Don’t know how I managed it, but I got the second post on Cuba up today, this one on the Valley of Vinales. What a gorgeous place! Visit it at saystravelogue.com
Don’t know how I managed it, but I got the second post on Cuba up today, this one on the Valley of Vinales. What a gorgeous place! Visit it at saystravelogue.com
My first post on my one month’s trip to Cuba is finally up on my new website, saystravelogue.com. If you haven’t subscribed to that new blogsite yet, you might want to. It’s where I’ll be posting all my future travels.
Wonderful Holiday Wishes to each and every one of you, and may you have a Bountifully Blessed New Year!
Hello, Friends, Followers and Family!
I’m off to see a lot of different parts of the world in the next ten years (at least, that’s the plan) before I get too old and tired to be bothered with it all anymore 🙂
I’m in Mexico now, and my first big adventure is to Cuba for a month! Then later this winter I’m headed to Argentina for 3 months. Hopefully, next summer will include Portugal, Spain and maybe Italy if I haven’t run out of steam by then. As the years progress I plan to see lots more of Europe, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Iceland, South Africa, more of South America, Indonesia, maybe New Zealand, hopefully China, Mongolia, Russia….okay, I’m worn out now thinking about it all.
But YOU don’t have to get worn out…just subscribe to my new blogsite and you can travel vicariously with me for free! And it would be fun to stay in touch and hear from you as I go along.
Visit my new blogsite and subscribe there to join me in these adventures!
Blessings to you and yours!
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any adventures, so it’s about time!
This winter I’m planning to visit Mexico and Argentina. If you have any suggestions as to great places you’ve been to in either of those countries, I’d love to hear. Otherwise, I’ll travel using my tried and trusted method, which is to purchase three different travel guides – usually either DK Eyewitness Travel, Moon, Lonely Planet, or Rough Guide – and determine my route through their combined information.
I’m also wanting to start carrying advertisements of things that relate to my blog posts. For example, since I’ve already mentioned certain guide books, those guide books would have an ad link on my blogsite. But I will never charge you, dear reader and vicarious travel companion, for reading my journey’s notes.
Lots of learning to do…Better get started!
The last 24 hours have provided an astounding awakening for me…probably I should have known it before, but I’m just so damn trusting that others are as honest as I am. Here’s what I learned…
While doing an internet search under my name, just to see what is out there on the Wild Wild Web, I came across several websites that offered my books for FREE!!! Same cover, my name, all the content…for FREE! With THOUSANDS of 5-star reviews! Enough to have earned the money needed to have a well drilled on my property had the readers paid the meager few dollars I ask for those books on Amazon and Kindle!
So, I send a message to Kindle…so far, no response. Next, I drown in despair for a few hours about how the whole world seems to be going to Hell in a hand cart. Next, I sleep, or try to. Maybe I finally slept in the early hours of the morning. And then this morning I take my ritual wake-up walk. On that meander I begin to have pity for all those peeps (or perps) out there that have absolutely nothing more creative or better to do in their lives than to steal other peoples hard-worked-for accomplishments. I mean, REALLY, what kind of valuable life are they living? “What do you do for work?” “Oh, I pilfer and pirate other people’s products!”
After making up a yummy golden potato salad this morning (with organic mayo, red pepper, lots of dill, sea salt, onion and celery) I undertook an online search on whether Kindle had ever been sued, and lo and behold….the light flashed before my face! I should have known, I should have known….Amazon has been making a boat load of money from a ton of rotten practices through side-publishing private author’s works for a very long time! I had THOUGHT there would be laws that would not have allowed them to do this….but then, what else is new in the world of today??? The corrupt have been in power for a long time, but the curtains that hid them are finally falling…
So, my NEXT books will have to be published through real publishers. Which presents a challenge, but hey! What else is life about? One challenge after another :)) And growth through it all!
Thank you so much to all of you, my friends. It’s wonderful to know there are still real people on board this beautiful planet!
