"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, February 24, 2024

The 2023 Brazil Journals, Chapter Thirty-four

(I did not take any photos during this part of the trip home, so I will post some of my favorites taken earlier.   To view them best, click on one and scroll on through.)  

Chapter Thirty-Four

Above and Beyond


Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.

—James Thurber



After landing in Sao Paulo, Octavio and Larissa gather us up like the lost ducklings we are and start explaining what we do now.   Normally, this is the point where the guides have completed their obligations.


We are at the domestic airport.   Shelly leaves to catch the hotel shuttle as she is staying one more night.  I envy her;  I wish I’d thought to do that.   A good night’s rest in a bed would be welcome.   Instead, I will spend the night crammed into an airplane seat in steerage.


Octavio points down the sidewalk and tells us that is where we can catch the bus to the international terminal.   One look at our faces and he decides to lead the way.


He guides us to the bus stand for the  terminal.   The bus is full.   He motions us back, and at Larissa’s prompting, goes to a kiosk and purchases taxi coupons for us all.   You don’t pay the driver!


We pile, literally, into two cabs with all our gear.   It is not close but eventually we get there.


The terminal is crowded.  Still, he can’t get free of us.   


Inside, Laura Jane goes off to her airline counter and Octavio leads Virginia and me through crushing crowds to the American Airlines booth. It is not behind a counter where the agents are relatively separated from passengers, but something like a make-shift booth where the agents are surrounded by people and ropes and luggage.


There is some kind of kerfuffle checking us in and it goes on for some time.  Everyone is speaking Portuguese.   I am standing back a ways, staying out of it, but eventually we get our boarding passes and hand over our luggage.  From there, we go through security and passport control, leaving Octavio and Larissa with many hugs and thanks yous for getting us through this confusing airport.


We make our way to Gate 19 and find seats.   By this time, we are getting hungry.   There’s a sandwich shop right in front of where we’re sitting but when I ask, any order would take a half hour.   The other close-by shops are also mobbed.


We sit, people-watching.


Someone walks past with ice cream or gelato and Virginia goes to the kiosk and buys two large gelato for us.



We sit.   Virginia looks at her phone and sees that our gate has been changed from 19 to 42!!!   No PA announcement, just a message on her phone app.   I would never have thought to look at my phone.  I might have thought to check the reader board, but I didn’t see one around.


 I feel more out of the modern world than ever.


For the past few years, I have requested wheelchair service in airports.  In addition to saving my knees and back from walking on concrete, wheelchair service does two more very-appreciated things:  1)  gets me to the correct place, and 2) I don’t have to worry about not hearing and interpreting PA announcements.


I decide to walk the long distance to the gate, rather than wait for a wheelchair.   I am not happy, but Virginia is right there as my shepherd.


Eventually, we board the plane and from then on, I have no recollection of anything until I land in Seattle.


Somewhere, somehow, I landed at Dallas-Ft. Worth and changed planes.   Somehow, somewhere, I acquired two sandwiches for later consumption.



I don't even know what it is.   And why would it be in a shopping bag?





Friday, February 16, 2024

The 2023 Brazil Journals, Chapter Thirty-three

 (To view photos at their best, click on one to bring up a film strip that you can scroll through.)

Chapter Thirty-three

Calm before the Chaos


No man needs a vacation more than 

the man who just had one. —Elbert Hubbard 




And the day has come.   It’s the end of the tour of the Brazilian Pantanal  but we have yet to survive the bedlam of international air travel.


Right now, it’s time to say goodbye to Lala, the blue and gold macaw that has adopted Araras Eco Lodge as her home.   I am late getting up, somehow missing the message that a special breakfast would be served in the outdoor pavilion, but I manage to scrounge enough to eat from the serving plates as staff is clearing tables and such.


I even find a piece of papaya for Lala and off I go to her favorite place in front of the lodge.

A couple videos:

Octavio has been busy watching his phone for updates on our flight from Cuiaba to Sao Paulo, hoping that it will be early enough that three of us won’t miss our flights home.   For now, it appears all is well and we load up into the van and begin the couple hour drive on the Transpantaneria highway.


