On the last day of sightseeing in Rio we went to the historical area called Centro, this old part of the city was remarkable as it appeared in some streets, to be locked into the 1920’s and had a total retro feel. Little cafes had waiters kitted out in crisp white jackets and polished black shoes, who bustled around serving their customers. We saw unique black printed photos, hanging on the walls of shops and restaurant countertops with original Birdseye maple wood gleaming. We wandered around looking at the old buildings and churches, but at one point we both agreed that everything seemed hazy and dusty. It was only when we turned on to the main street did we see all the television networks and media crowds. It seems that three buildings had unbelievably collapsed 12 hours previously on top of each other, leaving many people still trapped consider dead underneath the rubble All at once Chris and I felt a deep sadness as we watched the Brazilian people transfixed on the machines clearing away the remains of the wreckage, hoping for some good news.
Back at our hotel, we quickly showered and went to dinner in a subdued fashion, after hearing the bad news that more dead bodies had been pulled from the debris in Centro. We knew we had an early start (6.00am) and a pretty long day ahead of us due our planned flying route to Curitiba and then on to Porto Alegre, sadly leaving Brazil. Dinner was great and we both managed to get some decent deep sleep, but unfortunately we were woken by strange noises outside our door from the “party boys” returning home (5.30am). It soon became apparent that one of them was extremely sick from too many Caipirinhas, and when I open the door it was a sight that no wants to see regarding vomit and a group of young lads. I watched with amusement and horror as I saw our next door neighbours puking, staggering about, falling over, and banging into in the corridor walls. Only one was able to realize that they would soon be in BIG trouble if other guest were woken and complained. He quickly staggered towards me and put his finger to his lips and said “please shhhhhhhh”. Somehow my BA Purser role (work mode) flipped into gear and I said “Please listen to me and take your friends to bed right NOW, and SORT this mess clean OUT NOW!!! I have no idea how he understood me but I closed the door and five minutes later there was a frantic tapping on our door, it was the same poor soberest lad of the group, who beckoned me outside of our door and all of the puke that his friends had left him was now completely cleaned up. “Thank you madam, please shhhhhhhh” he begged me. I realized he hoped we had an understanding that I would not complain to the hotel staff as he had cleaned up the mess as instructed, “senhora negra”(was not that bad now!!). I closed our door and Chris and I had a huge laugh, we reckoned most of us have been in a situation when we were sick on alcohol in our lives!!The most comical thing about the whole situation was despite using a foreign language and slang; I managed to whip a poor lad into getting his friends into bed and cleaning up their mess!!!!
A long delay at Rio due to many issues including bad weather along our route meant we were not only now into flying IFR, we late for Curitiba where we were meeting Lider representatives.. We felt very sad leaving Rio and waved goodbye to Corcovado who was surrounded in thick cloud. We snaked around our route being shaken around by the rain and the turbulence of at least an hour. We were directed to climb to 12,000 feet and after reaching this altitude for about forty minutes, Chris started to tell me his heart was racing and was not feeling good. We both decided that we did not want to get into a hypoxia situation, and we were feeling really uncomfortable being pounded hard by the rain and wind. We told Sao Paulo Approach that we wanted to have a lower altitude and were diverting to Joinville Airport. It a while due to the language barrier to get ourselves understood but after a while Chris took the over the radio and told them we were unable to carry on climbing in the extreme conditions, they listen to us and directed us down lower.
Joinville was one of our diverted airports points along our route; we had talked about it but never thought we would have to do this. We landed in a heavy downpour that was like a dark curtain closing around the airport as we hit the runway. The people in Joinville were impressed that our small airplane had made it in with such finesse just before the bad weather arrived. Everyone was intrigued about our mission to promote organ donor awareness, but they were also very accommodating in helping us with our paperwork, fuel and weather. Francisco and Fabio were especially supportive in sharing local knowledge and information and about our route to Porto Alegre. After an hour or so we were pleased to see the weather brightened and we were off again. The route now could not have been more different than previously, the sky was blue, clear and pretty, and we laughed at the difference an hour makes.
Once we landed in Porto Alegre we were expecting a huge nightmare of paperwork as this was our last Brazil point on our route, but we were met by the delightful Fernando and Jonathan of Lider, who took all our details and said we could complete it all when we left on the next morning. Both relieved that we could deal with all the complicated stuff with a clear head and after a good night’s sleep, the charming Fernando proceeded to take us to our hotel, and promised to collect us in the morning and help us with the local procedures.