Bountiful Blessings to all of you!
May 24th, 2011 – Took a last walk through parts of Paraty I’d not seen before. There was a lot of construction going on in the building of a stone path out to the jetty. It will be an attractive addition to the town when it is done.
Back at the Hostel I savored my last Brazilian breakfast and coffee – how I will miss the coffee! There is nothing like it in the U.S.! Paid my Hostel bill and headed to the bus station, where I asked a young man to take my picture.
The bus was very comfortable – nicely padded seats and leg cushions! The route runs along the coast and turns inland at Ubatuba to climb over the mountain range and drop back down onto an interior freeway system. The coastline was stunning and lush with eucalyptus forests, pines, bamboo, banana trees, and large flowering plants that were almost trees themselves!
At Sao Jose dos Campos I exchanged buses, and caught one at 3:30 p.m. going directly to the Guarulos International Airport. It arrived at the bus stop right on schedule and had only 10 people on it! The ride to the airport was calm and beautiful in the late afternoon sun on the fast, lightly trafficked toll highway. This was decidedly the best way to have gotten to the Airport – the other idea of going into Sao Paulo itself and catching a subway from there to the Airport would have been much more difficult – it was a suggestion that had been made to me by one fellow I had asked a few days back.
Wandering through the Airport I spied a great little Japanese restaurant tucked back away from the heavily walked areas. I ordered the combination plate – 17 pieces of fresh salmon, tuna, octopus and rolls – Yum! Plus a beer! This was the capper to my last travel day in Brazil, and a preparation meal for the long flights ahead.
My flight departed Sao Paulo on time. It was an American Airlines Airbus, and served a good dinner and an alright breakfast. I might have gotten 3 hours of sleep. When we landed in Dallas, the weather was gorgeous. It was astonishing to learn that there had just been a series of three tornados that had ripped through the city during the time I was flying from Sao Paulo. There had been golf-ball sized hail, extremely high winds, over 100 flights had been cancelled, and over 1000 people had slept overnight in the Airport on cots! What a disaster!
My on-going flight had been cancelled, of course, so I spent the entire day in the Airport watching CNN report on the tornados that had ripped through Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Unbelievable destruction and loss of life.
The shuttle service that was to pick me up in Los Angeles and deliver me to Palm Springs, accepted my cancellation. Amazingly, American Airlines was able to re-route me directly into Palm Springs on an evening flight. During my day at Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, I heard numerous stories regarding the flight delays the hurricanes had caused. One woman told me that some folks she knows had been waiting since Monday to catch a flight, as there were storms here on Monday, too, that caused canceled flights. That’s 3 days living at an Airport! I overheard another woman say that there were over 85 people on stand-by waiting to get on one flight! What a mess! But, to the credit of all the folks everywhere, all was calm and under control. There was a sense of peace in the Airport, and I took it with me on my flight back to Palm Springs.
The travels in Brazil were a big eye-opener for me. Learning the history was a revelation – it helped me understand the larger picture of how the current world became developed. Would I go back to Brazil? In a heartbeat! And next time, I’d definitely spend more time in Paraty!
May 23rd, 2011 – This was to be my last full day in Brazil. Breakfast was a little late being served at Hostel Che Legaro, but finally it was all on the table by 8:30 or so. After breakfast I set out for a walk in a contemplative mood – this would be my last relaxing day, as the following day would be all about traveling back to the U.S. I would be leaving Paraty in the morning, taking several buses to get to the Airport in Sao Paulo, and catching a flight at 9 p.m. for Dallas, where I would connect through to Los Angeles, and be picked up by a shuttle service to arrive back in Palm Springs. I decided not to think about it, and to focus on my last day in Paraty.
I crossed over the waterway footbridge and walked up the beach to a kayak rental shop where I checked on the price. He didn’t have the type of kayak I was looking for, so he suggested I try the shops over the hill along the beach to the north. It was a short walk up the cobblestone street over the hill – stunning views – that descended down on to beach town of Jabaquara. The beach was quiet – no one out on it yet. The main street running along the beach was lined with many Hostels, Hotels and Pousadas.
