In the morning we are greeted by the same taxi driver who dropped us of the day before, he is shocked to see us still in Brazil. We then arrive at the Lider office to find that the paperwork that we completed yesterday is still good for today and we are exempt somehow from going through the usual paperwork drama with immigration and customs or having to pay more fees. The plan today is to fly for about 4 hours to French Cayenne, re-fuel, do paperwork and “make haste” as we are way behind our schedule and need to make up time along our route and fly and another 3 hours to George Town Guyana where we will stay the night.
We say our goodbyes to the lovely Lider ground crew and the kind Elias, who has been a godsend and invaluable to us. I think everyone is rooting for us today as we load up the plane again, one ground guy who speaks no English came up to me and said” Have a safe journey”. I am impressed and say “you speak English? And he replied “last night I learned to say to you!” I am very touched by this sweet gesture and can only lamely say “mucho gracias”.
When I take off and I watch the low voltage light like a hawk, I am not emotionally prepared for this plane to break again today, it has to work otherwise it is going to be like groundhog day only with added stress and very expensive. After fixing my stare for almost an hour on the battery discharge voltage gauge nothing happens, the red light does not come on and the flight is uneventful and goes without a hitch!
In Cayenne we are ready for delays and paperwork fun and games, but surprisingly when we land and ask about being refueled the ground guy said” no problem he should be with you in 10 minutes”. Having heard this one before, we wait 10 minutes and when no one arrives, I suggest to Chris that we do the rest of the formalities such as immigration and flight planning to speed up the long process. We complete immigration and customs, paperwork within five minutes. We then decide to divide tasks (we often do this), I will deal with the refueling guy and Chris will file the flight plan and check the weather, and both go together to pay the landing fees. It was amazing because as we both return to the plane and put our life jackets on Chris points out that the whole process has taken just over thirty minutes. “The norm” for completing the paper work is usually 2-3 hours.
We take off heading toward George town, Guyana; this is where we have planned to refuel at Ogle Airport and night stop. Last time we were at this Airport we met up with Mr. Beard, Trevor, Donald and lovely driver who gave us a little tour around the town. We decide to head for the same hotel as before and have the tasty eggplant curry and mushroom dip that we sampled on the way out. The sky seems very hazing and almost smoky, and when I commented on this to Chris he said that the weather man had said that there had been sand storms in the Sahara which had blown across the Atlantic. This part of the journey seemed to jog along, no problems, no dramas,uneventful. But today uneventful was good, as it meant no red light, no weird sounds, just a smooth un-stressful, pleasant flight. Unfortunately because of the poor visibility, Chris was unable to take many pictures, so we decided we would be better off being high up at 6500 feet with a tailwind rather than low seeing nothing a 1000 feet our normal flying height with a crosswind.
I had been dreading landing at Ogle Airport because despite liking Mr. Beard and the rest of the team who were friendly and nice, it took many hours more than other places to get the paperwork completed. People sat looking at you and shuffled around, and last time we waited for almost an hour before someone told us that we had to go to another part of the airport for fuel. Plus everyone looks to “Mr. Beard” approval or nod before doing anything. If he walks on the ramp to do something we cannot get the paperwork finished until he returns to glance over it! So when we land at Ogle and walk to Customs and Immigration and we somehow complete the paperwork without waiting for Mr. B who we saw as we landed. He soon appears and when we are filling in our landing cards and we talk briefly about our trip. He asks how long we are staying and we explain our family issues and say if we can be fueled quickly we may just carrying on to Grenada. He seemed to understand our situation and to our amazement we were whisked through all of the formalities within an hour. Even the accounts guy let me pay for our fuel with a credit card despite having a broken machine and allowing me to run to the sales office and use their credit card machine.
It seemed strange that despite both of us having been up most of night worrying about the plane, we were still full of energy and ready to go another three hours on to Grenada. I am not sure what was driving Chris, but I know most of my push was thinking of the beautiful Grand Resort Hotel, with its delightful pool area, comfortable beds and waking up to the view of the beach and the sound of the sea! My mind was also saying we would be are nearer to the states and if another thing goes wrong,and we could fly on a commercial plane home. This next leg was a bit mad in some sense as we should have really stopped after 8 hours of flying and had a good night sleep, but neither of us felt tired and I think I was running on adrenalin, thrilled to have made it so far with no glitches. We had a tailwind which was also a bonus and although we both knew this next water crossing was a “big one” neither of us had that fear that we had on the way out. It seems that our bush flying, flying without the” Big brother” radar in most of the countries we had flown, had made us much less freaked out about the open water and more daring in our low flying and buzzing. We both knew that we had to stop being too fearless, as that can lead to overly confident pilots and that is when accidents happen. The waves lapping below us looked inviting as the sea was that lovely iridescent blue that you only see in travel brochures. I am feel pensive as the hours go by, thinking about the journey that Chris and I have nearly completed together and the amazing experience it has been. I believe someone was looking over us on this journey as so many things could have turned out negative"but somehow help appeared at the right moment".I also believe it has made me a better pilot and less nervous of extreme weather, but also helped to enhance my faith in human nature as we have met many people along our journey who have generous and selfless. They have helped us out, and assisted us when we had issues and problems, without wanting anything in return. We have also received many emails telling us that after hearing about two mad pilots doing this trip, and seeing Chris fit and healthy, they have signed up to be donors. Another great thing about this journey is it has restored Chris’s lust for life. I drift off thinking about many things that have happened and Chris and I recall highlights and low parts of the trip. I notice a glow outside the window and Chris tells me that it is a flare stack from an oil rig so we realize that we are just South of Trinidad. The route is smooth and the weather clear, but as we get near to Grenada the air traffic controller tells us that we cannot do a visual landing into Grenada and asks if we have instruments in our plane to do a NDB approach. I wonder why as it is a perfectly clear sky, this seems strange to me on this lovely evening. Spookily as we get closer to the airport we hear a BA flight in front of us with the Speed bird call sign also landing into Grenada. I know Chris feels a twinge of something when hears the BA pilot, I am sure many emotions go on within in him, sadness is probably one of them if he thinks to deeply about the loss of his career with BA as a 747 Captain, but then he did also get a second chance at life and he is now doing this. We listen intensely as the pilot in front lands and then we get a little closer to the airport., I see why she is making airplanes do NDB approaches as the weather directly around the airport is curtains of rain with a slivers of daylight. When Chris makes the approach in I am impressed, I am aware this a skill that only “old school” experienced pilots have, and as we get closer for the last part of the approach I see the weather is not that bad but the light is fading quickly. We hobble into the FBO having completed almost 11 hours and 1200 NM of flying in a single day,all in our little Cessna. Good old "Blue Jay "she got us there in the end!
Flying to Belem reignited my excitement about being in our little plane again, and despite the dramas of the plane breaking twice, I re-focused on enjoying looking out of the window and taking in all the amazing scenic views I could of the amazon/jungle vista. This terrain still blew me away second time around, and although we had seen this vast brown river on the way down (apparently called the Rio Tocantins) I am still astonished by the variations of rich chocolate tones and hue it has. The lush green trees go on forever and although Chris has taken hundreds of pictures of this area he cannot help but open the window and click away. We pass by the odd bright colourful tree amongst the green, and the effect is breathtaking. We both agree that we are still staggered by the beauty of this part of the world.