Both Chris and I have been to Rio a hand full of times with British Airways over the years, but we have been a little spoon fed and pampered regarding having hotels and transport organized for us. On a working trip the hotel staff recommends the best places to eat, book it and arrange hotel transport. Out on our own it was all so different!! We got to choose where we wanted to stay, and select places to eat, by just wandering around local areas which looked nice. We ate where the locals ate not the tourist, and with no proficiency in Portuguese, a bit of miming, and hand signals we managed to sample some delicious local cuisine such as Moqueca, and Arroz con Coco (seafood stew with coconut rice). I also had cashew ice cream which was bizarre but surprisingly pleasant.
We were helped in Rio at Lider by the lovely Wellington and Paula, who was kind enough to arrange a taxi to take us to our hotel and pick us up in 3 days. Exhausted as usual as we arrived at our hotel, we were greeted by a slightly Fawlty Towers type staff (British 1980’s sitcom for my Non-UK friends). The staff were friendly but clueless and every one of them was a “Manuel!” After a frustrating check -in we found that we were sleeping next door to a group of “party lads”. Both being tired and emotional we already knew what to do in this situation already as the music, TV, and shouting all together boomed through our walls. I knocked very hard on the door and in a pathetic mime/ broken Portuguese explained that my husband and I were VERY EXHAUSTED, please turn the volume down!!!! The young twenty something guy looked puzzled and amused, he smiled at me with sympathy nodded and closed the door. Within a few seconds we heard “senhora negra” and laughing as the guys turned the music down, oh how I felt old!
The next morning we were ready to hit the town, after savouring a colourful and unusual breakfast buffet in the hotel. It was above the normal continental, and had treats such as fresh sliced mango, passion fruit, pineapple and papaya. The choices of juice was also different, with fresh watermelon, guava, tangerine and acai. The pastries and local breads were totally out of the ordinary with fish, herbs and chocolate mixed into the “pan de queso” was exceptional, these little puff pastry balls with melted cheese in the centre was my favourite., But everything appear to glamourous and interesting, we walked in the bright South America sun and almost pinched ourselves as we walked from our hotel, and two streets away we are on Copacabana beach.
On entering the beach, we met the local vendors, they talk to me in frantic Portuguese selling their local wares, such as grilled shrimps, bikinis, sarongs, jewelry you name it! They keep asking me questions, I say in my limited language “no I am not from here I am English” but they continued to chat and try to banter with me. It is only after we hire seats and umbrellas, I notice that many” locals” look like me. The beach is glorious, with many people enjoying the sea, sun and just relaxing. We both can’t believe our little plane got us to one of our favourite destinations, in which we would normally be arriving in a 747. As I watched Chris splash about in the water surrounded by smiling Brazilian people enjoying their day out at the beach, I realized how really lucky we both are. This a trip of a life time in which we can never repeat, we have spoken to many people about Chris’s story, and will continue to do so. But I am so very aware at this moment that none of this trip would have ever been possible, and Chris would not have had this second chance, if some selfless, giving person had not ticked the box on their driving license and become an organ donor.
In order to stay on schedule, and make sure we make Argentina in time for the a allotted permission granted to visit The Falklands Islands, Chris and I decided to make the leg from Salvador to Rio Janeiro a three part stop. We knew it would be a six hour plus leg, so we decided to do our refueling in Vitoria. We were both aware that this was going to be long and grueling but were determined to see Corcovado (Jesus on top of the mountain) and Sugar Loaf Mountain in the daylight. We just had to stay focused and have great tailwinds!
The morning of our departure from Salvador we were met by the jovial guys from Lider/ Signature, Daniel and Mateus. Although getting through airport security was quick and easy, paying for landing fees was not. Chris and I waited patiently for around one hour because the printer in the office was broken, maybe some of our $200 landing fees could be used to buy a new printer!!! After finally getting our paperwork completed and meeting some delightful flight planning people we were on our way. The flight to Vitoria was uneventful, but due to the poor tailwinds we were really slow at 95 knots (we had hoped to at 100 least ).We found we did not have time to linger taking many pictures along this route as we were on a mission to get to Rio on time. Vitoria had some nice coastland and pretty beaches. The odd mountain jutted out along the way as did pretty waterfalls.