The Hostel that rented the kayaks had the style of kayak I was looking for, and I rented it for 2 hours. I paddled out to and around an island where I watched fishermen setting out their nets, cormorants drying their wings, and a large heron eyeing me closely. From there I paddled a long stretch of water to a distant, privately owned beach. Leaving the kayak above the wave break, I explored the beach front a little, then ate lunch – apple and nuts. On the property just back from the water was a stone home, driveways and paths that spoke of an era my grandparents would have known. It was idyllically serene.
From there I paddled back to the beach I had launched from at Jabaquara, and returned the kayak. Oozing with calm and peace, I spread myself out on the blond sand beach and baked in the sun awhile.
As I lay there I was thinking how pictures cannot capture the texture of the sand, the scent in
the air, the sensuousness of the breeze on the skin, the warmth of the sun penetrating to the bone, the brilliant green of the hills, the vibrant abundance and euphoria emanating from all the surrounding plants, trees and flowers. No picture I could take could capture what I was experiencing – you will simply have to come to Paraty!
Later in the afternoon I walked back into Paraty, checked my bus ticket for the next day to see if there wasn’t a later bus I could take that would still connect me on to the Airport in time – there wasn’t – and back to the Hostel Che Legaro for a shower and later on, another evening walk before bed. It had been the biggest gift of the trip, to have spent those last two days in Paraty. I could not think of any other place in Brazil I’d been to that I’d rather have been for my last days. The trip to Brazil had turned out better than I could have dreamed. Now I just had to make all the proper bus connections to get back the States.
May 22, 2011 – Woke with the dawn and went out for a walk down along the waterway, over to the beach and on to the pier, around the perimeter of town, and back via the main street. What a charming town this is! Originally built as a port from which to ship gold back to Europe, the fort was designed to protect against the pirates. Another fort port is up the coast a few hundred miles, so the pirates didn’t know which port was being used at which time. Now the historic fort is used as the high end shop and restaurant area – nicely done!
Back at my Hostel, I had breakfast overlooking the waterway, where I watched a cormorant swim at least 80’ underwater and schools of very large fish swimming past. Though the water is a muddy brown color, it still has fairly good visibility.
Our boat trip was to begin at 10:30, so the group of 8 passengers – all from our Hostel – walked out to the pier together with the skipper. Normally the boat would come up the waterway and pick us up at the dock of the Hostel, but the tide was so low this morning there wasn’t enough depth for the boat to come up the waterway.
As we approached the pier, a horrible fight was going on between a young woman and an older man – perhaps her father. The police were there keeping the “domestic” under control, but the screaming and crying and raised fists were the first I’d ever experienced in Brazil!
Walking down the length of the pier we saw dozens of tour boats ready to take tourists to the various islands for the day – it was astonishing how busy it was! We boarded our small, hand-crank engine boat, and it putt-putted out into the flat water ahead of all the other tour boats still loading at dock.
Our first stop was an island where we anchored just offshore and snorkeled for at least 45 minutes. The water was crystal clear and lukewarm. The skipper tossed some small bits of bread into the water and INSTANTLY a group of fish appeared and ate it! They looked like Pirhana to me, but he called them some other name…hmmm.
From there we putt-putted over to another island beach and anchored offshore again. This island had a restaurant with beach tables and umbrellas – Lovely! I had brought my health food with me – apples, cheese, carrots, nuts and crackers – so I was already set for lunch. After more snorkeling and sunbathing I fell asleep on the sand. It felt divine to relax in the sun to the sound of the gentle waves lapping at the water’s edge.
About 1 ½ hours later, we putt-putted to another beach, and our skipper took us on a short walk into the jungle to show us where the Germans built a factory 150 years ago to make a highly potent alcoholic drink from sugar cane. The large water wheel that powered the pressing of the cane is still standing, though quite overgrown by jungle. The Brazilian who owns the land is interested in preserving this historical landmark and is not planning to develop it, according to the skipper.
