Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 4 - From Rio de Janeiro to Manaus

Day 4 was never going to be great. I had to get up early after a heavy late night before, eat breakfast and get packed in time to get to the airport to catch a couple of flights to take me a long way across the South American continent into the heart of the Amazon, the city of Manaus.

The last of three brekkies at Ana’s was as good as the others, with Mango juice this time. Sweet. She ordered me a taxi and I had an hour and a half to shower, shave, brush teeth, pack, blog and tidy room. Did it all with minutes to spare. I checked very carefully that I didn’t leave anything behind (I think).

The taxi ride was smooth (well actually very bumpy indeed - god knows how often Cariocas have to fix their car suspensions, the cobbles are everywhere) and so I had about two hours to kill at Santos Dumont airport – right in the centre of Rio. It feels good to be at an airport and not feel all panicy. I like it. So, with my clumpy old brown boots, white socks and baggy old-man shorts and a grey “Brian Clough and Peter Taylor” T-shirt that only a Forest fan would recognise (nice birthday gift, though, I’m not dissing it!), I walked around looking like a gringo dick ‘ed. Then, I saw it. I looked at it for about 30 seconds before I realised what it was… a FIFA Ticket collection centre.

I hadn’t conceived of this possibility. In all my planning, somehow I never checked if ticket collection might have been thought of as a sensible option when you arrive at an airport. Anyway, I told the guy that I had arranged to pick them up in Fortaleza next week but asked if could I do so now. “Sure” he said. I just needed to show my passport. “So that’s six tickets, right?”

Fantastic. See, the last ticket I’d bought (for Uruguay v Costa Rica in Fortaleza on June 13) I had actually lost my credit card that day (typically, it turned up three days later, just after we had cancelled the card) – so, my daughter Laima had kindly lent me use of her debit card to buy it. Great, until I read the FIFA small print which stated that they were strictly only allowing the card owner to collect tickets. I wrote to them. I phoned them – yes I phoned Switzerland, home of FIFA, and spoke to a couple of representatives, and they were all adamant – you’d have to let that one go! Outrageous. So, the plan was for Laima to get a second card in my name so I could get around that one. The problem there was that The Commonwealth Bank just don’t do that for Debit Cards. So, when I left, I went with documentary evidence that Laima is actually my daughter and I was going to plead with them!
What a waste of time and effort all that was!
Anyway, I am very pleased with that indeed. So then I did a bit of blogging before getting on the plane. I had a window seat and got spectacular views of Rio as we winded our way East and then North-West.

The flight was very pleasant and included, for me, the best in-Flight magazine ever. More on this later, but suffice it to say, that it had an intelligent World cup theme that I couldn’t have dreamt of being better.

Best in-flight magazine... ever!
TAM have obviously really got into the spirit of the thing. When I got off the plane I was very impressed with this...

Better than a Red Carpet!

I had a pretty good experience at the Budweiser-only World Cup bar. (Gee, thanks, Bud!) The beer was… well, Budweiser and the food was a bit plain but it was quite cheap and they had lots of football oriented stuff including a ridiculous big screen with a mini stadium (well, curved rows of tiered seating) around it. I got a lot of blogging and social media stuff done. It feels good to be in touch with people all over the world.
Brasilia Airport- Modern, swish... but not quite finished

FIFA Store - Lots of shirts for sale - Brazil, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany... but not England

The view from the Budweiser Bas

I had a bad experience with some soup I bought – thanks to my ignorance. The soup I bought was offered to me as a taster – Brazilian stuff (memory prevents recall again, sorry) – so of course I’m going to try it. The taster didn’t taste bad so I bought some plus what I thought was a roll to dip into it. Wrong. It was some kind of pasty with some really horrible yukkie stuff inside. The soup itself had these peculiar bits in it which I hadn’t noticed in the sample. Quite unpleasant really, if you’re not expecting it. Plus a plastic cup of juice (seemed a bit dilute to me too) cost R$35. I felt ripped off and couldn’t eat more than half of it.

Then, there was a mini panic as they changed the gate the flight was going to go from, almost at the last minute, but everything was cool and the plane set off for Manaus a little late.

It felt strange looking out the window towards the end of the three hour flight, thinking that below was a huge stretch of the Amazon rain forest, but I couldn’t see anything but darkness and clouds.

Manaus airport was not quite as plush as Brasilia’s but it was all fine and it was a great relief to be greeted by a woman holding a big card with my name on it. She’d come to pick me up and take me to the airport. As her English was almost non-existent we had to communicate in Portuguese and I think I did ok – telling her where I lived, where I’d been, where I was going and what my plans were for the morning. She told me her husband was Portuguese but she was born here in Manaus. She also said that Fortaleza is lovely but that I need to be careful in Belem, Sao Luis and Natal. So, need to get the guard up again, me thinks.

When we arrived at the hotel there was a comical scene as the receptionist guy was crashed out fast asleep. Even when we woke him he was dozy and struggled to find my booking. Anyway, all in now. It’s nice to have a whole room to myself without worrying about anyone else being around. The shower was great actually and even the toilet seat was spongy – pleasant thought indeed!

Anyway, got everything re-charging as the next two days they’re be no “leccy”.

So, actually another great day in the end, even though almost all of it was spent getting to and from airports, wasting time whilst there, or flying between them.



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