Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Sunday, September 07, 1997 19:10:34|
Northeast South America on Explorer: 1 - Exploring on the MV Explorer
Sunday, August 10, 1997
Marilynn and I flew to Aruba via Panama and Caracas, Venezuela. We took a taxi to the hotel, had a swim, a drink and went to bed.
Monday, August 11, 1997
Rented a car and drove to California Lighthouse, Natural Bridge and around the island. Swam at Baby Beach, then snacks & beer at Charlie's Bar. After changing at the hotel, dinner was the the Marketplace Restaurant and Crab House - excellent meal.
Tuesday, August 12, 1997
After checking out of the hotel we went for an appointment with Cecelia Vries, the Costa Rica consul. Marilynn went shopping in Oranjestad before returning the car at the airport and flying to Curacao, where we stayed at the Puero Paseo Hotel. Once checked in we took a ferry across to Willemstad where we walked around and had dinner at an outdoor restaurant.
Wednesday, August 13, 1997
After breakfast we took a taxi to the Suriname Consul to apply for a visa, then downtown to meet with the Costa Rican Consul, Jon Frankel. The Suriname visa was ready before we had lunch in Gomezplein. Back at the hotel we had a poolside siesta before boarding the ship Explorer, which left Curacao at 10 PM.
Thursday, August 14, 1997
When we awoke we were tied up in Bonaire. After breakfast we went to a small offshore island with crystal clear water and a great reef for snorkelling. In the afternoon we walked around town and got some underwater film developed. Local people were very interested in the photos I took of a turtle underwater. The Explorer sailed at 3 PM - tonight was the captain's dinner.
Friday, August 15, 1997
Claudia Roedel did a fish life lecture in the morning, and in the afternoon we went snorkelling in Mochimas National Park, Venezuela. It was not as clear as Bonaire, but still very good. My borrowed fins caused my toes to bleed. We sang around the piano in the bar until late.
Saturday, August 16, 1997
In the morning it was zodiac tours of Testigos Island, Venezuela. After lunch we snorkelled at Grande Testigo Island.
Sunday, August 17, 1997
During the night we docked in Scarborough, Tobago. A snorkelling tour by bus and boar was laid on, The Explorer sailed at lunch time. Brent Houston, a friend from a previous cruise, showed slides of Bonaire and John Howard gave an introduction to the rain forest. They ended the day with a movie.
Monday, August 18, 1997
After being cleared back into Venezuela we took the zodiacs up the Rio Arature near the mouth of the Orinoco River and explored some of its tributaries. Many local Indian families took to their canoes to paddle out to look at us - not a lot of tourists in this area. Further up the Orinoco we stopped at Bocas del Toro for an evening Zodiac run. Lecturer John Harwood got his zodiac stuck in the jungle and it took until after dark to get him out. Another sing along in the bar at night.
Tuesday, August 19, 1997
This morning we were in Ciudad Guayana, well up the Orinoco River. We bused to the airport where we boarded a converted DC3 with luxury seats down each side of the isle. We were given a close up look at Angel Falls before landing at Canaima Camp, where we had a boat tour close to the spectacular falls. Fred Poe and I chartered a Cessna 206 to fly back to Angel Falls for a really close look at the falls and area. The weather was clear and perfect. Back at the camp we swam in the dark river off a white sand beach. The DC3 got us back to the bus for the ship, where we had a fabulous BBQ dinner after an amazing day.
Wednesday, August 20, 1997
We did a 6 AM zodiac tour of a small tributary of the Orinoca towards the river mouth. Lots of bird life, and more Indian villages with the locals paddling out to look at us. In the afternoon John spoke on the vegetation, and there was a video on Amazon tribal life. To bed early.
Thursday, August 21, 1997
Today's wake up was in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. Instead of taking ship's bus tour we hired a taxi with another couple and had a great tour of town. The zoo was interesting, as it included the feeding of the lions. A very good lunch and Banks beer at the Tower Hotel was enjoyed with Fred Poe. We did some shopping in the market and stopped for a couple of more beer before returning to the ship for the 6 PM departure.
Friday, August 22, 1997
Lazy morning, missed breakfast due to a one hour time change. Charlie Wheatly gave a talk on coral reefs before a light lunch. It was an interesting approach to Paramaribo, Suriname, as the river was shallow and the propellers were churning up the bottom. Marilynn and I hired a cab for a 3 hour tour- there are a lot of beautiful buildings. We stopped at a pub and talked with some nice locals. At night the movie Papillon was shown in preparation for a visit to Devil's Island tomorrow.
Saturday, August 23, 1997
John spoke on Devil's Island in the morning. In the afternoon we went ashore on Isla de Salut, one of 3 in the Devil's Islands group, part of the colony of French Guiana, where there was a lousy village with an expensive bar in the hotel. Marilynn slipped on a rock by the ocean and fell in and I went in while trying to help her out. With us were Marilynn's camera, the binocular and video camera. We went back to the ship quickly to wash everything in fresh water.