Late afternoon was underway, and our skipper putt-putted the boat back to Paraty and up the waterway, where we disembarked at the dock of our Hostel. We arrived just as the sun was going down. I grabbed my duffel bag and headed over to a different Hostel – the first one had horrible sheets and flimsy bunk beds made with aluminum frames – scary. I had arranged my new Hostel – Hostel Che Legaro – during my early morning walk.
My new room was not a dorm room – I now had a double bed, fresh cotton sheets that felt like sheets should, a great bathroom and a wicked-good shower! After showering I headed down for a delicious dinner of fresh fish.
Making the extra effort to get to Paraty was well worth it. The entire coastal area is stunningly beautiful, peaceful and as close to paradise as I have perhaps ever been.
This is a town I could see myself living in. It is situated half-way between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, so if one wanted to visit a bit of city life there’s plenty not far away. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of small gorgeous islands to explore, fishing, snorkeling, swimming, sailing, kayaking, diving, beaches, fresh fruits and veggies, delightful restaurants and shops, incredible views of mountains circumferencing the town, and clear blue water to gaze upon. Paradise looks like Paraty!
May 21st, 2011 – The breakfast buffet was a lavish spread laid out on glass plates in tiers on a long, white tablecloth. The dining ware was equally elegant, which made the whole experience quite impressive. And, at last, I was not dining alone – there were at least 25 others at breakfast, most of them probably in their 70s. The one strange thing I noticed is that the breakfast music that was playing was “Smile, though you are in pain, Smile, though ….” A bit of a curious choice, I thought.
I was excited to get down to the Parque to see the hot mineral waters and discover whether this was a place I might be able to hold future health retreats for Brazilians. I was looking for hot soaking mineral waters, but to my astonishment I learned upon entering the Parque that these mineral waters ARE FOR DRINKING!
There was a large pool house where people could swim in the mineral waters, but the water was not heated, and there was a separate admittance fee to use the pool house after you had already paid to get into the Parque. It was a bit of a disappointment, but I decided to walk around the Parque anyway and see the rest of it since I was there.
The Parque is the central feature of Coxambu, and has a small lake with swans in the middle with a single seat chairlift that hoists people above the lake to the top of a hill overlooking the Parque and Coxambu. I took the chairlift to the top, and on the ride up I saw a wild Toucan in a tree just next to the lift!
The views from the top of the hill were magnificent! Once down the chairlift I walked back towards the Hotel, and passed the Rodoviario on the way. Upon checking when the next bus left for Sao Lourenco, I was told it would be LEAVING IN 5 MINUTES!!! I raced to the Hotel, grabbed my bag and raced back to the Rodoviario and boarded the bus just as it was driving away from the Rodoviario! That was a bit close!
Sao Lourenco was the next mineral water town I wanted to visit, again to see if it might work as a health retreat location. The bus pulled into Sao Lourenco just before noon, and I could already tell from the drive into town to the Rodoviario that I didn’t want to even bother spending any time checking it out. Coxambu and Sao Lourenco were the first two towns I’d been to during my entire journey through Brazil that I did not care for. And now I had only 2 full days left after this day to enjoy the rest of my trip – what was I going to do? I was in a dilemma! I stood at the Rodoviario and looked at maps and schedules.
I decided I really wanted to go to the coast and spend my last two days at the beach. In the 15 minutes it took me to figure that out, a bus left that would have taken me to a connecting bus on to Paraty, a coastal town that Niki, the South African woman I had met back in Belo Horizonte, had raved about. She had spent a week there when she first arrived to Brazil and couldn’t recommend it more highly.
I went back and forth between two ticket windows talking with each ticket seller about buses and schedules, and there was no bus in either direction that could get me to another connecting bus to Paraty by the evening. The ticket agents each called other terminals for me to verify bus departure times, and did all they could to help find me a way to make my destination. But nothing was working.