We landed in Belem which was our first stop on the way into Brazil (if we ignore the hideous experience in Macapa) and we are greeted by the lovely, sweet Elias who did everything in his power to help us last we met. He is very welcoming again and helps us with formalities as well as ordering us a cab to our hotel.
In reaching our hotel we were pleased to see it was new, and had all the “away from home comforts” which we have so underestimated when staying in a five star hotels with work before this trip. Clean shining floors and sheets, clean bathrooms, air-conditioning, and a fridge. In some hotels breakfast was included which can be totally delightful or hideously revolting. The extra bonus is always Wi-Fi internet connections, for the room without a surcharge, which this hotel had.We made the most of being in Belem as this was the last Brazilian stop and near to the end of the trip. We went sightseeing in the old part of town which had many once beautiful buildings with tiled entrances looking desperately rundown and crumbling. Some were even drug dens and flop houses with odd looking characters standing in the doorways of once grand house. Chris even took advantage of his height and took a picture of inside one of the windows of such houses which showed a hideous sight of a poor soul living in squalor looking drugged and confused.
We went down to the port where I saw several boats, and fisherman off loading their daily catch, or huge boats with bigger hauls. The market next to the dock had many weird types of fruit and vegetables many I did not know what they were or had ever seen before. Some parts of this market had sidelines in rather seedy stuff, where there seemed to be questionable types selling different “unmarketable” wares. Local ladies who seemed jovial and happy chatting in gaggles were actually also market traders selling “love tonics and potions”. In deciding for the experience I should smell these “magic mixtures” I was surprised to find that most of the aromas was strong and repugnant and could only be liken to “old cats eau de toilette”!!
The core part of the city was vibrant and as this was a weekend, it had a market selling everything from cotton bales to crave wooden penis’s (really).The local arts and crafts market which had some really unique, interesting items, some in which I brought. On the second day in Belem we spent a mad rush to get our new Havaianas flip flops. We also went out to and had a tasty Mocqueca fish stew, which had every type of fish, seafood, vegetable and shrimp imagined as well as a couple of hard boiled eggs(?). We went to the trendy ice cream bar and tried out flavours recommended by the locals which were both strange but good. We used up most of our Brazilian money on our last night, and awoke very early to a lovely breakfast and a cab ride to the airport. We see the nice ground guys who I remember from before and they joke about me being the captain as I order fuelling from the gas guy. Chris goes off with Elias and does customs and and immigration, files a flight plan and pays the landing fee. I meanwhile (as usual) load the baggage, preflight the plane, clean the windows and wait for nearly two hours in the 100 degree heat until Chris returns. We say goodbye to the lovely Elias and the ground crew, but no, I realize we are not going anywhere. As we do our run up to take off, the low voltage warning red light flashes on, we have a discharge on the ammeter AGAIN!!! We cannot chance flying with this issue, plus we both have in the back of our minds an email received a day or so previously from a dear friend John, a wise sage (he also used to service our plane).He warned us not to fly after the previous problems as it sounds like the problem had not been fully fixed but “band aided” he said we need to replace with new not clean up old or we would encounter more problems. How right John was!!!
I cannot bear it anymore, I can’t trust my safety in this plane, this is no longer funny, I need to shout, cry, punch something but all I feel is numb. I go into the VIP lounge to check my emails and a good friend has sent me a friendly email and a joke. I have a good laugh and think "On the poitive side, shit well least the bloody red light didn’t go on over the bloody jungle!!" We are both totally irritated and pissed off with the plane dramas now, but as we are both fuming as we stand glaring out “old Blue Jay” when we hear noise above us. It is a Huey that was hovering over the airport and also 4 C-130 Hercules, 2 CASA 235's dropping parachute guys while maybe 6 Bandeirantes swirling around and an F-5E Tiger II fighter. Both Chris and I stood in awe as we watched an amazing display with the Lider guys, although still pissed off we both felt less angry now we had a distraction.
I knew we are going nowhere today, Elias tries to locate a mechanic to fix our problem, Chris starts looking at hotels on-line for us to stay in for the night, and I start unloading the airplane of things we need for a night stop.
Chris finds an Ibis it is cheap and only 5-10 minutes, Elias locates a mechanic, and I have all our bags ready to go to the hotel. A man turns up and speaks no English (of course) and through Elias he tells us he needs take the some part out of the plane and test it. I am keeping away from all the coming and going of the “fixing the plane problem” and stay in the lounge reading. I try to stay positive (my big brother Jamie’s saying) and not allow myself to get emotionally down thinking about missing my family, especially my sick sister. A long day drags to an end; we have two Brazilian men mending our plane who indicate that they have fixed the problem. We could attempt to leave right now, but it is late afternoon when there are many rainstorms, thunder, lightning, and bad weather fronts rolling in. We both decide we are too tired and emotional to cope with all that today, so we limp over to the hotel and collapse into bed. I cannot think about where we are going for the next leg, or if we will be are going at all despite being given the “all clear” that the plane is mended, I now have lost a lot of faith in people telling me it is “fine don’t worry”!! My bed is calling me, I will think about flying after a good sleep when I am fresh in the morning.
As usual we have to refuel en-route and it has been suggested that Araguaina is the place to go as it on the way and a small airport but we find out just before we are going to head there that they had run out. So the next place to try is Anapolis, we have been told by Edimar that it has AV gas which our plane needs, so our first stop is Anapolis. This is a small airfield with a hangar full of small jets and expensive planes. We both agree that we do not want to shut down the engine fully as we are still unsure if in this heat it is going to be OK and start after it has been shut down. So I hold the breaks while the plane is still running, as Chris quickly jumps out and checks with the ground staff who are messing around with a citation if they have fuel available. They are not very helpful but direct Chris over the fuel pump which has a small house in the corner of the field. I am all the while holding the brakes and watching him run around trying to find out where the person is who lives in the house so we can be refueled. My legs are straining, as they are pressing down hard on the brake pedals, I am hot in this 90 degrees heat, and I see Chris sweating, cursing, and frantically running around trying to get someone to fuel us. I can’t stand it any longer, as it is getting frustrating to watch Chris get frustrated, and I am melting!!!! I turn the plane off, jump out of the plane, run to the hangar and say “Where is the refueler please?” Within five seconds men run towards me, they all offer to call the refueler, drive me to find the refueler, or help me find someone who can find him!!Sometimes in a macho driven country it helps to be a female pilot, as novelty creates interest, very quickly we were refueled!
