Tag Archives: Manaus

Crossing the Atlantic at speed

 

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Flying fish from a flying (along) ship

12 February

 

We must have been seriously delayed as we have now left the Amazon delta having spent a night with little sleep as waves are crashing onto our ship which is now doing nearly 22 knots on our way to Cabo Verde.

A very grey day with the hardy sun bathers at a complete loss as to what to do other than sit out under the clouds.

A talk today on Devil’s Island, a former brutal penal island owned by French Guyana and on Cabo Verde with dinner in the Beach House, it saves dressing up again, and more singing of lesser known, but good, songs from the musicals sung by Gerard Bentall.

 

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Ploughing through the sea

13 February

 

Another sea day and an audience with Captain Box, Oriana holds the Golden Cockerel as the fastest ship in the fleet – we are still doing 22.8 knots (about 27mph) which is pretty amazing for a conventional vessel.

A talk this afternoon on Tenerife and the old capital but a leisurely afternoon watching the flying fish.

We establish that the reason we had to go back into the Amazon for refuelling (bunkering) is that there wasn’t enough fuel to give us down the Amazon at Manaus.

Tonight’s entertainment is from the captivating flautist, the very talented Andrea Amat: so good we bought her CD.

11:30 pm we are informed there is a deep fat frier fire in the forward galley on deck 6 with First aid response required. An unusual request to be broadcast to the whole of the ship at this time of night!

Not that I had had much to drink but try saying “deep fat frier fire” after a few alcoholic drinks!

14 February

 

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Valentine’s day

The final sea day before Cape Verde/Cabo Verde and it’s Valentine’s Day. A rose for Sal, but not from me or, John claims, not from him. Sal has a secret admirer on the ship but two days later he and Deirdre admit it was from them!

 

Still doing 22.5 knots, the ship has a top speed of 24 knots; are we trying to break the transatlantic speed record?

A final talk from Bernard Purrier on the type of dolphins or whales we could see around the migratory islands of Cape Verde and the flying fish which we have seen over the last few days whilst crossing the Atlantic.

As the clocks go forward an hour, we forgoe lunch, buy the first Costa Coffee on board and then listen to Martin P Lee’s talk on the similarities between Hitler and Putin. Scary.

The traditional chocoholics display for tea and I sit next to a guy from Wexford who also does a WordPress blog.

 

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Healiners Theatre Co. (Publicly available picture)

Tonight’s entertainment is the Headliners version of a tribute to Queen in the Pacific Lounge with it’s very poor seating but the ability to be up close and personal with the dancers and singers who, if you were in the front row, would be virtually on your lap.

 

A few older gentlemen were in danger of cardiac arrest with the very tight costumes the dance girls were wearing right in front of them. 40 minutes of energetic dance and singing routine and they make it look so easy.

James Michael Stewart provided the entertainment in the theatre and whilst his songs were good, his voice fantastic, the technical crew once again failed him as some of the videos / pictures were not shown and on at least two occasions he asked them to turn down the Mike or the backing sound, with them ignoring him on one occasion. Poor technical assistance.

Tomorrow, our last “new” country – the Cape Verde Islands (Cabo Verde). We are certainly on our way home now.

 

Parantins

IMG_35758 February

After the last two days in Manaus, we are now in Parintins – the home of the Boi Bumba festival, the 2nd largest festival in Brazil and held annually in June. Two teams, red and blue, fight it out in song dance, parades and costumes to recreate a tribal myth about a bull, two lovers and the bull’s tongue. Only one tour here, to a special showing of a carnival extract and we are not going – by choice.

Having experienced a few carnivals in our time (Jersey Battle of Flowers, New Orleans Parades, Douglas Carnival to name but three) we opted to do our own thing.

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M V Braemar at Parantins

This is a tender “port” and the MV Braemar (Fred Olsen lines) is there as well although leaving at lunchtime.

By co-incidence, my friend, Donald was on the MV Braemar until a few days ago around the Caribbean but sadly he had not ventured up the Amazon.