Finally, after debating all the options, I decided to take a 2+ hour taxi ride to Barra Manus – a taxi would get me there in time to catch a connecting bus to Paraty and arrive at the seaport by evening.
The ticket seller at one of the booths helped me secure a good taxi. Ticket sellers are licensed to make taxi recommendations with licensed taxi drivers, a system which is supposed to spare non-Portuguese speaking travelers from getting ripped off. It worked. He quoted me $R200 in comparison the $R500 another independent taxi driver quoted.
After thanking the young ticket sellers profusely for all their assistance, I was off again, this time in the front seat of a taxi with a driver that spoke minimum English. It could have seemed like a very long two and a half hours to Barra Manus, but it didn’t. He was a kind, likeable man, very thoughtful and considerate. And the scenery was stupendous!
The road wound through the verdant mountains between the states of Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It twisted and cris-crossed back and forth over the borders along the high peaks, and eventually descended down into the flatland of the state of Rio de Janeiro. We arrived in Barra Mannus one hour before my bus departed to Paraty, so the pressure was now off. I finally began to relax – I was going to make it to Paraty after all!
During the bus trip to Paraty I began to realize how tired I was. I was falling asleep while sitting upright in my seat, and I would suddenly wake myself up with a little SNORT! How embarrassing!
We finally deboarded the bus in Paraty at 9:20 p.m. It didn’t take long to walk through the streets to the Hostel del Rio on the waterway. Checked in to a dorm room, and before long was sleeping soundly, finally at my coastal destination for my last two full days in Brazil. What amazing fortune to have made it to the coast! There was a full-day snorkel tour of the islands happening in the morning, and I was already booked!
May 20th, 2011 – My trip was down to the last 4 days before catching my flight out of Sao Paulo back to the U.S. I had missed two other steam train rides that I had hoped to take – one early in the trip at Curitiba, and one at Mariana. Now I had one last opportunity to ride an old steam train into the small gold mining town of Tiradentes, which means tooth-puller, and was named after Joaquim Jose da Silva Xavier, who lived from 1746 to 1792. He was a leading member of the Brazilian revolutionary movement known as the Inconfidencia Mineira. The movement’s goal was full independence from the Poruguese colonial power and to create a Brazilian republic. When the independence movement plan was discovered, Xavier was publicly hanged. After the republic was formed he has been honored as one of Brazil’s national heroes.
Breakfast was abysmal at the Vila Hostel, and once again I was the only one staying there. I raided the almost empty fridge, sucked a couple raw eggs and strolled out to enjoy the beautiful morning in the lush, green back yard. Packed up my duffel bag and stashed it in my dorm room, left the Hostel and walked to the well-maintained train station. A Museum about the history of the train era and gold extraction in Brazil was housed within the station.
As I was perusing through the Museum while waiting for the train to begin boarding, hordes of screaming 8 to 10 year old school children flooded into the Museum, all ticketed to take the train to Tiradentes. Every single one of them had a digital camera and they were flashing photos like mad as they dashed around and leapt from one old train engine to another. There were several school teachers accompanying them, though not controlling any of them in any way.
The train began to board and I chose to sit in a car near the rear of the train. Shortly after doing so, I realized my mistake – the rear cars were loading up with all the wild and screaming children. I quickly moved forward about 4 cars to one that had older, quieter folks, like myself. Fortunately, I was still in time to find a window seat. The windows slid up and down and all of them were open which made it easy to stick the camera out to catch train shots as it went around bends.
The ride to Tiradentes was flat and went through lush green countryside, with lakes in the foreground, mountains in the background. Occasionally the smoke from the engine’s smokestack would drift into the windows – ugh! It was filled with small black particulate matter, and later I learned that the train was burning oil, which stunk to high heaven when it wafted by. But for most of the ride the air was clean and breathable. The countryside was gorgeous!