Onwards we go after our tanks were topped off. In the extreme heat the journey is not very comfortable for both of us in our little tin can; we are both soaked in sweat and open the window at regular intervals to let fresh air in. We agreed in order to be with our ailing family members, and for me to be in the UK at the end of the month( I have a appointment to have an operation),we must for the next few legs of the trip take a couple of big chunks of flying each day. After our first leg to Anapolis the next after flying for three hours is Gurupi, a tiny little local airport manned by three young smiling refueling men. When we land I jump out of the right hand side of the plane (captain’s seat) and watch all three of them jump out of their skins and giggle. The boldest one approaches me and says” you lady pilot?” I say yes and he giggles and whispers it back to his two buddies, who each giggle and mumble comments to each other. Desperate for the bathroom, I ask one of the young men where they are, and he escorts me to a little extremely neat, well-kept FBO (Fixed Based Operator). In side is an old lady sitting at the desk, she rushes to kiss me and says “you a lady pilot, god bless”. I go to shake her hand but she gives me a hug, and says “boas viagens” or something to this effect which our Brazilian friends have said to us when we have left which I have been taken to mean good/safe flying. I am very comforted and touched by this gesture. I feel it is good karma, and that there will be no more problems with the plane on the rest of the journey although I am still saying a prayer to myself on every take off for “nil technical problems!!”
The weather en-route is not good, storms and bumps along the way seem to be the order of the day and of course a head wind. We both keep our eyes peeled for thunderstorms, and skirt around bad weather most of the day. We did manage have one part of the flight in which the rain stopped and we were able to see an amazing canyon which had surrounding waterfalls cascading down the sides, which in turn joined up to form into small rivers at the base of the canyon. This was the highlight of the flight.
Last stop is Imperatriz; we are stopping at an aero club and meeting a friend of Edimar’s called Alberto who is a doctor and also a pilot. We have been flying for seven hours with two pit stops for fuel; we are both over heated, exhausted, and cranky with each other. Chris has been talking to approach for a while and although it is an uncontrolled airport we both were waiting for a clearance for landing and then realized at the last moment this was not required. I came in to land faster than usual, and bounced and floated, but I got us in safely but it was not a pretty landing. When we land Alberto is waiting for us, with a gaggle of pilots. He and his friends make jokes and laugh at the lady pilot doing a “very bad landing, just as we expected!!” Usually I would be laughing at myself with them, but I felt a little hurt that complete strangers felt it was OK to make fun of me, I am a good pilot, and my landings are usually good the one time I screw up I have a group of “old school men” belittle me. I felt a little better when young pilot called Savio who spoke English noticed I was slighted and said” these guys are hard on all the pilots if they make a bad landing, don’t worry. Both exhausted Chris and I went through the paperwork drama, as usual but were told we could pay for our landing fees tomorrow with cash or credit no problem.
That night Alberto continued with the Brazilian hospitality and took his children, Savio and Chris and I out to dinner. He also kindly picked us up in the morning with his son and took us to the airport. We tried to get local money out of the machine but it is broken, so when we try to pay our landing fees with credit card and that is also broken. The airport tariff man insists we pay with USA dollars only, but we have kept this aside for paying our refueling as they won’t take credit cards. It all gets frustrating, and after a long heated debate we have to give up our precious dollars to pay for the rip off landing fee. We say goodbye and wave to Alberto and his son, as we taxi to the end of the runway, we look at the console and realize the suction gauge for the vacuum pump is acting strangely, it is vibrating and jumping. Oh no not again, another problem with this b....y plane, I think!!We do another long run up (a double check of instruments) with the plane and the vibrating stops. We agree that any issues after take-off and we are coming right back. I will let Chris do this one, I think to myself, I don’t want to have to deal with an emergency, let the expert be PIC!!
So off we go, after an hour no lights come on, no weird sounds, no vibrating, no problems, we are on our way to Belem the last port in Brazil for us to stop.
“It a good day for flying” I thought to myself as we took off from Pousada Cabure. The sky was clear and blue, and although it had been an interesting experience enjoying a peaceful calm environment without phones and internet, I was pleased to be going to a city with technology to check -in on our families, and get Chris’s leg some medical attention as it now looked really infected and swollen. Before heading for Brasilia our next stop, as usual we needed to refuel, and Paulenir had suggested a Coxim small local airport about an hour away that sold gas. We headed to Coxim looking at the outstanding views of the Pantanal from our window, in fact because it had gotten to about 100 degree or more we were now leaving our windows open in flight so we could get a small breeze inside our little tin can. We landed on a really rough runway in Coxim but all was good as nothing broken, and a guy almost immediately came out with a ladder to refuel us. We used the facilities (bathrooms) which were very basic but clean, but on leaving after paying the refueling guy, I noticed in the entrance of the building on a table lined up a curious assortment of jars. In a closer inspected of these jars I discovered that they were jams, chutney, dips and pickled stuff. Some of the jars really intrigued me as I had no idea what the fruit or vegetable was in the jar but the contents were bright orange, dark mauve,green and red, The only one that I recognized was a jar of pickled guava which I was tempted to buy (hey it different!) But to due limited space in our “little blue Jay” and the likelihood of it leaking, being dropped, or going rotten I resisted. After our pit stop for refueling I was very nervous of the plane overheating again, and although we parked into the small breeze while being refueled my mind leapt back to Aquidauana, a place in the middle of nowhere like this. I urged Chris to fire up the engine as ASAP, and Chris in his nonchalant way starts to discuss places we could visit when we arrive in Brasilia but I all I could think of as I look at the barren dusty fields around the deserted airport, with and stray dogs wandering around is “Please god, I don’t let us get stuck here!” My prayers were heard as we lifted off from Coxim with no problems. I start to relax and enjoy our flight and talk about things we want to do, in places on this return route north. Chris starts to take pictures and notices Rhea or Emas as they all them around this neck of the woods .I am really enjoying flying when I notice the low voltage light flash on red again!! We both cannot believe that we have this problem again and to be honest I am really pissed off as this was JUST repaired!! Chris trips the alternator switch on and off and for the rest of the flight the light goes on and off!! It's like pulling a circuit breaker more than once, not good!!
We arrive into Brasilia just as the wind picks up, heavy rain begins; and we see thunderstorms and lightening above and around the area in which the Luzianania airport is situated and where we want to land. I am actually a little scared as behind us is thunderstorms and also in front. We bounce around dodging black thunder clouds and storms. Thankfully just as we get within landing distance of the airport the rain lets off a bit and the sky look less fierce, Chris gets us down on the ground quickly and as we land and disembark from our plane, the heavy down pour begins again. We see a group of people in the main Aero club building and ask them if they are Edimar, they say no but there is a message that he is on his way. We find out some fairly good news, my sister has been allowed home from hospital but is awaiting more tests, and Chris’s is mum is doing better. We wait about 10 minutes talking in our non-Portuguese to a pilot who speaks good English. He tells us that every day in the afternoon, at time of the year in Brasilia the weather is like this. He said people make appointments and say “we will meet after the rain” meaning later afternoon. He jokingly told us that he never wastes time and plans everything around his schedule so he does not have to get wet!! But I pointed out that he was here waiting to fly, and he said “I know, but the rain will stop in a few minutes”. And blow me down within five minutes the rain suddenly stopped, and it somehow turned into a glorious warm afternoon, and this man went outside, jumped into his plane, and went flying!! As he left in came two planes, one with Edimar in his wonderful RV-10 and Lindbergh (yes,this is really his name) in his Paradise One. They both greet us like long lost friends and help us stow our plane away in a hangar, they scoop us and our bags and Chris and I each in the two planes. I love everything about Edimar's plane, it can do aerobatics, it is fast, and has a glass canopy so you have a wonderful panoramic outlook without a strut, window or door obstructing the view. It also has a super-duper panel with a very modern GPS and auto-pilot, a mini EFIS and many gizmos that I know nothing about but which make flying this plane a dream!!It was a fast smooth ride in which Edimar kindly did a short tour of the city pointing out various landmarks. When land, we are at his aero club, he explained that the runway at this place is for light aircraft and too small for our plane which is why we landed at his other Aero club, plus we avoided all the traffic and it was fun!!
