Brazil Fits the Bill

This item appears on page 22 of the March 2016 issue.

The object of our recent essay contest, Brazil, inspired a number of travelers to put their impressions and ideas into words — and, from the submissions we received, it was apparent there was a lot of material to work with. ITN staff felt that three of the essays were standouts, and leading the pack was the work of PHILIP SHART of Tamarac, Florida, who will receive a 3-year extension to his subscription to ITN (or he can pass his prize along to friends). In second place was the essay of LINDA BEURET of Santa Barbara, California; she’ll get a 2-year extension. And in third place was JOHN DOELLINGER of Wimauma, Florida, who won an extra year of ITN.

In this contest open to ITN subscribers only, the next essay topic on the list created by ITN’s founder and original publisher, the late Armond Noble, is “I’m Bullish on Bulgaria.” If you have been there, in no more than 300 words (note: 300 words), describe what you experienced in Bulgaria that evokes a sense of the country’s atmosphere, culture and/or attractions. Email your essay to editor@intl or send it to Essay Contest, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is April 30, 2016. A prize will be given for the winning essay, which will appear in ITN.

Here, now, are the latest winning essays.

“Brazil fits the bill”? Brazil fits many bills.

We started our trip in bustling Rio by strolling Copacabana Beach, with its sand sculptures plus its locals playing volleyball soccer-style (without hands), and only a short walk from Ipanema Beach! Most of the city was busy; we rode the subway and jostled on the sidewalks with business suits and got stuck in traffic jams.

Then we flew to Salvador, with its vibrant tension in a setting of gracious colonial buildings. We saw the brilliance of gold in São Francisco Church, the earnest faith in Candomblé and the passion of the African drummers and capoeira dancers/fighters. We saw the docks and markets and cozy shops. We walked in neighborhoods so dangerous that we had to have guides. But the city was a delight.

Steamy-hot Manaus was next. This was another busy city, bigger than we had thought but with a glamorous past rooted in the bygone days of rubber plantations run by foreign barons. For us, the city was a jumping-off point for our cruise on a small, live-aboard ship on the deceptively lazy-looking Amazon. We saw caimans and pink dolphins and squirrel monkeys and more birds than I can name.

From the sleepy town of Cuiabá, we drove on a rutted road to our lodge in the Pantanal. More wildlife — caimans again, piranhas (piranha soup!), the ridiculous-looking capybaras, lazy tapirs, an even lazier sloth and very lively river otters.

Our trip ended with the mist and roar of Iguaçu Falls. We had been to Niagara and Victoria, but neither prepared us for the magnificence here. We got soaked just looking from the tourist platforms, even before we got even more soaked and almost deafened on our boat ride under the watery onslaught.

Brazil has it all.
John Doellinger, Wimauma, FL

Brazil fits the bill. Not just the bills, but the wings, tail feathers and exotic songs of the hundreds of birds we have seen there have made Brazil our favorite bird-watching country.

Our first trip took us down the 2,000-mile length of the Brazilian Amazon on the old Lindblad Explorer, young beginning birders full of adrenalin and up before dawn with borrowed binoculars. The first birds we saw in the morning mist were three magnificent blue-and-yellow macaws rising up from the trees. From that moment, we fell hard for the beauty of Brazil.

Over the years, and 950 birds later, we’ve come to know not only the beauty of the birds but the friendliness of its natives, the great food and, of course, caipirinhas made of rum-like cachaça.

We’ve marveled at the great rivers of Brazil, many larger than our Mississippi. Near Manaus, the chocolate-brown Rio Negro joins the café au lait Amazon at the famous “Wedding of the Waters.” Nearby, we spotted our first harpy eagle, largest bird of prey in the Americas, some weighing over 20 pounds!

In the southeast is spectacular Iguaçu Falls, where we saw the plush-crested jay — quite large and violet backed, with electric-blue markings on its face and a stiff black crest — hopping up and down to the roar of the falls.

In the southwest there is the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetlands, teeming with birds and mammals — deer, tapirs, jaguars and anteaters.

Recently, we returned to Brazil to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary in the beauty of Rio and the warmth and music of Bahia. Thankfully, there is always plenty more to see in this wonderful country.
Linda Beuret, Santa Barbara, CA

Over the last twenty years, I’ve dated Señorita Brazil eight times. She’s a natural beauty.

Taller than Niagara and twice as wide are Iguaçu Falls. Walk the path and feel the spray on your face. Listen to the thunder from some of the 275 cataracts.

In the pulsating Marvelous City, Rio, a train winds through Tijuca National Park, the world’s largest urban forest. Christ the Redeemer welcomes the world with its open arms — one of the world’s largest Art Deco statues. After a cable car ride, you’re rewarded with a view of Rio from Sugarloaf.

Ms. Brazil is a true Carioca and enjoys the beaches. She loves sports. When not playing volleyball or sunning at Copacabana or Ipanema, she watches soccer at Maracanã Stadium.

The lady loves to dance the samba and bossa nova. They’ve even written songs about her. She’s a party goer, and once a year she has a Carnival. I’ve been there twice. I’ve long forgotten the flamboyant costumes but long remember seeing handicapped people in wheelchairs perform and sweepers clean up to the beat of a samba.

She once gave the royal family of Portugal refuge. Her heritage is kept alive. Women in the upper city of Bahia wear the dress of that area, while men in the lower city wow tourists in front of the mercado with foot and hand boxing.

The ornate Manaus Opera House reflects the past boom and bust of monocrop economies. Along the city’s Amazon waterfront are fishing boats and river steamers that use hammocks instead of beds.

The favorite perfume of this lady is the unforgettable aroma of coffee beans in burlap sacks on the docks of Santos.

Right now she’s busy getting ready for the 2016 Summer Olympics, but she’ll go for a meal at a churrascaria!
Philip Shart, Tamarac, FL