Sunday, August 24, 1997
Monday, August 25, 1997
These two days we were at sea. My video camera seems to have survived, but Marilynn's camera had a total battery failure. At 6 PM we arrived at the cargo dock in Belem, Brazil. After dinner we went for a walk around the town and found a local pub in the central plaza. We packed at night.
Tuesday, August 26, 1997
Everyone had to leave the ship after breakfast. We shared a cab to the nearby Hilton Hotel which happily had a room ready at 8:30 AM. We went on an excellent tour Fred Poe had arranged, then on a guided tour that included the opera house. It was a "tipico" lunch of local food, and dinner was at a Japanese restaurant behind the hotel.
Wednesday, August 27, 1997
We taxied to the airport for our Trans Brasil Airlines flight to Natal via Forteleza. No one spoke English or Spanish, but we were able to bribe someone to allow our overweight suitcase on the plane. When we went to check into the Reis Magos Hotel in Natal I discovered I still had the key to the safe at the Hilton, and we didn't have passports, wallet or most of our money. The hotel let us check in. I phoned the Hilton - they said they couldn't open the safe without the key and couldn't have the lock changed unless I was there. We decided to set all ongoing arrangements back two days to make time to couriered the key to the Hilton via CEDEX, who promised overnight delivery, and for Hilton to courier our valuables back. We went for a walk, snack and drinks before bed.
Thursday, August 28, 1997
Varig airlines changed our flights no problem, and our hotel arranged for our booking on Fernando do Noronha to be moved ahead two days. We got $200 from the local bank on VISA, then walked around town and had lunch. Back at the hotel we swam before walking along the waterfront, watching huge waves hit the rocky shoreline. Dinner was at a beach restaurant.
Friday, August 29, 1997
The key had not arrive at the Hilton, so I went to a travel agency and bought a return ticket to Belem. Once I had the ticket the Hilton phoned to say they had the key, but I said hold onto it - I'm on my way. My flight from Natal to Forenza was cancelled, but I got a later flight on Varig which was 45 minutes late. I just made the Trans Brasil flight from Sao Luis to Belem. The people at the hotel were great, everything was ready to go, and they offered me a free room for the night. I couldn't stay due to our new reservations for Fernando de Noronha. The hotel changed $400 into local currency, and I took a taxi back to the airport where I sat for 5 hours waiting for the flight to Forteleza, and there another 3 hours in a deserted airport in the wee hours of the next morning.
Saturday, August 30, 1997
My flight landed in Natal at 6:30 AM. I took a taxi to the hotel, where I slept a couple of hours before going back to the airport to fly to Fernando do Noronha. There are no cars on the island, only a type of dune buggy, in which we were driven to our posada - a modified house for guests. We immediately left on a swimming and snorkelling tour, which ended at the Noronha Divers bar with some locals. From there it was to a very welcome bed.
Sunday, August 31, 1997
Today started with on a morning tour of the island, including stopping to swim in tidal pools. In the afternoon we went on a boat operated by an expat Brit to snorkel with the dolphins where they left a protected bay to feed. They are very friendly and playful.
Fernando do Noronha, in the South Atlantic Ocean about 360 km from North East Brazil, is a very special island which as yet is unspoiled by mass tourism. There is lots to do and many services, but don't expect big hotels and glitz - it isn't here! Most of this archipelago of 21 islands is national park, and no more than 420 tourists are allowed on the island at a time. There are organizations here working with sea turtles (January to June), with birds and with dolphins. Only one island is inhabited, with a population of just over 2,000 friendly people.
There are some historic sites including a fort that was a political prison built in the 1700's, and very dramatic rock formations, the biggest of which is called Morro do Pico, but the beaches and incredibly clear waters are the main reason to come. To get a taste of the island allow at least four days, and if you like the sea and the tranquil pace you will not be bored with a week here. An amazing amount of variety is packed on this 17 sq. km. island!
To get here fly Nordeste Linhas Aereas. It is an hour flight from Natal or an hour and 15 minutes from Recife, Brazil. There is a one hour time difference on the island from mainland Brazil, and a $4.30 per kilo charge for baggage in excess of 20 kg. per person.
Once on the island, you will need to show your passport, confirm where you are staying (advance reservations are usually required), and pay an environmental tax based on the length of time of your stay. The tax starts at $13.66 for a day to $1,366 for a month. Drivers with the vehicle of choice on the island, a type of dune buggy, operate a taxi service at the airport. They will take you to your accommodation for $10 for one to four people. (Four will be a crowd if you have luggage - there is one seat beside the driver and everyone else sits on the back, hanging on to a roll bar on the back of the roof.)
