I recently came back from a trip to Brazil, the land of ‘Order of Progress’.
My first stop was in Salvador, which was a very large city. It reminded me a lot of home, with similar big box stores. The hotel, however was very interesting. I stayed at the Hotel Convento do Carmo located in the Pousadas de Portugal, a chain of luxury, traditional and historical hotels. It was an old convent that had been repurposed into a hotel. The building itself was very impressive, similar to the Monastery in Cusco. I was very taken by the colonial area surrounding the hotel. I enjoyed a drum school practicing in the main square which I found to be extremely impressive.
From Salvador, I boarded the National Geographic Explorer Cruise Ship where I would spend the next sixteen nights venturing Brazil. The ship had a limited number of passengers leaving the client to staff ratio one to one making the experience better than I anticipated. All of the cruise staff was friendly and helpful, they greeted everyone when passing in the corridors and used your first name if they were aware of it. I especially appreciated the dining staff. The chef was a Swedish woman who did a wonderful job prepping all of the meals. The ship also had excellent naturalist staff on board. There were experts in photography, bird watching, South American history and politics, music, oceanography and much more. The cruise was featuring programs on music and bird watching, I chose to participate in the music program which was really well done and very interesting. They had local musicians from each port area play on the ship. Brazilians are really into music, and they were all great performers.
We visited a cacao plantation. Cacao is the tree that produces seeds. These seeds are used to create delicious chocolate. These plantations are quite common in Central and South America. I really enjoyed the nature walk that took place throughout the plantation and all the knowledge our guide had to share regarding the cacao plants. That evening, we had a performance by Sertao, a musician group from the NE area of Brazil, a fabulous end to the evening.
Ilhas Abrolhos, Brazil
Here we saw the whale migration. There were Humpback whales surrounding the ship. The whales follow almost the same path through the Atlantic every year. In the summer month, they migrate to the north for cooler waters so they can feed. They migrate back to the south during the winter months to mate in more tropical waters. When migrating, they stay close to the shore, making them a huge attraction for tourists. I saw a graph of past migrations and they were all very close. We did not see whales on any other day of the voyage because we were not in the path the whales use.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is the city I spent my birthday, known as the Carnival capital of the world. Very cool and very chaotic city but it was a lot of fun. Every year, this community hosts the largest carnival that brings over 10,000,000 people in from all parts of the world to enjoy one of the most interesting artistic events in the world. I was fortunate enough to visit the place where they build the carnival floats.