On arriving in Vitoria were greeted by the lovely Carlos and Lara from Lider who had prepared a VIP lounge especially for us which was so sweet! They handed us a great information pack of the area and were disappointed to hear that we were not stopping the night. Taking a look at the pack, and talking to Carlos and Lara it was obvious to Chris I that this would be an ideal stop on our return journey.
Once we were refueled we started to get really excited, we were now on the last part of this route and our little plane would soon be in Rio Janeiro!! Our ground speed even started to increase and instead of creeping up around 95 knots it was now averaging 125 plus. Chris started to brief me on the corridor in which we allowed to fly in and warned me about not going into restricted areas which were close to our route. I started to get really excited but also a little nervous and terrified of making any mistakes in my flying. The traffic controller spoke in broken English directed me at a shot gun speed to ascend and descend, and make certain headings, I found it all a bit intimidating, but it was comforting to have Mr. 747 captain sitting right next to me making sure everything was OK.I glanced at Chris and saw him grinning as he responded confidently in the radio, none of this was daunting to him, in fact he was eating it all up, he was in his element, having fun!! He was busy looking up crucial markers on the map and negotiating our inbound route with the controller so we could fly near Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado. The last 40 minutes into Rio was spectacular, the sky was bright, and clear. We were directed from 2000 feet as we flew around the mountains to 500 fee off shore, we turned the corner and saw the famous Copacabana, and Ipanema beaches. We were directed to climb to 2000 feet, and in our amazement were allowed to circle Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain. Chris got numerous incredible pictures from this viewpoint. This seems to be the best thing that we have ever done in our airplane SO FAR! But although this experience was out of this world, looking out for sightseeing helicopters, dodging the many swooping birds and avoiding busting our altitude clearance was becoming overwhelming for me. I eagerly passed over the controls to Chris as we began our descent to the runway. Exhausted, elated and contented to have finally landed in one piece, we taxied to the tie down area. As we wearily climbed out, we HAD to take the picture of Sugar Loaf Mountain behind our airplane's tail!
To be continued......
We left Recife very early, and of course I was tired and grumpy due to listening to the over exuberant Brazilians having a wild time in the bar last night. I knew my mood would change from compassionate and inspired to cranky and irritable due to lack of sleep!! But after a few cups of coffee and dip into the exotic Brazilian breakfast buffet, I was ready to go, and back to my old normal former self!!
At the airport we were met by the delightful Fabio again, who waited patiently with us for over an hour as the huge rain cloud sat, of course directly over the airport. Weirdly though, as the rain increased so did the odd shaped flying bugs, swarming around the lights, doorways, and of course the airplane. When the downpour finally cleared (for a few minutes in a brief lull), we made our way hastily down the runway towards our next heading, Salvador, our next destination.
When we were finally on our way to Salvador, I let my mind think about what I knew of Salvador, and our next night stop to Bahia. I was really excited about flying to this new place, as it has a huge slave history which has a connect to me, and it is one of those destination places that I have seen on those travel programs that seem both forbidden but luring! The strange dancers, the drums and music, the women with big headdresses, a religion that is all on its own with influences and mixtures of African beliefs, Catholic and voodoo(as some think).
The flight, after takeoff, and for most of the duration of this leg was very bumpy and really not that comfortable, as we had rain that seemed to go on for most of the flight. I was constantly hitting my head on the ceiling and was totally exhausted having been kept awake for most of the night. Chris bless him, had slept like a long and was really much more alert and bushy tailed. Try as I may I could not keep my eyes open and in the end Chris ended up taking over and doing 2/3 of the flight in which he said was just rain, rain, and more rain!!
After a much needed 20 minute catnap, I opened my eyes and saw that we did not have long before we were landing. Time to pay attention, I said to myself, as we snaked around the city. On landing we taxied along the main runways of the huge international airport .It seemed almost unbelievable that our little Cessna was directed to park not far away from the Embraer 170’s jets, 737’s ,and Airbuses.
On disembarking our plane we were of course met by our cherished representatives of Lider/Signature. I really cannot express how relieved and lucky we feel when we land, and always have delightful, friendly people who are happy to meet us and can speak English. Today we are met by Mateus and Daniel who are really helpful and book us into a hotel in the center of Salvador. They warn us to not walk around in certain areas at night and tell us the do and don’ts of their city.
