Missed Approaches

August 5th, 2013

It was just last week I found myself once more in the oddly familiar surroundings of an airline terminal, really a rather pleasant one and in the particular area of gate 1 at the airport in Salvador, Bahia, Brasil …this after another of those savage 4.30 AM starts further north among the endless tower blocks and dawning coastal breezes that rattle the coconuts and clatter the fronds of Recife’s palms. Todays aviating is being conducted by Azul, an airline that I am quite fond of and on board what I have come to regard as my favored aircraft for almost anything short of crossing an ocean, the Embraer 195. A sleeker, more beautifully proportioned, comfortable and enlightened an aircraft it is impossible to find in the civilian mass market, or so i like to believe. The ubiquitous and ever stretching B737′s appear rickety, cramped and gloomy beyond all rhyme and reason in comparison to this somewhat smaller and undeniably svelte aircraft. ( Horses for courses, I know ) There’s something almost private jet like in the 195 and that is no bad thing. Gate 1 at Salvador is the nest from which Azul’s 195 for  Ilheus flies to and from, a 40 minute flight that transports you from capitol city to the bottom end of the Marau peninsula and a world that rather quickly feels much closer to the nineteenth century than the current one. To a world that once was the sweet center of Brasilian Cacao commerce and undoubtedly made more widely known via the dusky, buxom Gabriela whose striking beauty and ways comes tantalizingly alive via the pen of Jorge Amado in a 1925 Ilheus where gunshot settled most everything!

Up and away into the wild blue yonder, the towering concrete condominiums and colorful colonial facades give way to the linen white surf line and the greens and blues of the atlantic and its inshore reefs. Offshore some twenty blue water freighters await a turn at the docks. A southerly heading above thickening cloud is offering intermittent glimpses of tropical vegetation, red dirt roads and isolated red tiled roofs to the right and an endless atlantic to the right …with Namibia presumably far, far away. The view afforded by the large and well placed windows and the 2×2 seating in this light infused cabin makes earth gazing very appealing indeed. Peanuts and drinks are barely dispensed with as the descent commences and anticipation becomes palpable as many on the plane are flying into Ilheus for a 7pm wedding …all ages, all eager. I’m paying attention to the seat back screen relaying elevation and speed over the ground because its readily apparent the ground now remains a cloud cloaked mystery.

Ilheus, in my somewhat limited experience seems plagued with weather systems sweeping in off the atlantic and my last attempt into these parts saw me abandoning all hope of flying and making a fraught 560 km night time drive from Salvador in an underpowered  car on a truck infested, darkly dangerous and potholed, rain soaked “road”. With 530m elevation and 180 kts indicated on the screen the engines quickly come up to power and descent gives way to grudging ascent while the flaps slowly retreat on the wing’s leading edges. I turn to the as yet unawares Eli and ask her if she likes the thought of a weekend in Campinas, another mega city on the fringes of Sao Paulo and the 195′s scheduled next stop …more than 900 miles from our Marau bungalow and intended weekend retreat. I inform her wide eyes and questioning eyebrows that we have just missed the approach and I can see nothing of Ilheus other than thick scudding cloud and intermittent rain … and that given her habit of chatting with”higher powers” on these occasions I posit this as being as opportune a moment as any if it is to be a deserted beach she wishes versus another crowded city.

One of the young aviators up front at the controls informs us of the miss and his intention to go out over the ocean and fly a racetrack pattern for a while in hope of a weather window opening up. I can’t help but think that a wedding in Ilheus may be short a few attendees and our weekend on Marau forfeit as no way can anyone or anything induce me to make that drive down from Salvador again. This cat is already short of lives! Despite the sudden and stark chance of disappointment, the wide leather seats, properly spaced for real people (throughout the entire cabin) give comfort and the attendants ply us with airplane shaped gummy bears (of all things). The grim specter of Campinas recedes momentarily on an infusion of sugar laced gelatin. The flaps again begin to move down on the leading edge of the taut, graceful wing and the underslung engines throttle back as we are evidently going to try find the runway in Ilheus once more. Its a short strip that lays east/west and the eastern approach is over a mangrove swamp while the western exit into the prevailing trades is over a slender beach and a very fat atlantic. That’s it, plain,simple, short and wet at both ends so its critical to get a good look and fly it right. The 195 hums on through the thick cloud with just the odd jostle to its occupants as the numbers on the seat back screen come close to mirroring those of the first pass as once again the engines spool up, we go up and the whole process begins again. Upfront the boys behind the aviator specs report that the airport is officially closed at this point and that we are going to go loiter out over the atlantic for a little more time as we have fuel enough for more expansive ocean views and plenty of gummy airplanes to chew.