Chris and I although excited to be in Brasilia and wanting to socialize and go out with Edimar, had to reluctantly explain to our new friend our problems; our airplane and that Chris infected leg. I felt bad because this was the first time we had met Edimar and only knew him through a friend of a friend and now we were bringing all this drama and problems to his door. But bless Edimar, he took it all in his stride and set Chris up to go to a private hospital to see his friend a doctor and organized finding a mechanic to repair our plane. He helped find us a hotel, dropped us off and picked us up later that night. The plan was to go the hospital get some strong antibiotics for Chris and then Edimar, his wife Angela and their daughter Danielle and us would have dinner. Poor Danielle ended up being our translator for the doctor in the hospital because she had lived in the USA a few years ago, and spoke excellent English. The doctor explained to us that Chris should have gone to hospital at the beginning to have stitches and he may need them now. He said the gash was badly infected and they have to do a procedure!! I was really crossed with Chris, hadn’t I told him from day one to see someone as the cut looked serious? He knows that he has a low immune system!!Bloody typical man I fumed!! The procedure was quick but not pain free as they had to slice a layer of skin from Chris infected wound. They said because half of the wound had healed it was too late to put in stitches. Chris had to now apply cream every day as well as a set of strong antibiotics for 10 days. When we finally went for dinner Edimar took us all to a charming place on the lake where we had a tasty Brazilian style sort of tapas with several different dishes to try out and of course Brazilian cocktails! Edimar insists on paying for dinner, we can’t believe it, WE asked him out with us to repay his kindness and it is the least we can do. But we do not want to offend him as he insists in his country he pays!!
The next day Edimar took us to meet Cidu the mechanic, he has already been working on our plane when we arrive and says he thinks he knows what is wrong with it but needs to run the engine and do some tests. We hang out in the hangar(!) meeting other pilots from the aero club who come over to chat while Cidu, troubleshoots the plane. I hear a loud bang, and have come to know that nothing is good after you hear a loud bang in anything, and I am right! A serious looking Cidu tells us that the problem is bigger than he thought and it is going to take a couple of days to fix, get a part etc….. I am lost for words, nice as it is in Brasilia I need to get home for many reasons now one especially to see my sister, Chris needs to be with his mum. I think Edimar senses our despair and kindly invites us to his home for pizza. I am very grateful for having this new friend Edimar, he is just how everyone told us he was, kind and generous and his hospitality is over flowing!!
We arrive at Edimar and Angela house greeted by and their sweet grandson Rafael (Danielle’s son) and meet their son Rodrigo who the chef for the night and cooks the best oven pizzas .He cooks great typical traditional toppings which are delicious but one topping he introduces us to which is mouthwateringly good, is cheese, banana, and cinnamon pizza!!! The Brazilian people don’t just have savoury pizzas they also have sweet ones and this one although sounds strange is probably one of the best pizza’s I have ever had! I enjoyed our evening with Edimar and his family as they came across as such warm and genuine people and talking to them, and spending time with them gave me an insight into some Brazilian cultural traditions and family life and .
So we are going to be in limbo for the next couple of days waiting for the part Cidu has ordered from Sao Paulo. Generous Edimar gives us one of the family cars to drive around and sight see with which is godsend as Chris needs to rest his leg which is starting to be less painful and the swelling is decreasing.We enjoyed our day driving around the city and getting to find out about how it was developed 50 years ago mainly by President Juscelino Kubitschek.He was classed as a Brazilian hero by many,something like John F Kennedy, as he was forward thinking for his time and visionary.
Cidu calls and says the part has come and the plane will be ready tomorrow morning. So on our last night we spend it with Edimar, Angela and their friends from the aero club. They are all so warm and welcoming, they treat us like old friends, and it seems a friend of Edimar makes us in! The guys all group together and start bragging about their planes and their flying experiences. I have a great chat girly chat with Angela and her best friend Nadia. Although this was not a planned extended stop in our plans we have had some fun and I feel like we made real friends with Edimar and Angela. It is a bittersweet end to an unexpected stop on our journey home.
After dealing with the problem with the airplane I was so ready to be in a nice quiet place that had just animals and birds. The lodge is part of a cattle ranch that has horses and sheep. The family also has horses they ride and dog as pets. We are amazed when we swoop over the top of the grass field runway to check out its condition, it was even and level, but we also saw to our amazement a beacon, a tower, runway lights and taxi way lightening and sign, and best of all two open sided hard surfaced floored hangars which keep the planes out of the heat but one can load and unload with getting the baggage muddy. We realized that the people who live here must really like flying or are very welcoming to people with planes. We are warmly greeted by Paulenir, Renata and their sweet child Camilla. The lodge is simple but charming, with the main eating area joining on to the reading lounge. There are individual rooms dotted around the main dining area with many hand painted pictures from Paulenir’s talented mother who is also a writer. There is a delightful chapel and two medical stations. Around the lodge, there are lush green trees, one being a huge mango tree. There are also pretty orange flowers scattered around the property. Renata says that many of the flowers have to be very hardy in this area as the heat is so intensive in the summer that many plants cannot survive and shrivel and dry up. We are led to our room which is thankfully air-conditioned as it about 90- 100 degrees and very humid. We unpack get comfortable, and take a cup of iced Mate and cake with Renata and Paulenir which is surprisingly refreshing. We are told that in an hour or so we will be taken for a “Safari drive” around the compound and surrounding areas. Soon we are driving out of the gates and looking at two brand new lambs which have just been born days ago. One is still have trouble trying to stand up and the other is walking around with wobbling ting twig legs. Within minutes of being out of the gate Paulenir’s manager (nicknamed Soldier) Alijuda spots two giant blue parrot which he and Paulenir call “blueys” we ride for a few more minutes and see Capybaras swimming in the lake across from the lodge. It seems as though someone has told the animals and birds that we are coming, so they need to put on a show, because we saw the most amazing birds within the first hour of our visit such as parrots, macaws, Jabiru Storks, and beautiful birds in which the names I could not remember again or pronounce!!The reason Paulenir explains that we have been able to see much wildlife close to the lodge is it is the dry season and the animals and birds are forced into small areas to drink and feed such as the nearby lakes. It reminded Chris and I of African Safaris we have gone on in the past, with the landscape looking very similar but with different wild animals and birds. On the second day we also go out on “Safari” in which is combined with driving and then walking around the area. Paulenir points out different trees and names them for us. We are lucky to see Caimans which are like Alligator, as well as more Capybaras. We saw and heard some wild boar like animals speeding across a field, gnashing their teeth loudly which were called Peccaries. These are said to be more dangerous than a puma as they can run really fast and eat EVERYTHING including the bones. I remember this wild boar featuring in one of that the Godfather films. A person crosses one of the mob and they are thrown into the sty with peccaries where there is nothing left for the police to trace!!!!