After getting a taxi to our hotel we decide to take a walk area. We see locals sitting out in charming cafes and bars in the sun and decide to buy a coconut with the top chopped off (a local tradition) and sip the juice as we walk along. Within seconds we hear screaming and shouting and see a young boy running with all his might dodging local traders. It appear he has stolen something (a wallet, money?) from an old man, and within minutes the whole community are chasing him and penning him in. A buff, macho man catches and grabs something out of the boy’s hand, and passes back to another man who then passes to the old man. We see the old man examine it, nod, and talk to the local vendors and people who had given chase to the boy. Within minutes a local trader shouts at the young boy, and gives what seem like a big old fashion lecture, makes a fist sign and sees him off!! Wow what a start to our new city, a new residence!!How exciting!!
Today we decide to be total tourists, and got involved in the whole culture of Bahia, many visiting places of interest around the city and enjoying the culture, history, and the people. We both took way, to many pictures which we may bore all our friends and family with on our return home, but we were so genuinely blown away with what we experienced today, that we could not help going overboard, and taking as many pictures as we could.
The Fortaleza to Recife vantage, from our airplane windows showed a completely different terrain to the rest of the journey. The land was wide and flat, and although parts of the panorama of a were coloured a deep, lush, green, some of it was also extremely brown, rustic and dry, like an out west landscape of the USA. Fields we viewed had crops of trees which neither of us could make out what fruit they had, but they were placed in many regimented lines like vineyards or orchards so we gathered they must have been planted for some marketable purpose .
The route we flew was not totally uninteresting and it had some swirly hills and pretty towns but it did not give me such the same thrill of swooping over the rainforest or flying over Jericoacoara. In fact the whole day flying was pretty uneventful and when we landed in Recife we amazed at how easy it had been with no rainstorm, obstructing clouds, or diverting from our planned route.
When we landed we were met once again by some friendly Lider/Signature representatives; Daniel, Fabio, Marcele greeted us and told us that they had organized a great local hotel in the center of Recife. It was a small boutique hotel that was filled with local people and Brazilian tourists. In fact Chris pointed out at one point that we were the only non-Brazilian guests sitting in the hotel’s restaurant/bar.
On arrival at our hotel we decided we needed to go for a walk to get some fresh air and gain our bearings of the city. Just two minutes into our walk, about one block away from where were staying was Recife’s beachfront. Here, all kinds of people watching was to be had; couples, families, individuals and all types of Brazilians, with a huge variation of colours, shapes and sizes were enjoying the beach. As it was the weekend it was filled with young adults and teens playing either beach volley ball or football (soccer to my American friends). The Brazilians are such an interesting people, with the most beautiful expressive faces and attractive bodies. I was both, stunned and impressed that ALL Brazilian women DO wear the legendary dental floss bikinis no matter what age, size, or shape. They walk around with all kinds of scars, wrinkles, lumps and bumps, and just appear to have such an uninhibited, carefree attitude about their bodies, when they swagger along the beach, I was mesmerized by the lack of self-consciousness that they appear to have. What a great attitude!!
As Chris and I strolled ago the beach, he was desperate to swim, and although the water was warm and enticing as it lapped around our ankles, I was a little afraid as we had been warned about the several shark sightings and even the shark warnings along the beach seemed pretty serious(see Chris photos). But people, especially locals were splashing about and although it was very tempting to float around for a while, I chickened out and stayed in the sea up to my knees, while of course Chris dived head first and after a short dip declared that it was just what he needed to refresh him!!
Back at our hotel we enjoyed dinner and was surrounded by a rowdy group of locals, the atmosphere was that of a laidback, relaxed, jovial one. The bar played lively and chilled out Brazilian tunes, Chris even picked out a Hendrix cover version song sang in Brazilian. We finally slipped off to our room after checking our emails, and exhausted as usual we both slipped into deep sleep almost immediately. After a short while I could hear the same boisterous crowd in the bar raise the volume of their voices (we are on the same floor as the bar). Although it was slightly annoying at first to overhear the raucous laughing, shouting and glasses clicking it was almost heartening to listen to the happy tones of their voices and know that they were having fun. But I knew that when the alarm blares to wake us up in a few more hours my attitude may not be so quite the same!!!
So this is the leg of our route that everyone we have met along our journey has told us that we would be blown away by. The view of the coast line toward Fortaleza. I said to Chris “well we have seen some of the most amazing coast already how stunning can it be? But not long into the flight about 40 minutes or so it was evident that each coastal village or town was incredible. There were sweet villages with little fishing bays, fantastic resorts with the most lavish looking pool areas, then further the along the coast there were hippie looking thatched cottages with many people kite surfing and hammocks hanging from trees. It just looked as everyone stated, WONDERFUL.