Azul’s girls take great care of their charges as the little jet makes patterns up in the brilliant sunshine to the east of where we really want to be. Azul is an airline that seemingly makes no bones about hiring attractive young women outfitted  in immaculate uniforms to efficiently work the cabin while their sparkling smiles and kind demeanor bear zero resemblance to the disgruntled rudeness of some who might long ago have been pensioned or furloughed from what seems to be the majority of our own US airlines. This is more like flying in the days when it was a real treat and an understood priviledge. Interestingly enough Azul has as its founder the very same bright man that started JetBlue in the USA, David Neeleman …and has he ever spied a burgeoning market down here as at the same time bringing a touch of class and value. A little hilarity is creeping into the cabin as one of the wedding party is suffering as dramatically as only a nicotine deprived Brasilera ( in exceptionally tight clothes) can …This is a girl that needs a smoke and we all should understand her plight. Its more humorous than perhaps it sounds as we chase our tail around the sky. With quite a few more gallons of jet fuel burned up we again descend over unseen tropical forest and towards that tiny strip of tar lying between mangrove swamp and ocean reef. Eli now communes with everyone from the Pope on up …in order that we get to touch down on this third attempt. Unfortunately at this low altitude her pleas and prayers are falling on deaf ears and the pilot announces that once again the airport is closed to landing and his best course of action for all on board is to head back north to Salvador from whence we came in order to take on more fuel and then come back and shoot approaches until he delivers the wedding guests to Ilheus. Pretty remarkable if you ask me and I tip my hat to Azul and all the effort and expense being expended here by its young crew.

The 195 whips back up to Salvador in short order, dips a wing over the ships at anchor and drops in over the sand dunes running quite far inland and developed for all manner of enterprises while a couple miles away the outline of the beach is evidenced by the rank upon rank of high rise condominiums that cling to the shoreline. Its almost like looking at some adventuresome kid’s lego creation. Not gate 1 for us this time but a spot out on the apron where a staircase is run up against us and a fuel truck eases under the right wing to replenish the fuel burned in all our ” up down, flying around, looping the loop and defying the ground”. The forward door is opened up and the fresh air pours in. While a sort of suppressed scramble ensues for the bathroom our nicotine deprived beauty is busy trying to sneak down the staircase against the laughing objections of the Azul girls. Am thinking not only can she not go out there on the apron unattended, she can’t possibly think she can smoke within twenty feet of the Petrobras truck, busy pumping us full of jet fuel. Then again, maybe she can …its different here. Again its rather humorous as she sets up a clamor of half hearted protest and whole hearted pleading. The pilots, lounging in their seats are half turned to take in the “views” up the cabin aisle, legs propped nonchalantly on the central console, Ray-Bans perched low while discussing just how close they had come to nailing one of the approaches. They seem supremely confident that the next time down will be a charm. Apparently the Campinas HQ isn’t overly high on their list today either, while delivering a wedding party to Ilheus is. Customer service Azul style.

Fueled up and jetting along southwards we get to make a simple downwind and final turn into Ilheus pretty much under wide open blue skies and over the throw net fishermen standing up in their canoes floating out from the edges of the million or so red mangrove’s roots, half exposed by the tide. Vigorous braking and and a touch of reverse thrust leaves us with a few meters of tar to spare and when parked in front of the low white terminal we can all alight the 195 and clamber down the air stairs into pleasant sunshine for a beach weekend, a wedding and yes …at least one of us for a smoke! Wandering off in search of Avis across the cobbled street its three cheers for Azul and the 195. I’m amazed that we are not in Campinas rather than soon to be headed up the tar road to Itacare and onto the mud road to Algodoes and Arandi.

Fully Fledged!

June 22nd, 2012

Timing is everything, particularly in aviation and as I exit I5 to park at the Albany “airport” I see the little red and white Cessna coming in on final approach for a graceful landing. As Gavin has just flown up from Cresswell I have driven down to our meeting point, from where our lunch expedition to Bandon will depart. Car parked, sundries stuffed into the back seat of the Skyhawk, headset and microphone adjusted and mindful of a crop duster in the vicinity we are throttled up and off down the runway, gaining altitude and then turning onto a heading for Newport on the Oregon coast and places beyond all those billions of trees and high hills.