We get our tender boat tickets, being told that it was a 20 minute wait.

One hour later we board the tender after establishing that one tender overheated and broke down. The river current is fierce and against us as we fight our way across to the dockside in an almighty rain storm, having to clamber over a local wooden boat to reach the dockside on arrival.

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Parantins port

We do manage to get sight of a few pink dolphins as we walk up to the cruise terminal and out onto a street that has about 8 or so stalls selling souvenirs – at least we do now have a souvenir, a small mask which will hopefully get put up on the wall quicker than some of the other souvenirs we have bought recently!

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Parantins church

A walk up to the church and then back past the blue team’s museum and back to the area to get on the tender.

Lots of people waiting and both tenders remain at the boat in the middle of the river for about 45 minutes whilst we stand around in the heat, although we were lucky to get a bit of shade after a while.

Another tender has a problem, vegetation has attached itself to the propellor and we learn later took over an hour to get back to the ship, circling it for some time.

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Local ferry about to help a “transfer” hand

 

Meanwhile, passengers for the Braemar were being tendered back from their viewing of the Boi Bumba by some big local ships which were due to assist us later in the afternoon but were delayed as the Braemar overstayed it’s stop!

The captain is delaying departure tonight as last night, with so much current and our requirement for a fast run, the vibration was so bad, the passengers in the Oriental Restaurant ( those on sittings ) were badly affected with things moving on tables – poor things!

Tonight’s entertainment is the new (he joined in Barbados) South African musical director, Dane Noble-Rosema who is obviously standing in for someone who didn’t turn up.

A very accomplished young piano player who, amongst other things, played some compositions of his own including a couple of interpretations of Norway and one of the Cascade mountains in NE USA.

We must be going home, clocks go forward an hour tonight, we are heading downstream towards our last pot of call on the Amazon, Santarem.

 

 

Manaus, day 2

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An early start for an Amazon experience and although the weather forecast is for thunderstorms, the sky is clear, it is hot and over 90% humidity with a lovely view of the city hall in reflection on a modern building.

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City Hall reflection

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Bridge across the Negros River

Just a small boat for 60 people to start with as we head out to the Negros river turning briefly north towards THE bridge that takes a road another 100 or so miles, to Novo Airao, that is considered by the locals to be a bit of a white elephant – not many people use it.

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Passing a sailing boat motoring towards Manaus

We turn and progress downstream to the water’s meet passing a few more docking areas, the fish market, a few favelas, a few floating petrol stations, a sailing boat under motor and even a local ferry that has an ATM on board!

We did pass a small pod of pink dolphins but they were too quick to be photographed.

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Police stopping a tourist boat

 

We get a good 10 minute delay whilst the vessel gets stopped by the river police who are there to check the ship’s papers, a regular occurrence we are told.

Even the tour guide could be asked to show his authority to be a tour guide.

A couple of other tourist boats overtake us whilst we are stopped but when we get going again, at least one of them gets stopped itself so we manage to get in front of them.

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The meeting of the waters, Amazon and Negros, near Manaus, Brazil.

At the meeting of the waters, we and a couple of other boats swirl about in the brown water from the Amazon and the black water from the River Negros on which Santarem is situated.

The waters don’t mix due to the mismatch of the acidic content of each river until about 70km downstream when the brown water presides.

This is something that can be seen from space – a truly wonder of the world.

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Hope your flood defences are good!

Off down the Solimoes river past a house recently built on stilts that our guide says is in danger of being flooded when the river gets to its peak.

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Floating shop

On to a floating village that looks far better than those we saw in SE Asia a few years ago – it comes with a floating school, a church, a shop with a vending machine – what more could you want?

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Floating church

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Floating school

Back out onto the main river and on to a small restaurant and walkway where we disembark, climb onto the raised walkway for a view of the giant lily pads and howler monkeys.

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Giant Lily pads

The squirrel monkeys were friendly to the extent of trying to get into rucksacks and bags, just like the Gibraltar ones.