Not far out of camp we stop to take photos of an amazing bird.

This is potoo, a bird whose coloring disguises it like a tree trunk or branch. 



A little farther along, we stop to see a huge number of caimans sunning themselves on the shore of a small amount of water.   How do so many find enough to eat?



At length, we reach the end (or beginning) of the Transpantanaria highway and stop for the obligatory class photo.

We have enough time in Cuiaba before our flight that Octavio and Larissa decide to treat up to lunch at a popular Brazilian restaurant.   In the US, there’s a chain called Carnivores that is fashioned after this type of restaurant.


Servers make the round of the table, slicing off servings of whatever meat they have on skewers.


And, finally, I find beef that’s cooked less than well or medium.  It isn’t quite rare, which is my preference, but it’s tasty and tender.

Red or green indicates whether or not you want more meat.

Delicious beef and yes, beans and rice from an extensive buffet.

Here, the server has sausages on the skewers.

Cinnamon pineapple.

Our guides escort us through the Cuiaba air terminal and make sure we’re on the right flight to Sao Paulo.   We settle in and relax.


And, we’re served snacks.   Yes, all three.

We land at the domestic terminal in Sao Paulo.


And the chaos commences!!!

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The 2023 Brazil Journals, Chapter Thirty-Two

(To see these photos at their best, click on one.   That will bring up a film strip that you can easily scroll through.)

Chapter Thirty-Two

The No-Go Area



Where words are restrained,

the eyes often talk a great deal.

—Samuel Underwood




The scant light from the kitchen windows and work area at the rear of Araras lodge provide just enough illumination as we follow Octavio to the wooden rail fence that separates the guest areas from the NO GO area.  

The light fades away as we reach the rail.  He turns on the broad-beam light that he uses to spotlight animals for night photography, aims it downward into the dark, and moves it slowly to the left.

This is a lousy cell phone photo taken at night obviously.   I haven't figured out how 
to turn off the phone's light to take a night picture.   Plus, the white reflections represent only a small portion of the eyes we saw.


The white reflections of dozens of caimans’ eyes are startling to behold!   How can so many occupy one pond.  I’m not sure if it is really a pond, or a backwater of the nearby river.   Whatever, there are far too many caimans there for my comfort.


I think about sleeping just yards away from them and am a little unsettled by the thought.   I’m glad I’m on the opposite side of the room wing.  Good reason to not go out of the room at night.


I sleep in the next morning, having missed the notice that we would gather in an outdoor pavilion for a special breakfast.   Nonetheless, I am able to gather up enough food from the trays as the staff clears the area.


Then, I grab my camera and head for the pond we visited last night, the one with all the critters.   I am in search of a specific bird—the sunbittern.


I walk up to the rail and am a bit disappointed about a fog lying over the water, although I do take a shot of a caiman that I like.

Black-collared hawk


We are leaving this morning as it’s our last day of the trip, so I am limited in time to find that bird.

Your friendly, smiling caiman


Before  the mist evaporates,  I am astounded at the number of white storks!

The stork tree


I take a few shots of them, as well as some other birds, and then I see a bird fly across the water toward me and land about ten yards away.  It’s my prey:   a non-descript and subdued-colored bird with a narrow head and long legs that’s foraging in the mud on the shore.   Which is surprising because caimans are one of its main predators.


I take some shots and wait for it to fly.


When it does, magic happens!  



The pattern on the wings and back is astonishing.  From nondescript to incredible with the opening of the wings.


That pattern has a practical use.   It will appear to any predator as a large and threatening  face, with large eyes much like some moths and butterflies have coloration on their spread wings to mimic large eyes and scare off predators.



At length, it’s time to load up the van and begin a two to three hour drive in the Transpantanaria Highway to the border of the Pantanal.   We have an aealy afternoon flight from Cuiaba to Sao Paulo where my my flight homeward is scheduled for late tonight.


I think about what a great trip this has been and I am reluctant to leave.


But, if I thought the adventures were over, I was highly mistaken!!!





Rufous hornero

Monk parakeets

Monk parakeets

Wattled jacana juvenile

Wattled jacana adult

Green ibis

Plumbeous heron