The coastline suddenly changed into this vast expanse that we both could only describe as looking like the Sahara desert. This was Parque Nacional Lencois Maranhenses, it looked like a one of those Hollywood scenes that you see in the movies with Lawrence of Arabia charging across the sand dunes on a camel. I couldn’t really believe that what I was seeing was real!! I have never seen Chris’s face light up as much as he clicked on his camera, mumbling to his self how surreal it all was. Because there was no person, vehicle, vessel or structure (FAA rules), We able to fly as low as we wanted, it was a total thrill to swoop 200 feet over a 180 feet sand dunce and see the patterns in there structure of where the wind had whip them. We finally arrived at the tip of the coast line to the famous or well know should I say, Brazilian resort village/town called Jericoacoara. I have been told that this is apparently where the well- heeled Brazilians go to hang out and have weekend retreats. It looked spectacular, just like one of those dazzling places that you see in glossy travel magazines. From our view point there were manicured gardens, huge pools, pristine beaches and striking beach apartments and cottages!!!!We loved looking at this breath taking coastline, it certainly did not disappoint us and it lived up to all the hype!!!!
We finally landed in Fortaleza, we were warmly greeted by two excellent English speaking Brazilian gentlemen named Charles and Marco who were from our sponsor Lider/Signature. They were most accommodating, and help us with all our needs. Charles had arranged a driver to take us to our accommodation and bring us back the airport, he had also negotiated a great price for us in little hotel which was on the beach.
We were so ready for a couple of days to recharge our batteries and rest up. The driver took us out for a 45 minute drive to the outskirts of the city, where we were able to get a good chair side look at the little villages and local people. When we arrived at our hotel, were charmed!! All the rooms faced a manicured garden/ pool area, with each room having a little patio with chairs. Once you reach the end of the pool area you take couple of steps and you are on the beach. PERFECT!!!!!
We took walks on the beach, lazed by the pool and stroll to the nearby village in the day. We were both so tired that we made the most of the hotel and did not venture for the first 2 days. But on the last night we caught a local bus and had an amazing dinner in one of the many restaurants in a local village (recommended by our hotel receptionist Sabine) 20 minutes away from our hotel. We met a delightful English couple named Joe and Sandra who lived in Rotterdam, who also recommended more place to eat and also places to visit in Salvador. After a restful interlude to our flying we returned to our hotel where we took a look at our route for tomorrow to Recife, Chris checked the weather and we talked about our flight plan. Finally after some last minute packing we flopped into bed.
Belem to Sao Luis was an uneventful flight compared to the last leg of our journey regarding bad weather conditions and difficult immigration procedures. Above us we viewed a clear, beautiful, cloudless, sky. The scenery from our airplane windows was that of interesting coastline, and pristine beaches. The sea was coloured turquoise and opal, and even at a 1000 feet we could a remarkable reef outline in the crystal clean water. We saw small structures which looked like fishing sheds on stilts and tiny little thatched huts placed all together in clusters forming small hamlets or villages. What a difference a day makes when one is concerned with weather conditions!!!
The flight went without a hitch and when we landed, we were kindly welcomed by the friendly Lider/Signature staff Cyntia and Vilson. They helped us with our paperwork, promptly refueled us, checked out local hotel availability, and even arranged a driver for us!
At our hotel we were elated that the day had been really astounding, and that we had not encountered any problems. The hotel manager Lucas, spoke excellent English and we were able to have friendly banter with him and headed to our room. On entering our room our air conditioning immediately flooded and after being relocated to a new room we decided we needed to have a toast for crossing the equator,(which was actually when we left Macapa going on to Belem) and celebrate our great flight with a local cocktail called Caipirinha. After having our drink and making a toast, things started to change. Despite having a delightful waitress who could speak English, they forgot to serve us our dinner. Being a tourist and not speaking the language we had just patiently waited. It wasn’t until Chris saw two other diners who came in long after us tucking into their dinner. We thought as in previous dinners, that the service was a little laid back but after waiting an hour and a half, the waitress was horrified when she realized her oversight. She quickly brought dinner to our room and repeatedly sighed “my mistake, my mistake!”