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Squirrel monkey

Lunch was provided, a fantastic buffet spread including battered Piranha – glad it was not alive.

The water melon and bananas were plentiful and we then had a short while to view the shop before we got into motorised canoes that held 10 people – we managed a front seat which was a great advantage.

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Water melon for lunch

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Motorised Canoe

We are taken into a nearby lake we were able to see a few birds, Hawks, McCaws, Vultures and Osprey to name a few but no Caiman or pink dolphin.

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Storm clouds gathering

By now the storm clouds had gathered over us and the rains arrived, the wind increased as we made our way back to the restaurant area to return to our boat that was to take us back to the Oriana in Manaus.

Short delay as the wind and rough water prevented our boat from mooring to the restaurant’s quayside and a bit of a choppy crossing back to Manaus.

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Rainbow at the end of the clouds

Even the tour guide thought the weather unusual, the effect of El Niño, as a rainbow started downstream, getting bigger and bolder by the minute; quite strange.

Back to Manaus harbour past a house with three Brazil Nut trees in the garden.

Brazil Nut trees are protected by law from being cut down so in the areas where deforestation has taken place, the odd tree still stands and that is a Brazil Nut tree.

Sadly, these will in due course die as a result of the land around it being eroded as a result of the deforestation.

At the dockside when we disembark our small boat and board Oriana, we are met by about 5 police with motorbikes, all with their engines running and one videoing us returning to the ship. Not sure what all that was about as he was not videoing faces, just our rear profiles! What were they looking for?

Entertainment tonight by the Headliners with their Motown tribute – again another one we had seen before.

 

Sorry to say goodbye to Manaus but as the Montenegrin hairdresser on board had his wallet stolen whilst he was in the city, not a happy place for all on board.

Back downstream to Pantarins tomorrow but a few pictures of a wonderful city to end this post.

Manaus, day 1

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Harry’s birthday and the 65th anniversary of the succession to the throne of HM Queen Elizabeth II – what changes she has seen since 1952!

As we arrive we pass the Favelas that Brazil is (in)famous for, very colourful with some of them seemingly at an angle.

We are late arriving into Manaus due to strong down stream currents so our tour that was originally due to leave at 09:45, gets put back to 10:45 finally gets under way at 11:45 after we eventually dock at about 10:45.

Manaus is a unique city that has grown substantially in the last 20 or so years but has no road access with the rest of Brazil.

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Ferries act as taxis

Transport is by boat and, more recently, by plane. There are hundreds of little ferries at the quaysides of all shapes and sizes but not many with seats, they have hammocks instead.

Our tour is just of the central part of the city and the coach is modern and air conditioned, which is a surprise.

First stop is the markets where we walk through the fruit and vegetable section with virtually every spare bit of floor taken up by stalls of, mostly, bananas.

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Bananas on sale in the market

This is one of the few vegetables grown locally as the soil is not suitable for many crops which are therefore imported from other parts of Brazil. Lots of people doing business here and many bags being carried of fruit.

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Meat for sale

On to the meat and fish market where all meat is exposed to the elements, there being no refrigeration.

Our guide says he would not buy from here, preferring to pay that little bit extra to buy from a supermarket. The market vendors have been offered refrigeration but very few have taken up the Government’s offer.

Before we leave the market we pass the fish section with an enormous amount of freshly caught local fish as well as some imported varieties.

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Piles of fish

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Liverpool (UK) made supports in deepest Brazil

We have a little free time here but nothing is inspiring us to buy although we do come across some interesting ironwork used in the build of the market and of course it’s stained glass window.fullsizeoutput_3756

Boarding our coach we are taken to the Opera House and pass more modern shops including a C & A which used to be a firm UK (clothing) favourite some years ago.

We now depart for our next stop at the Opera House.

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Manaus Opera house

Built by the rubber barons, the inside is magnificent with individual seats, under chair air conditioning and boxes all round with unobstructed views.

