Tuesday 9th February
Day 36 - two thirds of the way through the trip.
This morning we were pulled into Rio Grande (Large River) port by a tug, for several miles inside the breakwater and then pushed sideways by two tugs into our berth between two other commercial ships. Martin was up on deck early again and in time to see a few dolphins accompany the ship for a short way down the river. They had gone by the time I was on deck around 7.30am though. It was a boiling hot day with no breeze - the forecast was 30 degC. As it was Pancake Day there were little drop pancakes as an addition to the breakfast choices which was nice.
We had already been informed that we were in port during the last day of the carnival holidays so we were quite excited to see what was going on. The shuttle bus (company was Roma Transport) took us from the ship to the Town Hall which didn't look like a town hall and had no signage of any kind. it was next to a small park, which we had a walk around. It didn't look like the centre of a town, it was very quiet and the only other people around were the passengers from the ship. We walked out of the park and down a street not aiming for anywhere in particular, just having a wander, hoping to find a cafe with wifi sometime during the day. All the shops we passed were closed with metal shutters covering the front of them. Then we passed a garage that had a few tables with umbrellas outside - all occupied with passengers from the ship. A few streets further we came to another park, with great big trees, groups of giant bamboo and fountains with little turtles in the water. The park looked like some kind of small zoo as there were other animals - huge rabbits, fancy chickens & other birds and monkeys in fenced compounds at one end. We walked a few more streets and found the shops there all closed up too - except for a 24 hour pharmacy on nearly every block. The buildings were a mixture of painted Portuguese style architecture with columns and carved facades and more modern boxes that looked like apartments over the shops. Like other areas of Brazil it wasn't colonised until the 19th century when Europeans began exploring and then exploiting it.
Every corner we turned we saw someone from the ship. We later learned that it was a bank holiday because of the carnival period and the whole town was shut - and all the locals were at the beach! We met one of our table mates who had a map he printed off from google before he came. We had a quick look and made for one of the streets that led to the river near the town hall. When we got there a nice breeze was coming off the water so we found a bench and sat for a while. We watched a fisherman in a small boat checking his nets and some families fishing from the quayside. The wind blew the lid off their cool box into the river and one of them reached for it with a rod and pulled it towards the quayside. Then another fisherman held onto his ankles whilst he went over the edge to get it, and pulled him back up again. No drama, just got on with it like it happened all the time! It was still very hot so we walked back along the riverside towards where the coach dropped us off. We passed the fish market where they were packing up - it was open sided, just a red tiled roof on top of several columns in front of a small square harbour off the river. On top of the roof were a handful of white egrets, obviously waiting for the scraps that the fishermen would leave.
We got back on our Roma Transport shuttle bus to the ship and waited for the sail away at 5pm back down the river. On the side of the ship away from the quayside there was a spit of land with what looked like a mangrove trees. There were lots of egrets in the trees and a pond below. Also in the pond I could see a flash of pink on a bigger bird. I though it was a flamingo but it was a spoonbill of some kind and through the binoculars I could see it's yellow spoon bill. Didn't manage to get a good photo though as it was too far away. We saw the Dolphins again briefly on our way out through the breakwater, and we also saw one of the beaches which was packed with people! The breakwater looked like it was made of rocks but there was a path all the way down the middle and what we though were little sail boats sailing on the other side of the breakwater were actually wheeled carts with a sail that we're taking people along the breakwater. As we reached the end of the breakwater we could see clearly where the green/brown water of the river met the blue open sea.
We had a musical quiz out on the pool deck this evening and luckily on our table were a couple of older people who knew their classical music otherwise we would have been dire. As it was we didn't disgrace ourselves too badly, but we didn't win. Afterwards there was another Carnival Deck Party (but no carnival outfit prizes to be had this time) and a late poolside buffet.
Wednesday 10th February
An announcement over the PA system woke us up at 7.45am to inform passengers that there had just been a successful emergency medical disembarkation, and that we would be informed at midday how this had affected our journey time to Santos, tomorrow's port. Martin went up on deck and said we were a few miles off the coast and it looked like we were waiting for a launch to return to the ship with the doctor - or that was what the consensus seemed to be!
The rest of the day was a typical day at sea and it turned out the medical disembarkation did not cause too much of a delay and the ship made up time.
The evening entertainment was slightly different tonight as we watched a screening of the new James Bond film, Spectre, in the show lounge. Martin wasn't that impressed by it but I thought it was OK.