After eating, we both felt really tired and were ready to crash out, but the room next to us had pounding music blaring on the television and after an hour, we asked Lucas(the manager) if he could politely ask our neighbor to turn his volume down a bit. Let me just say all night long pounding music, loud television conversation, adverts and the sport channel kept us both awake all night!! And despite us knocking on the door, pounding on the wall and ear plugs, hardly slept at all, as the television on full volume kept going and going..... Around 2-3 we both decided that our neighbour had indulged with a huge bottle of the local cocktail and had passed out, deaf or dead!!!!
The next morning at the airport we were greeted by our friends from Lider /Signature and after taking pictures with our beloved N758DW,we winged our way towards Fortaleza. We have been both been told on several occasion, from many different sources that the coastline we would see today is the most stunning in Brazil. With cameras ready, a little bleary we depart from Sao Luis ready for the famous vista.
After a runaround exercise of officials making Chris take paperwork from one office to another and filing flight plans TWICE, we finally find ourselves sitting at the end of the runway in a heavy downpour waiting to take off. We finally took off with our poor little plane being hit hard by the increasingly heavy rain sounding like a tin drum, we continued on an (IFR) route. Basically for those who do not fly an IFR is a route that is followed when ones visibility is reduced to less than 3 miles and less than 1000 foot ceiling. We are directed to climb to 5000 feet in the clouds, where we crept along avoiding thunderstorms, watching from our windows as the weather became increasingly bleak. We were being bumped around like a cork in the ocean, both not saying much to each other but concentrating on the black clouds ahead. Within minutes we both decided that this looked like a pretty menacing set of clouds ahead and the safest we would be was to divert from our planned IFR route and just skirt around them and diving under them!! Within minutes of reducing our altitude, it was apparent that 3000 feet was not cutting it. Still extremely bumpy and uncomfortable (I hit my head several times on the ceiling!!!) we had to descend to 700 feet to keep out of the downpour. We looked at alternative airport/airstrips for us to land on en-route if the weather became unsafe, and there were a couple of dirt strips, grass strips, it was much clearer behind us where Amapa airport was, and the worst case scenario there was the sea to land on! After about an hour curling ourselves around thunderstorms, and being shaken like a martini in a cocktail blender with nothing but rainforests and jungle below us, the sky began to look less fearsome. The colour of clouds began to slowly change from dark grey to light grey to finally pale blue. With relief, my teeth stopped chattering and we reverted back to original IFR route. When spotting the airport for our fuel stop to Macapa we both started to laugh and with nervous relief, as we made our way to the airport.
But this was not going to be such an easy fuel stop as we thought, and landing in Macapa was to be yet another ordeal all by itself!!! We knew we had to clear both customs and immigration as this was our first stop into Brazil and refuel. Easy, no problem right? Oh no, when we landed and opened our doors, we were surrounded by a gaggle of officials. At first they smiled and welcomed us to their airport, and they started to quiz us with questions at a shot gun speed such as why have we landed in Macapa? Are we on a commercial trip? Where are our general declaration papers? Are we carrying fruit, meat, guns? People were looking into the airplane and pointing at our luggage. Not being able to speak their language was now going to be a HUGE problem. Luckily one of the women in the group spoke French and Chris being born in Canada and went to school there had a grasp of the French Language. We were informed we were not going to be able to go proceed to Belem as the airport that was being rebuilt and had no static offices to have our paperwork processed!! Finally I was sent into town with a lovely lady called Karla,(Chris was not allowed to come with me into town, because he had shorts on and no trousers, but wait a minute so do I?) and with a bit of groveling in the government office, paperwork being signed stamped and sent back and forward and help from Daniella (the French speaking lady ) and translating from our new friend Elias in Belem on the telephone we were on our way to Belem!! This simple fuel stop to Macapa was a nightmare stop we didn’t need as were now delayed to Belem and it was going to be dark very soon. One thing I hate is night flying, and although the flight to Belem was just under 2 hours it was over the rainforest and jungle. Here we go!!!!!
Our flight to Belem was pretty, as were flew overlooking the dimmed rainforest with the odd twinkling of camp fires (we assume) along the way. I again, was little a spooked out by the complete darkness rainforests, Chris due to his many thousands of hours experience just took it all in his stride.
We finally landed in Belem where we were warmly greeted by Elias the representative from Signature, who had been our translator on the end telephone in Macapa. We finally took a taxi to our hotel where flopped exhausted into our bed.
