At Recife we took a shuttle bus to the centre of the old part of the city. Old is an understatement – run down, dilapidated or dirty would be better descriptions. We really wondered how this country with considerable history, wealth, population and economic advantage in the region, could have as it’s third largest city a menacing, dirty and disorganized jumble with beautiful old buildings (including churches) going to ruin amongst temporary stalls and stores.
Some would say this is a little harsh but what you see is what you get and the Venice of South America is not what we saw, despite assurances to the contrary. Fortunately, friends on organized tours saw a very different side to Recife (beaches and panoramic views – better from a distance?) and were keen to see more so we figured the best option was to do a tour in Salvador and see the “best” of that city.
Not to be though – another day of menace and an overwhelming desire to be back on the ship. Something in these two cities wasn’t right. Apparently we were the first cruise ship of the summer season so perhaps there were more touts, salespeople and inexperienced guides out and about? There were certainly too many shifty looking kids and men hanging around waiting to take advantage of the unwary but worse was the fact that we seemed to stand out like sore thumbs, particularly on the Salvador tour – no more cruise tours for us, thanks!.
Despite the above description we still found the overly cautious warnings being delivered on the ship before arrival in Brazil quite amusing – apparently gangsters will cut your fingers off, take your rings and just hand you back your fingers!! Nothing like a 3rd hand, twice translated story to give a message a special air of ridiculousness.
Reading back over this it does seem a bit extreme but I think that is because I am finally posting this having been in western and southern Brazil where we found the towns and people much more interesting. Salvador does have some spectacular old architecture, an overall nice coastal outlook and minus the tour groups and touts an afternoon in the cafes along the town square would be pretty cool……………
And what of arriving into Rio de Janeiro by ship? Well, from Salvador to Rio took 36 hours so there was a day at sea that needs a mention……..
Our last full day at sea and for most of the day we were constantly treated to appearances by pods of migrating whales. Sitting on our balcony we only saw one side of the ship but there was rarely 20 minutes that weernt by that we diudn’t see whales. Spouts of water in the distance, tail slapping, babies, adults and then dolphins in our bow waves – a really amazing day at sea!!
Next morning was one of those special events as well – arriving into Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro!
Glimpses of Copacabana Beach are nothing compared to the dominating image of the Sugar Loaf mountain and behind that the statue of Jesus Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor). There are many mountains with spectacular peaks, mostly covered by forest and of course there are the districts of the city itself. A great last morning to finish a great cruise.