My wife and I stayed at the Pousada de Biu (tel.: 081-619-1364), where for $55 per day per person we had room and full board. This included breakfast, hot lunch and dinner. Both lunch and dinner had a choice of eight hot items, cold selections and a various deserts. Beer, bottled water or soft drinks are an extra cost. There are no accommodations on the beach - most beaches are national park. More expensive accommodation can include hot water, air conditioning and English speaking hosts. While the owners where we stayed did not speak English, many guests did.
The only town on the island, Vila dos Remédios, has a historic church, Fort Senhora dos Remédios-which was a prison for political prisoners dating from 1737, a few shops, a bar and a cafe. Two diving operators have locations in town, where three beaches are nearby - Cachorro, Meio and Conceicao. At night it may be possible to dance the Forró, which apparently got it's name when there was a U.S. military base at Natal, and dances on the base were sometimes held "for all".
The best way to see the island is by buggy, with a local driver-guide. You can rent a buggy on your own, but the cost is the same as with a driver, and you will miss a great deal, as the island is a maze of dirt tracks, some of which go to great spots and others which go nowhere, or to private homes. The cost for a vehicle with driver is $40 per half day or $80 for the day. Your guide will take you to spectacular beaches, lookouts, deep tidal pools in which you can snorkel among a large variety of tropic fish and to the historic sites on the island. Some guides speak English and other languages.
A trip not to miss is a tour by boat. We went with George Mortimer, an ex-patriot of Great Britain, who has the boat "Dolphin Watch" (Tel: 081-619-1129). He does a tour of approximately four hours leaving at 2:00 PM each day for a bargain $20 per person. The highlight, which I have seen nowhere else, is the opportunity to snorkel with the Dolphins. The island is noted for it's resident population of Spinner Dolphins, who are quite predictable in their habits. When they headed out of Baia dos Golfinhos, a protected area which is their home base, and moved down the coast, we were there in the water along their route. These playful mammals swam in and around the snorkelers, allowing an amazing close up look and even physical contact. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy the game, leaping from the water and putting on a show for us.
Scuba diving on the island is renown. Rogério Cavalheiro has Noronha Divers (Tel. 081-619-1403), who cater to experts and beginners alike. They have a program for first time divers where they will literally take the novice by the hand on their first opportunity to explore the dazzling sights beneath the waves. They also have full equipment for the experienced diver, and a good supply of tanks.
The islands are home to many species of birds, many of whom are not afraid of humans. A booby actually allowed my wife to approach it closely enough to touch! Frigate birds are always swirling overhead, and will be close at hand while you are on a boat or at the beach. There is also a shark fishery on the island which can be toured, and a lobster fishery for local consumption.
Monday, September 1, 1997
We took a morning tour to the village, the fort and the shark processing station with our regular driver Rildoo. We went snorkelling before going back to the posada to pack. Rildoo drove us to the airport for our flight to Recife, where we took a 2 1/2 hour tour of the city and neighbouring Olindo between planes. When we landed in Sao Paulo we got into the first hotel bus that came along, which happened to be the very nice Monaco Residential Hotel.
Tuesday, September 2, 1997
After a complementary breakfast the hotel shuttle got us to the airport for our flight to La Paz, Bolivia via Santa Carla, where we had to change planes. I changed some money at the airport before we took a cab to the Hotel Ritz. Once settled we took a cab to Government Plaza, high in the city, and walked back to the hotel, stopping at various markets along the way. When we got lost we asked directions to the Ritz, only to be met by blank stares. I tried a paper with Ritz written on it, and the problem was resolved. In the local accent R is pronounced SH, so we are staying at the Shitz. We took our laundry in and had dinner at a good hotel restaurant nearby while waiting for it to be done.
Wednesday, September 3, 1997
After breakfast in our room the taxi driver who brought us from the airport took us to Lake Titicaca, where we met the man who built and sailed with Kon Tiki. After crossing an arm of the lake by ferry we had lunch at Cobo Cabana. Back at the hotel I had drinks in the bar with Fernando Palza, the brother of Costa Rican friend Manuel Ruiz's wife. Marilynn went straight to bed, as she was feeling the 11,000 ft (3,400 meter) altitude.
Thursday, September 4, 1997
I met with the Ritz commercial hotel manager Beatriz Flores Golbert before breakfast, then took a taxi to a money changer and to a meeting with the manager of Andes Tours. The next taxi ride was to the Costa Rica Embassy to deliver information on the Association of Residents of Costa Rica. We had a tour of the wealthy residential section of La Paz ending at the Hotel Paris for a great lunch. Marilynn shopped in the afternoon while I read in a little cafe. Dinner was in our hotel.
Friday, September 5, 1997
We had to take a taxi to the airport at 6:30 AM for Costa Rica via Lima, Peru. Both the Bolivian Airline and LACSA turned a blind eye to our overweight luggage. LACSA was an hour late leaving Lima, and we had the last seats available, which were in the final row in the smoking section with no leg room and the seats didn't recline. It was a ghastly, painful flight. Jesus, our caretaker, picked us up at the airport and we were very grateful to get to bed early.