We saw a Toucan up close in a tree on this waIk, but unfortunately Chris was kicking his self as his battery in his camera went dead at that very moment and he was forever looking to get that shot again.I went horse riding with Alijuda and although we had no common language I was able to make ourselves be understood by sign language and jabbering but we still managed to have a nice conversation. He told me that loved working the ranch and being a “cowboy” which we saw some of the men doing, still working the land and herding at the lodge. They wore the typical cowboy gear, big hats, riding chaps, checked shirts, stirrups! The men had that worn leathered skin, but looked friendly and waved at me on the last morning as I watched them all standing around a fire drinking strong black Brazilian coffee, dragging on a cigarettes. They had typical cowboy saddles ready to go and any one of the men would be perfectly suited to be in one of the old Marlboro ads!
We found out that Renata also loved flying but had never really tried to do it herself. So Chris still being a flight instructor and a great sport decided to give her an introduction lesson in flying. So we took a flight around the local area showing her the lodge from the air but after she did an assisted take- off I could see she was thrilled. By the first ten minutes into her “lesson” I could see by her face she had got the flying bug and she told us afterwards that this was going to be her next goal.
On the last morning we both seem to get a bit edgy, I think much was to do with the 90- 100 degree heat and I was awaiting news about my sister, but with no phone or internet I had this still lingering at the back of my mind. Also Chris’s gash on his leg was not healing; in fact it was now looking pretty bad and it was painful. He had started to take emergency antibiotics from our first aid kit in which he had been given before this trip just in case he got any infections(having a low immune system his body is not strong enough to fight infections alone). But cleaning his wound and dressing it every day, I believed he needed to seek medical attention. I suspected he needed stronger or different antibiotics because his cut was not healing but getting worst. I guessed it was infected as he was complaining of his leg being painful and itchy; his leg had also started to swell up. We needed to head a town or city, to rectify these issues in which case we chose Brasilia, the capital city; Chris had also been email and texting Edimar, a friend of a friend of our friend Martin. Edimar had been sending Chris vital information about where to get fuel in this area and along our route, he had also told Chris that he would organized that we were able to land at his Aero club and keep our plane safely in a hangar. We were looking forward to meeting this helpful,generous, kind, Edimar, not only because he sounded like he would be a fun person but everyone including Paulenir and Renata sang his praises, and we wanted to take him out for drinks and dinner, and repay his kindness.
In order to get to the Pantanal we need to refuel along the way, so we are heading towards a small local area called Aquidauna which in there is an Aero-club that has been recommended by Edimar a friend of our friend Martin. We plan to fly for three hours to this refueling stop and then a final 45 minutes to the nature lodge called Pousada Cabure deep in the middle nowhere accept for animals and birds. We fly for three hours and finally spot a very dusting red gravel runway. We land and carefully taxi to the fuel pump, and we see a young man, and old man and a small child waiting in the nearby hangar. As soon as we turn off our engine, the little child runs away and hides, the old man collects the ladder, and the young man brings out the calculator and the receipt. Talk about efficient!!!! These guys, the re-fuelling team may want to pass on some tips to our friends at Infraero in the big airports. As it can take over 2 hours to even have someone contact a refueling truck!!! So we refuel quickly and are ready to make the last 45 minute jump to the nature lodge. We are so pleased to finally get a break and not have to have any dramas today. So we crank the engine, to start and nothing, we crank it again, nothing, we do this about 3 times, and then we are scared to try it one more time as it may bleed the battery dead. WTF I think!! Chris suggests that it is over heated, as our engine is fuel injected and this type of engine despite being good are known to have problems starting when they very hot. And at 100 degree heat it is not surprising the poor engine can’t cope, shit I can’t cope and I AM quickly melting in this very hot humid place!!!Chris mulls over other reasons why the plane has not started such as vapour locks and bubbles but I am now not listening, my mind races to my sister again and getting home. I think that being in an air-conditioned bus on a 15 hour bus ride towards Sao Paulo sounds pretty sweet compared to being in the middle of nowhere with an broken plane with 3 people who cannot speak English,or can help us!
We do get the assistance of two of the “three amigos” (the re-fuelling team) to push the plane under a tree to get some shade and cool it down. We take the cowling off, and Chris waves maps and at the engine to help it get some cool air flow. I am in fact brooding, I can’t help it, its not like me, but I am frustrated and after several attempts to try stir up some help from the 3 amigos with no luck I am now stumped. We both sit under the tree with the plane, and I start to give the plane my “evil stare” and a good talking to in my mind. I start to think about if the plane does not start where can we stay, what do we do? We have no one around to help us. Chris complains that his cut is itching and notices that ants are now crawling under his band aid. I insist that we change it but he is too aggravated to sit still to let me clean it up and redress his wound. Suddenly a motorcycle turns up out of nowhere and a young guy who can speak a little English offers us cold water and assistance from his friends. I can’t believe it, I want to kiss him, and although he does not have a clue about how to fix our plan problem, he is a pilot, and is going to call some pilot friends and find a mechanic!!!It is although my prayers have been heard and answered, because with 10 minutes two more men who can speak English appear. They tell us they are also pilots, in fact members of the Aquidauana Aero Club. We explain our problem and one of pilots says he also owns a Cessna but it is a 182. There is a big discussion within the group about why it has cut out, the heat, the alternator, the battery etc. They inform us after several phones that the Aero Club mechanic is not around today so we have to go with what Chris has suggested. Just a hot engine being overheated in the hot sun, so we put the cowling back on knowing one more try may drain the battery. But to my surprise the plane starts up straight away, and off we go! We head toward Pousada Cabure, and I am starting to relax a little bit now, as we only have a 45 minute flight. I am looking out the window and trying to think positive when I notice that a red light which I have never seen on before is lit up. I point this out to Chris and he suggests there may be a problem with the alternator (a new problem) unrelated to the overheating issue we had on the ground. We now need to land somewhere ASAP to get this fixed, as the ammeter is not charging but decreasing meaning low voltage of our battery. I am totally freaked by this as I know that once the battery dies we may not be able to start again and what about the use of radios etc., don’t they use up power from our electric system too, will they be OK? Chris troubleshoots the airplane system and turns switches on and off, and in a calm and relaxed manner tells me we need to land. I concentrate on flying the plane, as he continues to trouble shoot and talks on the radio to inform we have a little problem, which is the correct procedure in a two person flight deck. Chris looks at our map and says that the large city of Campo Grande which is 60 miles east is our only option for a diversion. The problem Chris states it is not big but I am not convinced as I see the battery slowly trickle down. Chris tells the approach in order to conserve battery power we are going to turn off our radios, there is a pause and eventually we hear “OK you can turn off your radio and you now have a Brazilian Air Force escort". I am horrified as this just reaffirms to me that this is very serious, Chris is now totally pissed off and tells me they are over reacting. Anyway much to his delight he was able to get a photo of patrol aircraft, another one for his photo gallery!