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Inside the Opera House

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Ceiling painting in the Opera House

Either he was on a tour and had lost his tour sticker, or he had made it there by himself but Benjamin Makisi was sitting in the auditorium and he didn’t take much persuasion to give an impromptu rendition of Nesson Dorma – wonderful, especially as I managed to videos it. https://youtu.be/OgttgI36TJ0 

This is a magnificent building which the locals are obviously really proud of although our guide did say that not many people go to the concerts that are staged there which is a shame. I suppose this is not all that surprising given the average wages.

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Inside the Opera house

We then leave the Opera House in all it’s splendour and cross the square which at one time had a railway or tram running around part of it and into a small up market souvenir shop but again, nothing really worth buying so it is on to a small museum which shows lots of the Amazonian Indian’s history and culture.

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Amazonian Indian’s history museum

 

A good tour showing some of the sights of Manaus, a city of well over 1million people that has no road contact with the outside world, only plane and water links.

The tour guide’s English was good, self taught we were told.

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Ferry anyone?

We return to the ship with even more local ferries awaiting departure for a conversation by What’s App with Sarah & Harry at Pizza Express in Jersey and then afternoon tea, we missed lunch again, and a brief visit to the cruise terminal with it’s one shop but for John, some internet time.

We manage to What’s App both Flic and Mel as well before dinner and a show by 3 Argentinian guys – Impact – whose dancing and music making with boxes, drums and cords (whips) was amazing and so energetic, the sweat was just rolling off them.

We are overnighting here so it’s Manaus Part 2 tomorrow.

On our way to Brazil

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We have left the Caribbean Sea and are now off down the Atlantic following the South American coast towards the mouth (or should I say mouths as there are several) of the Amazon.

Today is a sea day and the port talk is on our last Brazilian call, Santarem which itself is some 300 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. This is followed by a talk on Police sketching by Melissa Little which was interesting and tonight’s entertainment was by Julie Scott with her Cilla Black tribute and Ben Makisi, the New Zealand tenor we have seen before – same routine but still good.

Weather not brilliant and we are battling a Force 6 or Force 7 all day so lots of people in their rooms being unwell.

(Spoke to a couple today who were supposed to join the cruise at Port Everglades on our first day but of course we had to divert to Port Canaveral.

They had no communication from P &O about the change, they had to find a hotel room for the night and when they finally got on board, the ship had no record of their booking and their pre chosen cabin was not available.)

3 February

Another sea day and a port talk on St Vincent (Cape Verde Islands), another talk on Police sketching by Melissa Little as we head, still in rough seas towards the Amazon. Cloudy today so no sunbathing which is obviously to the anger of many! Start our Malaria tablets, one a day for some time.

We manage to miss the start of the film tonight as the service in the restaurant was somewhat slow so we only have entertainment from Colin (Fingers) Henry; exactly the same routine as before, same old jokes. Missable, although John would disagree.

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Now we are in the Amazon and the brown water of silt with some vegetation slowly meandering down the river. Our last port talk today, on Tenerife, we must be nearing the return journey.

We pass the city that straddles the Equator, Macapa and stop an hour later at lunchtime for port duties, border controls and refuelling. Sal gets bitten out on deck, normally it is me who gets the bites!

Continuing on our way some 4 hours later, we pass close to land and have slowed to 6 knots as we pass over some shallow water, 2 meters deep.

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Customs duties and pilot boarding

Now most of the outdoor doors are shut as we try to keep the insects out.

There are several thousand different species of insects in the Amazon as well as the Caimans, the Pyrannahs and many other species of wildlife all ready to take a chunk out of human flesh given the chance.

Sal, John & Deirdre opt for the crew talent show and 4 Tunes whilst I go to see the film, “Get Back” based on the Liverpool music scene.

It is amazing that so many good musicians, not just the Beatles, have come from Liverpool although I am sure Manx people would object to the phrase near the beginning that Manx people were all miserable. I just get to see the end of the talent show and the crew’s rendition of “If I were not upon the sea” – always a good song.

5 February

A sort of sea day as we cruise up the Amazon towards Manaus.