The old-time train whistle was great to hear, and it tooted as often as it could, at every crossing, at every passer-by – it kept pretty busy! As we pulled into Tiradentes, there were over a dozen horse-drawn taxi carriages ready and waiting to transport people into town. I chose to walk, as the town was just a couple blocks from the train terminal and I wanted to exercise the legs.
Tiradentes is a beautiful town with a river running through it, mountains all around, and it sits fairly high with commanding views. The highest hill in town has a Basilica perched atop, and the cobblestone streets that splay out below are lined with high-end tourist shops and restaurants. I thoroughly enjoyed this town – it was elegant, peaceful and surrounded by stunning landscapes in every direction.
Before I had headed into Tiradentes I watched the group of train engineers turn the engine around to ready it for it’s return to Sao Joao del Rei. It was quite an operation. Many of the passengers stood and watched the engineers get the engine onto the turnstile, rotate it around and back it up to hitch it to the train cars. Interesting to see.
I caught the 1 p.m. train back to Sao Joao del Rei, and it was totally empty of school children – they had all returned by bus. Arriving back into Sao Joao del Rei, I had quite a time finding the Rodoviario, but upon finally locating it I learned that there was a bus that departs every day at 3 p.m. to Coxambu, my next destination. I didn’t want to stay another night and almost full day in Sao Joao del Rei just waiting for the next day’s bus, so I decided to try to catch this bus – but it was already getting late. By the time I got back to Vila Hostel, it was 2:50 p.m.!
I grabbed my duffel bag, quickly paid my Hostel bill, asked the desk girl to call me a cab, and dashed out the door to the other side of the road. I stuck out my thumb to start hitching a ride to the Rodoviario, in case my taxi didn’t show in time. A woman was pulling out of a parking lot just next to me, and I asked her for a ride to the Rodoviario, but I think she thought I was a rather strange person, and chose not to.
I was feeling a tad frantic! The next car that came driving down the road I started waving at with both arms and hailed it down as though it should pull over – AND IT DID! The driver was a sweet older gentleman and upon quickly explaining about trying to catch a bus at the Rodoviario that would be leaving in 8 minutes, he offered to take me there!!!
He drove a luxurious car with plush leather seats. I jumped in and off we went. Fortunately, he knew the shortest route to the Rodoviario, and though we were slowed by having to wait for a couple red lights, he ran the third red light (no one was coming) and dropped me off at the Rodoviario at 2:57 p.m. Gushing many grateful thank yous and waving good-bye, I dashed to the ticket counter – it was closed! But – the ticket sales woman saw me and remembered me from earlier. She came out from the ticket office and walked me over to the gate, where she explained to the bus driver that I could still board the bus and pay for the ticket once I was onboard!!
I still had to buy another ticket to go through the gate to get to the bus, so after quickly purchasing that ticket at a kiosk I passed through the gate and boarded my bus to Coxambu! The bus was full – I was the last passenger through its doors!
Once we pulled out of Sao Joao del Rei, the bus assistant came down the aisle and collected fares from those who had not yet paid. Fortunately, I still had the name of the town I was going to and the fare cost written on the paper the ticket office woman had originally given me. The rest of the ride was a breeze as the bus wound its way through gorgeous scenery along the old trade route to Coxambu.
The bus arrived to Coxambu at 6:30 p.m. I walked to the nearest hotel and booked a room. The hotel was made entirely of marble – quite grand. It also had a Spa which I used immediately. First, the steam room, and then a 40 minute massage. Ahh, what luxury!
It was the end of a wonderful, crazy day. Before heading off to bed, I watched a large group of hotel guests dancing to a live jazz band in the large lobby area of the hotel. Nearby was a fireplace dancing with flames, while outside everything was frozen solid at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It felt like a great accomplishment and relief to have made it to Coxambu, the city known for its mineral waters, and to have a secure, warm place to stay on a frigidly cold, dark night.