When we land I am totally relieved, we taxi to a stand and ask the ground control for a mechanic. We are taken to meet Cleber who introduces us to Marcelo who kindly after a no English, no Portuguese exchange, using IPads and charades, kindly starts working on fixing our plane. He calls his son Viktor in Sao Paulo who spoke a little English, and translated to us his father’s intentions which was to take us to a local hotel, get the part and, put it in the next morning. Hopefully this small part will sort out our problem with our alternator and the plane should l will be good to safely on to Pousada Cabure.
Our night in Campo Grande, was uneventful, we had a good local fish meal in the hotel, and the next morning Marcelo picked us up to return to the airport to put the new part in the alternator. After an inspection of his work Marcelo did some checks on our plane, and we were good to go!!
The first time I had heard of Foz do Iguacu (Iguacu falls) was from Chris, after he had returned from a trip from Brazil with BA. I remember exactly how I found out about this wonderful place as it was a bit of a shock. I was in our apartment in the UK, and I had been up very early as I had been worrying all night about an exam that I was taking that week for my degree .I decided instead of lying there worrying, to get up and revise and await returning to bed as Chris’s flight was due in early. We could catch up with each other and I could and hear how Chris trip had gone. I looked up the BA246 flight which I knew he was on, and sat at my computer studying. I had heard a weird scratching sound at our front door about 7.00am; I ignored it thinking it was some bird or animal outside. But the scratching noise, which at first was very faint, began to get louder and turned into a banging sound at the front door. I ran to our vestibule and saw through our glass front door Chris struggling to open the door with a blooded hand, as he returned to unload his car I noticed a huge gash to his head, he was limping, and when he threw his jacket off his shoulder to grab his flight bag his other arm was in a sling!!!! I was really taken aback and thought OMG he must have been mugged on his trip. But even before I had chance to open our glass front door I noticed he looked surprisingly happy!!!! He beamed as he said “Corrine I have had a brilliant trip, I went to one of the most amazing places in the world, Iguacu falls!!” He then began to jabber on excitedly about what a great place it was and how we must go there together one day. When I pointed out his injuries he laughed and shrugged it off saying “no problem, we had a few Caipirinhas with dinner and we decided to go down and look at the falls at night, but unfortunately the falls were not lit, so I tripped, lost my balance and fell head first down the stairs, don’t worry it looks worse than it is, I have only cracked my collar bone!
So I have a very clear memory of this place, and remember how desperate Chris was for us to see this place together. The flight seemed very long and a blur today, but I think it was due to the stress of both our family issues. We were about 10 miles out Chris immediately spotted the falls in the distance. He asked the air traffic controller if we could circle the falls and to my surprised they agreed. Chris went wild and for about 20 minutes or so he clicked away at every angle he could, shouting at me to bank the plane this way and that, and lift the wing so he could frame the shot better or have more sunlight. I was stunned at the spectacular sight of these huge falls. We both agreed that we had seen Niagara, Victoria and Angel Falls but this was our favourite.
In arriving at our hotel I was VERY impressed!!!! This was an Orient Express hotel, one of the best, prestigious, old colonial stylish hotels. We were greeted by Patrick who escorted us to our room, gave us our complimentary Havaianas (Brazilian trendy flip flops) and showed us around our plush hotel. We were blown away at the wonderful manicured grounds of the hotel, and the pool was a full size with an elegant lounging area surrounding it. We did a nature tour and boat ride on the river and down and under the Iguacu falls(literally).We got thoroughly soaked but loved every minute of being in an inflatable under the falls!!We a met a pleasant friendly couple called Judy and Billy from Alabama on their 25th wedding anniversary, and what a great way to spend it in a luxurious hotel seeing incredible animals and nature up close and personal. In the morning we had the most remarkable breakfast I have ever had. It was a buffet style but there was every kind of fresh fruit juice and fresh fruit available. Much ham, sausages, bacon, salmon, and assorted meats were available. Also eggs done in different many ways with various added flavourings such as eggs mixed with cheese, or potato or meat or simply plain. The thing that bowled me over was there was also on offer for no extra charge champagne, and although I was very tempted I could not see myself climbing the falls in a 100 degree heat after partaking in alcohol at breakfast. Times that I have done this (which is not often) is when I have gone out with a group to celebrate a birthday or I have been in a top hotel in the world and it is a “must do thing” with the BA crew. I can remember arriving in our hotel Sydney, having smoked salmon and eggs with Champagne, but then waking up 7 hours later missing the whole day because the alcohol had knocked me out!! I definitely did not want this to happen on this trip!! At breakfast we got to see many animals and birds parrots, coati mundi and all kinds of lizard types. There was a full moon on our second night so we were able to see the lunar rainbow over the falls at night which is only seen 4 nights per month.
I was still very worried about my sister; I woke in the night having had a couple of panic attacks and told Chris I needed to get back to the UK. Not impressed with me spoiling this adventure, baling out on our mission, and abandoning him, he convinced me to call my family before either taking a 15 hour bus ride to Sao Paulo or flying there for 5 hours, staying in a hotel for the night and then getting a BA flight home. Chris would then have to continue the rest of the route alone. I called my brother Jamie and he was very supportive, he assured me that Belinda had improved and she was up and saying she wanted to go home. We still did not know what the results of her test were but we were awaiting and hoping for good news, the doctors had said and they would let her go home if this was the case. This is the thing about under taking a trip like this, although it is for an important cause, and our mission, it is also a fun, once in a lifetime experience exploring amazing faraway places. But when you need to get home in a hurry, or “when the shit hits the fan” it is a long way from home and a pain in the neck!! After a long debate/conversation we both decide that I would not leave for London until we hear the doctor’s result of her test. We go down to breakfast and see several parrots and a dozen toucans flying low over the breakfast area, Chris of course grabs his camera but alas they were too quick for him to get a decent shot. We proceed to the remarkable breakfast buffet and wonder at the fresh pineapple, mango, and guava jam. Chris stands up after serving his self with a hot breakfast and screams in agony!!It turns out that the fancy chandeliers have metal leaves hanging way too low over the food area. No one comes to our aid until they see blood pouring out of his head. I look at the leaves and realize they are really sharp like a knife edge. Chris now has a couple of cuts and a deep inch incision in the top of his head. The hotel staff finally gets a first aider who rushes around, gets bandages and swabs Chris cut and calls the manager. He comes and talks to us and apologizes but all he can say is that it was a clean lightening fitting and this is the first time it has happened. Not impressed we how they handled the incident we return to our room to pack and get ready to leave for the next stop. I am not really in the mood to carry on I feel deflated I email my family and I am reassured by my sister in law they will contact me when they hear any news about my sister. I tell Chris I will carry on with him to the Pantanal but if necessary, I will return to Sao Paulo so I can get back to the UK to be with my sister. We are heading for a nature lodge recommended by a friend of a friend in the Pantanal/ Amazon jungle, but first we need to refuel on the way.