Gavin is talking to Seattle Center and requesting flight following as he twiddles knobs, adjusts the GPS, presses switches and tunes radios to various frequencies. I listen intently and try to make out our call sign as I gaze out on the horizon and try not to let the odd bump and lurch have me requesting a hasty return to Albany. He appears very calm so I suppose I should follow suit, but calm doesn’t appear to be quite as contagious as I might hope. We come up to 5000′ as I recall and it looks sufficient to clear most of the humps looming up in front of us. Gavin leans out the fuel to the smoothly running little engine and settles in to show me the magic of my being able to follow our little plane on his ipad as it traverses the sky above all the trees. Talk about cool. What can an ipad not help with these days?

Way to our south an enormous plume of smoke is climbing into the atmosphere and spreading far to the south and west. A forest fire or possibly a controlled slash burn, its impossible to tell. Radio chatter indicates at least two aircraft circling the smoke column. It’s smooth up here now and the coast draws ever closer while our nose seems firmly locked on a slim column of smoke, which turns out to be coming from the paper mill just outside Newport. We fly right over the top of it and the sawdust piles, smoke stacks, conveyors and effluent ponds make for a rather beautiful picture of industrial vigor. Newport’s bay, bridge and harbor are in clear view as we turn south and parallel the airstrip …and there, stretching off into infinity is what we have really come to see. The Oregon coastline, despite the indigenous sea mist and now a little smoke drifting over from the forest fire remains exceptionally clear. The ocean surface is more or less unruffled and only the gentlest of waves are caressing the beaches. Crab boats, trailing their seagull retinues are busy and the ocean surface is dotted with the floats of their jettisoned pots.

This section of coastline is all rugged headlands, mellowed by a bluish light caused by an almost unseen sea mist. From the right seat I look straight down into water that is surprisingly clear and looks almost “tropical” in the colored shallows close in to shore. Not so the water temperature, so I think sweet things of the little engine and the propeller that seems to stop when viewed through the lens of the iphone camera but not that of the pocket Canon, which is far more reassuring. My pilot seems quite interested in our being just off shore from the Sea Lion Caves and eagerly dips a wing so I too might admire all the basking blubber on the rocks below. That’s a whole lot of sea lion. Some are presumably contemplating taking a vacation cruise up the Willamette or Columbia to feast on easy Salmon pickings at the Willamette Falls or Bonneville Dam. The view down the coastline is spectacular and we have gently worked our way down a couple thousand feet in altitude to get a better view of things. We are now cruising at approx 2500′ and 110 knots as the headlands give way to the far flatter (from the air at least) dunes area around Florence. The whole region glows golden perched as it is between dense green forest and the blue depths. We can make out motorcycles and dune buggies sprinting about the dunes, carving patterns into the sand while a group of ant like riders cluster at a small lake, locked deep in the dunes. Along the shoreline the dunes are held in check by grass through which the reticulated patterns of paths seemingly run …looking something akin to the hide of a giraffe.

The dunes and the plane drone on and we pick up radio traffic for a Falcon Jet approaching North Bend/Coos Bay. We each try to get a visual on the other though I don’t believe either of us ever did. The last of the sand dunes slip buy with large pockets of tannin stained water glinting in the sunlight as we approach the estuary and the jetty that sticks out into the Pacific, signaling Coos Bay. The beach perimeter of the pale blue ocean is laced with a pearly white filigree of surf for as far south as the eye can make out. Passing south of the jetty we see spits of rock running north -south and connected to the mainland by a spidery looking bridge. A small lighthouse is perched in a sea of grass and surely makes a perfect picnic spot on a day like this. Next under the wing is an exquisite little bay, a natural swimming hole of aquamarine waters.

From our lofty perch we can already make out Bandon in the far distance with its own distinct estuary from which the Coquille River spills itself into the ocean. Prior to setting up to land we peel off over the links courses of Bandon Dunes Golf Club and make for the large pink hued area just inland which are some of the Cranberry bogs this region is known for, Indeed it terms itself as the Cranberry capital of the world. We just happen to be here to lunch with Charlie Ruddell who I teasingly refer to as ‘King Cranberry’. Gavin maneuvers the plane over and around the bogs as I snap a few photos of Charlie’s kingdom nestled in a lazy sweep of the river and proceed to mail a couple off to Charlie in order to announce our arrival and schedule the promised pickup at the Bandon airstrip. The strip is easy to make out and as we scout for other traffic in the pattern we feel for the first time today the presence and strength of an ocean breeze. My pilot deftly settles the little plane on the tarmac and taxies over to the tie downs where a couple of turbo propped birds are chained down against the stiff breeze.

