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Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela - Manaus, Brazil
12 - 13 May

Hector had arranged for a car to drive us to Managua airport but, to our surprise and delight, he got up early to drive us himself.  We bid him farewell and took off for the 5-minute flight to Ciudad Guayana airport to clear customs and immigration and fuel up for the flight to Manaus, Brazil.

On arrival, we refueled the plane, paying a record low of only US$ 0.34 a litre. The customs official had come specially to the airport for our departure as pre-arranged and we paid him the weekend fee of US$ 25 as expected.  It was the airport official who collects the landing fees who ripped us off.  He charged a total of US$ 155, including an overnight parking fee of US$ 100.  When we said we would only be in Ciudad Guayana airport for one hour, he made out that Managua airport also belonged to the same company, and therefore we should pay the overnight parking fee. There didn't seem to be any way out of it so reluctantly Flemming paid up.

About 10 minutes later when we were about ready to leave, our guardian angel Hector arrived by car.  Flemming told him about the rip-off and he showed him the receipt.  He was shocked that these people would want to cheat us.   Meanwhile the airport official had disappeared to go and have breakfast, but just when we were thinking of cutting our losses, he turned up in a car. Hector had strong words with him and after about 5 minutes he reached into his pocket and pulled out the 100 dollar bill that Flemming had given him and reluctantly passed it back to Flemming.  There was no talk of modifying the invoice which must have been a bogus one.

We said our goodbyes again and took off  for Manaus.  Our routing took us back over the mountains near the Angel Falls. This time we were in cloud and light rain as we flew over the area.  It was lucky we weren't visiting the falls that day.  The 5 and a half hour flight took us over virgin rain forest and sometimes not so virgin rain forest.  It was during this flight that we crossed the Equator again, shortly before arriving in Manaus.  So, up to now, we have been twice in the northern hemisphere and twice in the southern hemisphere.

About an hour before Manaus there were a lot of towering cumulus nimbus that we had to avoid.  When we were on a radar vector for the approach we got into a heavy rain shower which knocked us around.  In fact it was the worst turbulence I had experienced on the whole world trip, but thankfully it didn't last more than a couple of minutes. Once we were out of it, I even found the good humour to say that at least it had served to give our windows a good wash!

There were a lot of formalities to go through on arrival at Manaus airport, but we were escorted to the various offices by a nice young lad who worked there and did a bit of handling on the side.  Through e-mail correspondence while we were in Tobago, we knew that, by lucky coincidence, our good friend Gerard Moss was due to arrive in Manaus about an hour before us.  We were in the DAC (Departamento de Aviação Civil) office when he found us.  Gerard is the first (and, so far, only) person to fly round the world in a motor glider.  It was last year that he flew from Rio de Janeiro back to Rio in a Brazilian-made Ximango.  Most Brazilians recognize him now as he appeared many times on TV Globo.  I think that the DAC official and our young 'handling agent' were rather impressed that we had such a famous aviator for a friend.

In spite of Gerard's and the young lad's help, it took a total of 2 hours 45 minutes to complete all the formalities and get out of the airport. That beat the record for duration of entry formalities. This was partly due to the fact that the customs official who should have been on duty had gone home to watch a football match! Luckily our young lad had his phone number to call him back.

Gerard had come to Manaus to buy an amphibian plane called a Lake for a new project to fly around Brazil and take water samples.  He negotiated a special low rate for us at the Tropical Hotel (THE place to stay) and we greatly enjoyed his company.  Apart from Gerard's odd fleeting visit to Switzerland where his parents live, we rarely get the chance to meet up.

We only spent two nights in Manaus, which meant just one full day to take in the major sights.  A visit to the famous Teatro de Amazonas (Manaus opera house) constructed during the rubber boom of the late 19th century was a must. When I lived in Brazil, my friend Tony Morrison - who has made several films for the BBC in South America - had the great idea of bringing the Royal Opera to Manaus to perform there as a mega TV production.  Unfortunately, the project never materialized but I had always been curious to see the opera house.  It was completed renovated in the 1990s and now performances are held there regularly.


Hector Tello, Gerard Moss

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With Gerard Moss (left) at the Hotel Tropical, Manaus

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Banana boats near Manaus's Mercado Municipal
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Riverboats at the Escadaria dos Remédios Port by the Mercado Municipal
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Teatro Amazonas, Manaus's famous opera house
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