We unfortunately received bad news just before we left Montevideo, that Chris’s poor mum who is elderly and bedridden had been taken to the hospital again. She has been in and out of hospital for various reasons this year, but when we called the hospital, they reassured us she was stable and would be back home in a couple of days. When we spoke to his mum she was a little shaky but insisted we should carry on our trip and mission.Torn between trying to get a flight back to the USA and continuing our journey, she reassured us she was OK. So we continue on to Brazil, Porto Alegre being a first place of entry into the country. We know this will be a long paperwork drama with customs and excise, as well as much paper shuffling with immigration. The weather from Montevideo was not good, it was bumpy, turbulent, hot, with the odd thunderstorm thrown in the mix all along the route. We of course have a head wind which contributes to a rough ride along most of the way, and as I am still not feeling very well and the bumps and the extreme heat are really not helping!! We take it in turns to dodge around the bad weather, avoiding nasty looking thunderstorms and heavy downpours. The bone rattling turbulence is making me feel really ill, I never get sick in turbulence but somehow with this tummy flu thing going on its not good. I try to concentrate on the lovely lush green landscape as we approach Brazil. Chris happily snaps away taking pictures, as I fly the plane. I am pleased that I have something else to focus on rather than my increasing nausea as we advance into Brazilian airspace.
When we finally land at Porto Alegre, I am soooo pleased to be on firma terra!!! We are met by two men in Lider uniforms, and although we do not recognize them, we are pleased to see them because we know we are in good hands, as we have found every one of them to be helpful and friendly. Today we meet Sergio and Heider. Sergio, we find out after talking to him, is also a walking miracle having also endured a hideous accident a few years ago. Heider comes from Salvador and recommends places we should visit on our return leg. After a while of organizing our paperwork, our friend from the outward leg, Fernando turns up, he tells us he did an early shift this morning but returned to the airport after taking a nap to meet us!! Within moments of getting reacquainted Fernando jumps into action, whisks us through customs and immigration formalities. He knows everyone in the airport and they all seem to love him. He knows where to go, who to see, and what to do. The normal slow painful, long drawn out process seems easy and almost fun with Fernando as we chat to people along the way of completing our paperwork. We meet a beautiful Brazilian immigration lady who also has the travel bug, and she tells us her dream is to do a long trip like ours but on a boat sailing. We chat to many people while “hanging” with Fernando, but on our return to the Lider office and chatting with the gang, Fernando tells us that he has lined up a TV interview at our hotel that evening. We are so pleased!!! Although we are both pretty tired we are almost re-energized by this news. We now have been given a chance to spread the word of organ donor awareness on Brazilian TV. A stunning lady called Candice and her camera crew showed up at 7pm, Chris is of course is clear, concise, and accurate when he speaks about organ donation and our flight in front of the camera, I on the other hand feel wooden, but speak from the heart about the experience from a family member perspective with a dry scratchy throat. I am told it sounded good but I am still not confident with my “media” image!! The following morning I wake up feeling REALLY rotten, I cannot face breakfast, I am not sure if standing is a good idea, I feel sweaty, weak and pathetic. I know I can’t stay in the room but cannot face being in our beloved plane which now begins represent to me a hot metal box!! I take a cold shower and check my email. I found an email from my lovely sister-in-law informing me that my poor sister Belinda, who has been bravely battling cancer for a many years, had been admitted to hospital in England with new problems. I am in a state of panic I am not sure what to do I am ready to jump on the nearest BA flight home to the UK, but I am not sure how to get there as we are many miles away from Rio or Sao Paulo which is the nearest international flight I can get with my flight pass. I try not to worry the guys from Lider about this new personal information. I talk to Chris who is also very concerned like me about this news. I am also worried about Chris’s mum, as is he. We board our little plane and although I feel extremely poorly, I now have bigger things to worry about. We say our goodbyes to Fernando, Sergio and Hieder, and make tracks for Foz do Iguacu or Iguacu Falls, which is on the border with Argentina and Paraguay. We depart knowing we are traveling north now in the direction towards the USA, and closer to Sao Paulo, where if necessary I can catch a flight to London to be with my sister. I feel a little panic in my chest as we progress along our route to Iguacu Falls.
We both loved staying in Montevideo as the Uruguayan people all seem very polite, relaxed, unruffled and calm, but when we arrived at the hotel that we stayed in on our outward bound leg, unfortunately for the first time we experience very untypical traits from a unfamiliar staff member who we did not recognize from our last visit. Although we had booked online for our room for 3 nights that morning, and it had been confirmed, we were told by a very officious, agitated, front desk individual that, because it was a Friday evening and the reservations office was now closed they may not have a room for us! Chris being on the ball pointed to his ipad which showed the booking confirmation but this did not seem to appease this man. We were made to wait so he could check for availability of rooms, and although we were both totally exhausted, we waited and waited and waited patiently. Chris was told to email the confirmation to the hotel, and checks of this and that went on for some time, and then he reprimanded Chris for not sending the confirmation to the right address, despite it being the one that he had written on a piece of paper. I have not often felt an instant dislike to many people but with this man I did. His condescending tone of voice and his lack of eye contact grated on me. When we were finally given our keys and walking to our room, I was ready to make huge note in the “we loved to hear from you, comments card” in our room!!! My suggestion to improve the quality of the hotel, I thought was to fire this guy! I have no idea why this man upset me so much, but I know that tiredness can have a powerful effect on one’s mood. I have witnessed it first hand at work with some passengers on long-haul flights. They board behaving charming and polite but after an 8 hour plus flight, they can become rude, discourteous and offensive. Just as children "throw their toys out of their prams" when they are agitated, frustrated or tired,(this I think is an English expression) I was really ready to bop this guy with my teddy bear!! I don’t remember un-dressing or getting into bed so I assume I must have fallen sleep asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next morning was brilliant sunshine, so we headed off to Poscito’s beach, where there is much people watching to be done, and I was able to chilled out listening to “old school’ tunes on my iPod. I was not really impressed with Chris’s foolhardiness of not listening to my suggestion of keeping his cut dry, because within minutes he was diving in head first and telling me not to fuss. I couldn’t really blame him for ignoring my “nagging” as it was about 100 degrees!!! We spent all day at the beach, enjoying the sun, swimming and marveling at how so many Uruguayan people love their Mat'e. We saw many different people on the beach, and no matter if they are young or old they were carrying their Mat'e cups and flask of hot water. We saw cool biker dudes, old grandmothers, sexy thong chicks, and total families with their Mat'e gear. Some had special Mat'e leather carrying bags. And no matter whom we watched they all had the same ritual; they added the tea to the cup stirring in the hot water, let it sit for a while so the tea could brew, a small stir and then slow sipping until a slurping sound is heard.
We planned for our first night back in Montevideo to return to the local resturant up the hill that we both enjoyed on our outward bound sector of this trip. So we headed up to savour their lovely lamb, but as we neared the entrance we realized the doors were shut, the front dining room was dark, and no one was around, because it was closed. We had not expected this, but because we were so hungry we decided to go for the easy option, a resturant a couple of doors down, which turned out to be magnificent! The décor inside this resturant looked like a rain forest, with huge tropical plants and lush blossoming trees. The food was also incredible!!!