Morning still reveals a brown river but now with some distant low lying hills behind the initial banks still covered with trees and vegetation.

Lots of logs float by all day with the occasional patch of vegetation but very little rubbish, a complete contrast to our experience on the Mekong river in late 2012.

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Trade up the Amazon

We pass a few settlements and towns which the captain points out to us and lots of little boats and ferries fully laden with people, and some with vehicles and oil tankers being moved to another location by the river.

A few large container ships pass us going out to sea.

By now it is getting extremely humid and walking outside is becoming uncomfortable although some burnt souls are still brave enough to bare skin to the burning sun.

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Cruising up the Amazon

With a river comes insects and this is no exception with moths and butterflies of various sizes settling on outside decks and a few venturing inside, probably not surviving for too long in the cool of the air conditioning.

Spend morning in Crow’s nest watching the river go by and opt, instead of dressing up in dinner jackets (why would you in the middle of the Amazon) have a more basic meal in the Conservatory, surprisingly crowded.

Evening entertainment by Ben Makisi and although we have seen him before, his second concert was a must.

Tomorrow we are in Manaus, 1000 miles up the Amazon – Wow.

Amber Cove – Dominican Republic

IMG_311827 January

Our 2nd “new” country on this trip – the Dominican Republic – and we dock at Amber Cove on the north coast not all that far from the border with Haiti.

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Amber Cove

The cruise area is a new purpose built area with a courtyard of shops, a small duty free area and a swimming area with a zip wire and cabanas.

We have opted for a tour of the nearby town of Puerto Plata, a 20 minute coach ride away whilst John & Deirdre opt for a two centre snorkelling experience although of course John does not get in the water.

Lots of coaches needed for our popular tour with many people with limited walking ability choosing this morning’s tour.

Our coach’s microphone system is not working so our guide resorts to talking loudly which is fine but I am sure his voice will have suffered that evening!

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Parque Indepencia

First stop is in the Parque Indepencia which is being converted to a pedestrian precinct but somehow manages to accommodate coaches up one side to disgorge us tourists.

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Man dressed as a donkey

Our guide tells us all about the history of the island, the split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the religion in the town’s cathedral which is a plain building but with some nice stained glass windows subscribed by some of the families.

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Cathedral Stained glass windows

Back out to the square and after a brief talk on the architecture of some of the surrounding buildings we walk to a small Amber shop where, quite honestly, we did not have enough time to consider purchases.

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Fortaleza San Felipe

Back on the coach we have a brief tour of the coastal area of the town stopping for a couple of photo opportunities of the beach front, Fortaleza San Felipe and the Statue of Neptune on an island just offshore.

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Uncrowded town beach

The shops at the modern cruise terminal are in complete contrast to the shops and houses we have seen on our tour although we did see in the town, the shell of a new Supermarket being built.

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Risque t-shirt but at least the shop had free internet access!

The draw of one shop is obvious, not for it’s somewhat risqué t-shirt but the free internet access the shop provided.

We manage to speak with Flic & Mel but couldn’t get hold of Sarah and couldn’t down load all the emails in time to respond to a few important ones.

A good view of the island as we sail away from the port and our evening entertainment is by a Northern Irish comedian – William Caulfield – most jokes were repeats of what we had heard on previous cruises and even one by someone else on this cruise!

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Leaving Amber Cove

28 January

Half way point and we have a sea day with a difference as we have been away for 4 weeks so have to have another muster station drill during which we learn that Oceana, the ship that used our berth at New Orleans has got stuck there and has broken down with it having to go to Miami for repair. Not sure what happened to the passengers.

Port talks on Manaus and Parintins and a dinner in the Conservatory who are doing a Chinese buffet as it is Chinese New Year.

Evening entertainment by a Ukulele band – Ukebox, five guys from Liverpool who met at Liverpool University – and Ida, a female singing quartet one of whom came from Jersey and who sang some popular songs but also some Opera songs which were probably slightly better.

Tomorrow it is “Death in Paradise”.