This was a very short and not so sweet nightstop. We arrived in to Cayenne really exhausted in the middle of a rain storm. We got our plane topped off and fuelled, but after a long wait in the rain and no ground support a kind refueller got his boss to take us from our plane to the required authorities on the ground.This were quick and efficient, getting through customs and immigration and completing paperwork was fast compared to our previous experiences but this was of course part of France so they were on the ball.
At the hotel, a well known "western establishment" that were staying in,we had the French police and many French Guiana army types of men also staying at our hotel, wandering around our lobby with back packs, crew cut hair, boots and army fatigues.
When we got to our room, I notice many of the men grouping up and chatting in the corridor.We ordered room service which was a Croque Madame and salad.Chris reckoned that no French room service could mess this basic one "meal up", but unfortunately it sounded better than it looked and tasted and they did, but we were both so tired to care!! At midnight maybe nearer 1 am we both drifted off to a very deep and solid sleep, but at around 2 am were awoken by a high pitched schrill alarm,the fire alarm!!! I jumped out of bed naked and ran to get clothes on meanwhile shouting at Chris to wake up. We were dressed pretty quickly due to our airline training for emergencies and was running down the fire exit when the night guy(manager?) told us that it was a false alarm. People he explained in his broken English/French had been smoking in their rooom which had set off the alarm. Both of us not really being sympathetic to someone waking us up for a "smoke" drag our arses back to bed. Once back under the sheets and comfortable as we could(because I forgot to say we were infested with ants!!) we heard the alarm go off again and again. By the time our wake up alarm went off, we were both grumpy and exhausted!!Great start to the day, the weather was lousy( much raining over night and heavy down pours, grey sky and forcast for thunderstorms and more rain!!!
After a long delay on the ground we finally took off towards Belem, I hope better weather and a good night sleep!!!.
A Long and Challenging Leg of Our Adventure
After a long but exciting flight we arrived at Ogle airport Georgetown, Guyana greeted with a bustle of officials who at first appeared hostile and unhelpful. They first ignored us and then made us wait in steaming sun while they closed the door and chatted, which seemed forever. But after Chris did his smiling professional pilot bit and we talked to them about our mission to raise organ awareness, what we were doing, why we are doing it, where we were flying .I think they thought we were a bit mad, doing our trip, flying over rainforests in our little Cessna but I think they began to warm up to us!!!
We had to fill in all kinds of paperwork, it took 4 types forms, which had to be copied and stamped, and signed. We got to visit the tower (which was actually brilliant, what view) where we talked to the nice controller about our trip and flight plans and negotiate fuel for our plane. Our new “friends” at the airport, once all the official stuff was dealt with VERY slowly, Donald, Trevor, Mr. Beard, La Rose, the whole team were fab!! Donald even arranged for a taxi driver (the smiling Lennox) to drive us to our hotel and also give us a tour around the city, which was fascinating.
This morning, we left Ogle and had a drama with our paperwork before we left, although we were treated so nicely you couldn’t get angry!! I did the take- off on the tiny runway that looked like a taxi way. I was not really going to do it, but everyone just assumes that Chris is the only one that is a pilot in our team, they see a black women (or even woman) step from the plane and never ask if me if I can fly also. Even when they know I have flown in or just landed, they still talk passed me when discussing the flight plan fuel etc. It does bug me sometimes, considering this day and age!!So for our farewell to our friends I did a swift take off just to prove I could, but also for the fun of it!
Our trip to Cayenne took us over Suriname; we flew along the coast at mainly 1000 feet to get a good view of the coast and jungle below. We spotted more scarlet Ibis and Flamingos as Chris clicked away taking many picture along the route. The water was not the amazing blue we had seen at the start of our trip, or the chocolate milk coloured liquid we had spotted in the previous river deltas. The sea was a much darker blue and the rivers we saw today over Paramaribo and along route were more of a sluggish coffee hue, and in some part a reddish henna tint.
Heading to French Guiana the canopy of trees below us fast became a really a dense jungle, as we flew along we started to notice hills emerging as we swooped toward the airport. Mist was starting to form all around us as we crept towards the end part of our flying for the day. It was so remarkable to be passing over such stunning scenery; I got a little spooked out when the mist spread its web around the jungle beneath us, covering the trees like a blanket.
We finally spotted the lights at Rochambeau Airport in Cayenne, where we landed next to Air France A340, how our little plane looked so small!!!!
Tomorrow we head for Belem, Brazil on the banks of the Amazon after we cross the Equator.