The next day became the normal drama day(it seems that there is always one ).We could not get our money from the ATM machines and although we had informed the bank before we left that we were going to be traveling for three months and where we were going they have kept blocking our money and stopping it from being dispense to us.One bank person told Chris it was for his own protection that they stopped him from taking out money from his own account(go figure!) We had for some unknown reason been unable to pay for fuel in local currencies or credit cards as they prefer dollars.So we have had to use USA dollars from our money funds and it was starting to be depleted. Chris called on a good loyal old friend of ours to wire us some emergency money (in which we will pay back on our return to the USA) so we could have peace of mind of not running out of cash. Thankful our nice friend kindly obliged, so we had that huge stress off our minds. But the whole process was long winded and mindless in which both parties was asked stupid questions, had to give irrelevant details, and prove everything near close to one’s blood type!! Chris went to the bank to collect the money and we spent all day again relaxing at the beach. It was so hot that I was actually getting too much sun and I felt a bit dizzy and sick, like I had a little sun stroke. I staggered back to the hotel and laid down in our cool air conditioned room, I drank as much cold water to rehydrate myself, and after a while I felt better. I knew I was alright and getting back to my usual self, when my mind was returning to where and what I wanted to eat for dinner!!!
So our last night, we readied ourselves for dinner, but out of nowhere here was a loud thud against the window. We both jumped out of our skins and Chris said it was probably a poor bird which had flown into the window and had stunned itself. Horrified that it might be hurt I ran to the window only to see something which I could not quite make out. Outside our window was white stuff falling, it took a minute or so to realize that there was balls of snow was falling out of the sky!!How could it be snowing now and still be hot nearly 90 degrees? I had just been suffering from heat stroke!!We looked out of our window with our eyes bulging like we were trying to make sense of what we were seeing; we hardly said a word to each other until we heard another huge bang against our window and the snow had now turned to hail! I watched in awe as the wind suddenly picked up, the trees started whipping around and the leaves and anything not solid or held down bounced and swirled around the street! It was like something out of one of those corny horror /drama films when the sky suddenly goes dark, the weather picks up and whistles, just before the baddie comes into town.
Chris had a total melt down and began freaking out, he started shouting at me for not caring about our poor plane (old Blue Jay) and frantically called the airport because our plane was not chocked or tied. He insisted on us going to the airport to try and secure the plane and became inconsolable when I tried to calm him down. The main problem was when he called the airport no one could speak English so they kept putting the phone down on him, but after a while he got through to someone in operations who said he would get someone to check on our plane. Meanwhile we tried to get a cab from our hotel but of course many other people were also trying to do the same thing, as it was dinner time and people were going out to restaurants. A front desk staff member called us a cab and said it may be 20-30 minutes which seemed like a lifetime watching Chris stomping around, going to pieces, and repeatedly ranting about “old Blue Jay “flipping over” While we waited Chris made several more phones calls to the tower, he found out that the wind was dissipating and had gone from 50knots of wind to 20. People kept stealing “our cab” because as Chris paced up and down in the lobby speaking on his cell phone frantically, by the time I dragged him out they jumped ahead of the line!! The final call to the tower seemed to placate Chris as the wind had now dropped from 20 knots to 7.
We returned from the lobby back up our room and after a harrowing couple of hours but we had still not eaten. We decide to still go our favorite resturant with the outstanding lamb; we chatted to the friendly staff and shared with them our story and our mission for our flight. Although less anxious we still kept an eye looking out of the window checking the weather, noticing that the wind was almost calm and the rain had also died down. We returned to our room totally stuffed, but both less unnerved about “old Blue Jay” being flipped over by the wind and praying it would be in one piece in the morning.
I woke up in the middle of the night feeling really weak; I staggered around all night feeling sick, dizzy and generally rotten and sorry for myself. In the morning I still felt dreadful and knew I must have the same type of tummy flu that Chris had in Tigre as the symptoms were the same. I was tempted to stay in bed and curl up in a ball but I knew we had to forge on to Porto de Alegre our first port of customs and immigration for Brazil.
We were both looking forward to return to San Fernando Airport, not for the airport itself but because we were going to meet up with our friend Martin and the guys who looked after our plane from Cielo maintenance hangar, Gustavo and Leo. When we arrived we of course went through all the paperwork drama with PSA but somehow it did not seem so bad this time around, and I wonder is it because we are starting to get used to the stupid charade we have to do every time. We are warmly greeted by Gustavo and we get reacquainted with him sharing stories of our travels since we last saw him and hearing what has been happening with him, his work, and family. He looks at the damage on the plane that was done by my “incident” from Cholila and says he knows a guy who is an expert in repairs. I am really pleased as I still feel guilty for the damage I did despite knowing it was not my fault. Leo arrives and we also do some catching up with him, and the brothers as usual help us get a driver, and book us into a delightful hotel in Tigre a suburb of Buenos Aires about 20 minutes away.
The Villa Julia hotel was a delightful place to stay in, as it was once the family home of a wealthy prominent resident in the belle époque era (Edwardian to my British friends) and the building has been restored to its former glory, with original fixtures and fittings. We are staying in a suite which overlooks the pool area, and despite now being a hotel, the building itself had the feel of being a glamourous home. The huge crystal lantern in the living/bedroom area was really enchanting, and our large bathroom had a wonderful free standing deep bath. Our hotel is situated on the river so on our first day we did some tourist sightseeing,visited the Naval Museum, and took a boat ride along the river Parana which was really nice as we had some lovely warm weather .This was almost a perfect stop on journey because; in the grounds of the Art Museum of Tigre, I saw up close for the second time on this trip, green and red parrots flying around and nesting (not in cages in zoo), I caught up with my sleep,and had a magical lunch on an island not far from Tigre called Martin Garcia, after Chris and I were lucky to get a ride in our friend Martin’s beautiful Aero star. The only down side to this leg was that Chris got stuck in bed for almost a whole day with tummy flu/bug. I stayed in the room with him reading but it was not the most pleasant experience for either of us. But I suppose traveling to many places, drinking and eating at various locations,and despite being careful what you eat, tummy issues like this cannot be always avoided!!!
We leave Tigre late afternoon, Chris is still not feeling good and I do almost all of the flying. It is just getting dark when I land at the huge Carrasco International airport. We hope to see the friendly operation manager Jorge who we met last time we came to this airport.
On unloading our luggage on the ramp we are met by a friendly ground operation guy, Chris gets busy talking about airplanes as I of course unload the bags. It is now becoming a long standing joke at each airport we stop at , but also a bit frustrating on my part. As soon as we get out of the plane Chris talks to the ramp guys and “forgets” to help me unload the heavy bags saying “She likes to do it”. Tonight is no different from the rest he stands talking for ages as the ground guy is also a pilot. He shows him pictures of our trip, and I am not sure if it was because I was very tired but I don’t automatically go to unload the bags. Chris eventually starts to help but as he reaches into the airplane to lift out a bag he gashes his leg open!! The cut is pretty deep, the blood is everywhere, and I actually felt nauseous seeing this but go into “cabin crew mode” and drag out our first aid kit and look for a dressing and antiseptic cream. Chris being a man tells me not to fuss and carries on talking to the ground guy. I look at his cut and tell him he needs to go to a hospital or doctor as it looks pretty deep and may need stitches, but of course he refuses, but allows me to clean it and put a dressing on his leg. We enter the customs and immigration hall with our entire assortment of luggage. We are met by a ground operation officer who assists us right through security and notices that Chris limping. He directs us to the Farmacia (chemist)where we get extra dressings and creams for his leg, we jump an in taxi and head for the same hotel we stayed in on the Southern outward bound leg .