logbook1.gif (2755 bytes)

money_small_anim3.gif (11952 bytes)

Belem - Recife, Brazil  17 - 20 May

Brazil is the only country we have visited so far where the hotels serve breakfast - and an excellent one at that - from as early as 6 a.m.  In most countries where we had a long flight ahead of us, we had to forgo breakfast, but it is infinitely more satisfactory to start the day properly!  So after a hearty breakfast at the Sagres Hotel, we took a taxi to the airport.  Both the fuel - at US$ 1.13 a litre - and the landing fee - at US$ 75 - were cheaper than in Manaus.

The weather was fine, although we had a headwind again which slowed us by about half an hour to make a total flight time of  7 hours 17 minutes.   Our routing took us over São Luis de Maranhão, an attractive old colonial city that we had visited on our last trip to Brazil in 1996/97.  From then on, we were flying over familiar ground: the Lençois Maranhenses where sand and water combine to create the effect of ruffled sheets, Parnaiba where we had taken a boat to the lovely Ilha do Cajú, and Ceará state with long golden beaches near Fortaleza. Just after Fortaleza we turned inland towards Recife.

We landed only 15 minutes behind schedule at the Encanta Moça aeroclub where our old friend Lena Machado had come to meet us.  She had also arranged for a TV Globo crew to come and film us for local television.  They arrived a few minutes later to see me carrying our 'toilet facilities' over to the banheiros.   Fortunately, they weren't interested in filming that!  They asked us to get back in the plane and do a repeat performance of taxiing from the runway to the apron.   Then the woman interviewer asked me a lot of questions in Portuguese which I did my best to answer, although I am not used to being interviewed at all, let alone in Portuguese!  I think they expected me to be a bit more dramatic in describing the most frightening moment on board, the most wonderful experience of the trip, etc.  When we saw ourselves on TV just an hour and a half later, they had cut out almost everything I said!  They also made the, admittedly understandable, mistake of saying we had come from Sweden (Suecia) instead of Switzerland (Suiça). The countries'  names are too similar in Portuguese.

As soon as the film crew departed we unpacked our bags as quickly as possible and hurried to Lena's car. It was sunset and we were getting attacked by huge and vicious mosquitoes!

By another stroke of luck, another old friend, Armand Pereira, arrived in Recife about the same time as us.  Armand, whom I met over 20 years ago when living in Rio, and who flew to Brazil with Flemming in 1996, is now the head of the International Labour Organization in Brasilia.  He was in Recife for a conference.   (By chance, he was also in Geneva to see us off last October). We dined out with Lena and Armand in the old colonial part of Recife.

Lena had arranged a trip out of Recife for the next day.  Her good friend Maria Elena drove us all to the Costa Dourada (Gold Coast) south of Recife, where we met Lena's cousin Gileno Machado, his wife Barbara and their two children at their beach house. Gileno had rented a boat for the day to take us all to a nearby island, Santo Aleixo. The boat was well stocked with essentials like beer, whisky and petiscos (snacks) and a good time was had by all. All beaches are public in Brazil, but the island itself is privately owned.  Fortunately, Maria Elena knew the absent owners so the caseiro (caretaker) let us walk through the property to go to the beach on the other side.  Last year, one of Brazil's many TV soap operas was filmed on the island.  The owners have more or less abandoned it, and it is only inhabited now by the caseiro, an emu, a macaw and several rabbits!

Back at Gileno and Barbara's house, we were treated to a sumptuous lunch before we returned to Recife.  Flemming was unable to link up to the Internet from the hotel where we stayed the night before so we needed to change.  Armand was staying at a 5 star hotel for the conference and was able to book us a room there at an extremely reasonable rate.  We met up later with Armand and his wife Maria Lucia who had arrived late the previous night.  They took us to a great place for live music and dancing. For once we didn't feel like oldies as plenty of the clientèle were at least our age. Unlike in Switzerland,  the Brazilians know how to enjoy themselves at all ages.

The next day we all took a taxi to Olinda, a lovely old colonial town on a hill about half an hour's drive from Recife.  We lunched there with Lena at what must be the best restaurant in town.  The Oficina do Sabor had top marks for view, atmosphere, and cuisine.  Their speciality of pumpkins stuffied with seafood in mango or passion fruit sauce is both original and delicious.  We washed that down with caipirovska de cajá (a local fruit mixed with vodka).  Que beleza! 

Armand and Maria Lucia had to catch a flight that afternoon back to Brasilia but we just found time for a souvenir shot by Honey Mooney at Encanta Moça aeroclub.

