Wednesday 20th January
Up early for our Excursion in Ilheus (pronounced ill-jouse) as we were leaving at 8.30. I was up on the front deck at 7.15 just as we were being nudged into our place in the port by a Tugboat. We were berthed next to a huge ship the MSC Splendida, which seemed even bigger than the ones we were alongside in Las Palmas. We walked along the quay past the MSC Splendida to our coach and were again welcomed by a group of drummers on the quayside.
We had an hour's guided walking tour with a Local Guide around the main tourist points in the old part of Ilheus. We saw Misael Tavares' small but ornate house. He was one of the most important 'Cocoa Colonels' in the state. The Sao (St) Jorge Church, built on a hill outside the city in 1556 but then deconstructed and built again brick by brick in the city. Jorge Amado's house, a famous Brazilian writer who died in 2001. The Vesuvio Bar, where the important cocoa farmers used to meet - also mentioned in Jorge Amado's most famous novel - and the Sao Sebastian Cathedral. We were able to go into the cathedral, where there was a service being held. The country is mainly Catholic, having been discovered and colonised by the Portuguese, which is also the main language. The country prides itself on being a melting pot of - their ancestors are Native Indians, African (descended from the slaves) and white (mainly Portuguese and other European). They have different names for black, white mother/black father and white father/black mother. They also consider that anyone who is not full blood African is white i.e. footballer Ronaldo is white. Indians (as in Cowboys and Indians) are called Indians because the Portugese were trying to find India. So when they arrived in Brazil they thought it was India and called the natives Indians! Brazil is called Brazil after the trees that grew here that produced a red dye, and was the first export product before coffee and sugar cane were planted.
Back on the coach the same Local Guide gave us a commentary on the area. Ilheus was founded in 1534 and was quiet until cocoa was introduced in 1881. It was exported all over the world as a powder for making a drink. It wasn't until just before the First World War that Nestle started using the powder to make chocolate to eat. Many in people in Ilheus got rich growing cocoa beans. But then a disease called 'Witches' Broom' - so called because it made the branches of the cocoa plants look like witches' brooms - struck the plants in the 1990s and the region became very poor. It was rumoured that the disease was introduced as an act of terrorism by a political party that was fed up of all the rich cocoa plantation owners being involved in politics and running the country. The 'other' political party is now in power (so their tactics worked!). The area's main source of income is now tourism, but they are trying to reintroduce disease resistant cocoa plants back into the region and produce their own chocolate. It seems to be working as local chocolate manufacturers have won top awards in chocolate exhibitions in Switzerland (and they know their chocolate!)
A journey of around 50 minutes took us through the city and outskirts, and through more rainforest. We had a short stop at a viewpoint to photograph the coast and one of the 100 miles of white sand beaches of the area from a high vantage point. Then it was on to the Tijuipe Waterfall. It is situated on a private farm that now allows access to the waterfall as a tourist attraction - one you can swim in! When we got there we had a 10 minute walk downhill on a mud road (not muddy) towards the waterfall. The older people with walking sticks managed to get down safely but Martin skidded on a patch of gravel and toppled over! Nothing broken though.
The waterfall was beautiful and we were able to swim in the pool in front of it and sit on ledges right under the falling water. It was not as warm as the sea in Recife, but it was still warm. There were lots of people around - there were two 40 seater coaches from the ship and other tourists - but not everyone was swimming so it wasn't too crowded in the water. We saw a couple of hummingbirds flitting around but they are so fast we didn't get a good look. The grounds were well kept and there were lots of exotic plants dotted around (exotic to us but native to them!). There was also a restaurant and a small area for plant sales. We had 2 hours there but it went by very quickly. Then we were on the coach and driven back to the ship. Out of the window on the way back Martin spotted a couple of monkeys jumping through the trees. We also saw lots of Black Vultures gliding around in the sky, and lots of them sitting on one of the beaches we passed.
As we got back to Ilheus we caught a glimpse of the two cruise ships side by side in the port - the Marco Polo was tiny compared to the MSC Splendida! We were back in time to catch the end of the lunch service and then the sail away at 14.00. As we got further away from the quay we could see the MSC Splendida in the harbour - it was bigger than most of the multi-storey buildings in Ilheus!
After dinner we were treated to actress Pauline Daniels performing Willy Russell's 'Shirley Valentine' monologue. Very funny! Part 2 tomorrow night.
Later we joined in the Big Quiz in Scott's Bar - 8 picture, 10 general knowledge and 10 music (song title & sung by) questions and didn't do too badly with 28 out of 41 - the winners got 34 and we were in the top 5.
The late night cabaret was Rob from the ET singing Buddy Holly songs - he was very good and many couples were up on the dance floor during the half hour set.
Thursday 21st January
A lazy day at sea. Had some rain and there was a little bit of a swell so the Poolside Olympics were postponed (Brazil is hosting the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro later this year). Rumour was that there had been a death overnight and this was later confirmed by other passengers that a man had died.
Today's talk from Sue Walsh was 'Richard Branson's 10 Tips for Success - How to get better at almost anything'. They were more his philosophies for living and lifestyle tips than anything else and sadly there were no secrets on how to make your first million. 1. Follow your dreams and be happy doing something you enjoy, not just for money. 2. Believe in your ideas and be the best you can be (keep learning and trying to improve). 3. Do something positive to make a difference to someone or something (the positive effect is twofold - as it also makes you feel good and worthwhile). 4. Have fun and look after the 'team', whoever the team is that you are with at the time (family, friends or colleagues). Praise and encourage, don't criticise. 5. Don't give up, don't listen to negativity from anyone else, conquer any fears a little at a time. Learn from failure, do it better next time, and the next and the next... 6. Make lists and set new challenges for yourself so you can see what you have achieved and what you have to look forward to next. 7. Learn to delegate at work so that you have time to spend with family and friends and have a good work life balance. 8. Turn the TV/computer off and get out there. How much time do you have left? What do you want to do? Don't waste your life. 9. When people say 'you can't...' prove them wrong, what do they know, what makes them right? 10. Do what you love and have a sofa in the kitchen - Sue didn't have time to expand on this one and left it to us to decide what it meant.
Part 2 of Shirley Valentine and Claudia's Cabaret in the Scott's Bar that evening. Claudia is a 21 year old redhead from Bristol and this is her first cruise ship job. Before this she was Belle from 'Beauty and the Beast' at Disneyland Paris (the first time she had ever been abroad). Unfortunately she had a sore throat and was unable to hit some of the high notes in her performance but it wasn't too bad.
Martin hadn't been feeling too well and had been taking paracetamol all day and had had a few naps throughout the day - hope he will be OK for our early start tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro!