, where City Hall gardeners planted the first seedlings and cuttings. In 1973, this work began to be carried out in the current grounds, in Bom Retiro, which then became the Botanical Gardens in 1994, when it started to offer conservation programs, especially for native Atlantic Forest species.  

Janeen at the entrance to the Garden

Along with the various plants, there were a number of enclosures of various animals. While there were not many orchids in bloom, we did find a couple that were very beautiful.  

On the way back to the ship, we drove by the vast beach area – covering some 3 or 4 miles with various parks and biking paths.   According to the Guinness Book, Santos has the longest beach garden in the world.  It was a beautiful day and there were lots of people enjoying the beach and the various attractions along the way. During the summer season, Santos population increases by thousands because of their beautiful, well maintained beaches.