Preparations for the Noronha - Cape Verde flight over the Atlantic

We were due to leave for Fernando de Noronha the next morning (Monday) but the Jeppesen charts that should have been sent to us in Tobago, and that were then sent to our home address in Switzerland by mistake, still hadn't arrived.   Flemming checked  the tracking number of the parcel over the Web. It hadn't budged from Campinas in the state of São Paulo since Friday night. I called Fedex and they said it would arrive in Recife sometime during the night and would be delivered the following day.  Due to Jeppesen, we would be running one day behind schedule again.

I spent the whole of Monday morning on phone calls.  After Fedex,  I contacted the civil aviation authorities in Cape Verde who still hadn't replied to our fax sent from Manaus.  They had apparently been trying to send us a fax to Lena's number since Friday without success.  They wanted a copy of the air worthiness certificate and Flemming's pilot's licence before they would fax us the authorization.  We faxed them what they wanted, gave them the hotel's fax number and they sent us the authorization there without problems.

Then I phoned Gerard Moss's friend, Manoel Ferreira, the owner of Agemar shipping company. He had shipped the fuel for us to Fernando de Noronha that Lena had purchased in five 20-litre containers. We wanted to take off over the Atlantic from Noronha (2 hours out from the Brazilian mainland) with full fuel, i.e. 15 hours of it, for what would probably be a 9 and a half hour flight - allowing for some headwind.  Five and a half years ago, Flemming and John Miles took off from Natal (on the coast north of Recife) with 15 hours of fuel for an 11-hour flight with no winds. The headwinds proved to be far greater than forecast and they had to turn back in mid-ocean and return to Natal. Manoel assured me that the fuel was safely on Fernando de Noronha and gave me the telephone number and name of the Agemar employee to contact.

My next call was to the Vice-Governor of Fernando de Noronha, José da Cruz Lima, who happened to be a good friend of Gileno Machado. We had received written permission from him to land and take off from Noronha but it stated that we could only arrive or depart from 8 a.m.to 7 p.m. We wanted to depart at 6.30 a.m. in order to meet the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) early in the morning  before it gets too active. Also we wanted to arrive in Praia, Cape Verde before sunset. He contacted the airport manager for me and, when I phoned him back later, he said that permission was granted to leave at the time we wanted.

Next, I phoned Sr. Domingos of the Aeroclube.  Since we didn't have a special authorization for the flight from Noronha from DAC (Departamento de Aviação Civil) in writing, he advised me to go to their office at Guararapes Airport in Recife to smooth the way for the following day, or at least give them a call.  I decided to try calling first, as I still had a lot to do and didn't want to spend several hours over the business. I spoke to a man there who assured me that the written permission to land and take off from Noronha that we had received from the Vice-Governor was sufficient.

I then made about a dozen phone calls to Fernando de Noronha in search of a pousada (inn) that had an Internet connection.  It was important for Flemming to check the satellite images and the activity of the intertropical front over the Atlantic the night before we left. Unfortunately, the pousada that Gerard Moss had recommended was shut while the owner was on vacation.  I found a few pousadas with an Internet connection but they were all full.  In the end, I opted for a pousada that said their modem was broken but we could hitch up our computer to their phone line.

Jeppesen had faxed Lena the entry requirements page for Senegal, since that was among the missing charts.  Flemming thus obtained the fax number of the civil aviation authorities in Senegal and was able to fax them. There was no way of contacting them over the phone as it was Whit Monday, a holiday in Senegal.

All in all, it was just as well Jeppesen delayed us by a day. We hadn't realized before how many preparations still had to be made and we needed a working day on which to make them.


Lena Machado, Gileno and Barbara Machado, Aeroclube de Pernambuco, Armand Pereira, Manoel Ferreira (Agemar), José da Cruz Lima. (Vice Governor of Fernando de Noronha)

Click on image to enlarge, click browser back to return

64-lencois_maranhenses.jpg (25581 bytes)
Sand and water combine to produce the effect called Lençois maranhenses because it looks like ruffled sheets

64-boat_trip.jpg (34000 bytes)
Fun and games on board the boat with Gileno and Barbara Machado and friends
64-A&F_Olinda.jpg (44700 bytes)
The happy couple in the old town of Olinda
64-Oficina_do_Sabor.jpg (38993 bytes)
Lunch at the Oficina do Sabor in Olinda. From the left: Maria Lucia, Flemming, Lena and Armand
64-pumpkin_seafood.jpg (37256 bytes)
Pumpkins stuffed with lobster in mango sauce and prawns in passion fruit sauce - uma delicia!
64-Mooney_amigos.jpg (30709 bytes)
The whole gang at Encanta Moça aeroclub.  Sweet memories of Flemming and Armand's 1996 trip to Recife
plane_prev_home_next3.gif (2099 bytes)