With another display of impeccable timing ‘King Cranberry’ walks out from behind the awesome Bandon Aero Club to greet us and escort us to his royal chariot. An impeccable and highly powered 1957 Dodge, replete with tail fins larger than the Cessna’s wings that we have just flown upon! Now I have seen this auto before, tucked away in a garage amidst the Cranberry bogs but this is a first for Gavin and he seems suitably impressed, both with the welcoming committee and its killer wheels. We are whisked away for a home made lunch in the most beautifully repositioned and renovated old schoolhouse in what may be all of America. It’s been a labor of love for Charlie and other craftsmen for quite a number of years, a piece of architectural nirvana perched on a bluff a couple hundred feet above the Coquille. It is sheltered by deeply layered trees to the west and afforded expansive riverine views to the south and east. It is always breathtaking …be it in today’s sunshine or as prior seen in driving rain and coastal mists. There are tall, tall windows and even taller ceilings in the main body of the building through which light streams in, highlighting the neighbor’s purloined pink roses on Charlie’s kitchen table. We feast on a variety of salads and cold pork and naturally it is all enjoyed and enjoined with an endless supply of Cranberry juice. This certainly is living well and a real treat. To be flown across ancient forests (and a few clear cuts), to skim down a clear and glorious coastline to this little town far south and otherwise a rugged days drive away. Its very special to be greeted and fed like this in the most perfect of surroundings and in the company of the once a child now a man and proficient pilot …plus long time friend Charlie, well met in Chile a long time back.

As at the day’s outset, timing remains everything and having ground and sky yet to cover we make a quick clean/pile up of lunchtime detritus that we then leave for Charlie’s afternoon and off we go for a regal tour of the always fascinating cranberry bogs that are now in bloom and keeping a billion pairs of bee’s wings pretty busy in pollinating. I poke and prod to glean learned first impressions of Cranberry crop 2012 volume, futures pricing and so on while Charlie refines the ancient agrarian skill of being politely non committal. Next up we cruise through the beautiful coastal hummocks of Bandon Dunes golf course with its wind tortured trees, brown grasses and still, dark ponds. Its a beautiful day here and yet there is scant evidence of golfers and its difficult right now to imagine weather bad enough to really sweep this place bare of all players and place them happily in a clubhouse, presumably of rain lashed windows, brandy fumes and  lazy coils of cigar smoke. Onwards across the river and into the old downtown, past the thuggish looking Coast Guard boat at its dock, all the tourist venues and then up a slight rise upon which are rather nice homes. Not a bad place to live at all …given that one likes full and unadulterated exposure to a seascape and the inclemency that can accompany it, even here in this climate favored bend of the coast. All along this “tourist route” Gavin is peppered with Charlie’s none stop, piercing questions. Give an answer …then be prepared to validate that answer. Dare to sound wishy-washy …be prepared to close with a lot more conviction. I’ve witnessed it before and quietly relish that I’m not being subjected to today’s inquisition. I’m rooting for Gavin as at the same time observing kids and dads giving Charlie’s car the thumbs up. Gavin appears to be giving as good as he’s getting.

Back at the airport we push the little airplane over to the $5.50/gal gas pump and Gavin goes about the refueling. I have King Cranberry and Pilot Gavin pose for a silly but fun picture and then Charlie and I natter away as Gavin gets on with all his pre flight stuff. I’d like him to get it right as our proposed flight path from Bandon to Eugene shows most of the worlds trees laying in our path with nary a flat spot to put down in. Accelerating into the wind the little Skyhawk practically leaps from the tarmac and proceeds to weave and bob a little in the wind coming off the ocean. All calms down once we are over the 1000′ mark and we get a good last look at Charlie’s bogs before heading northwest. Gavin proficiently resumes the button pushing and knob twirling as we gain altitude enough to request flight following and as he settles down into his routine I alternately gaze outwards, do my own scan of the instruments and watch the 110 knot progress of the little blue plane icon crawl across the ipad with all its convoluted info that only a pilot could make head or tail of. The trees are every bit as numerous as I had thought, the mountains are as steep as steep can be and every logging track has switchbacks galore. A perfect time for the engine to sing sweetly, the fuel to flow perfectly and the wings to stay on. Gavin is relaxed, inscrutable behind the aviators and shrouded by his headset. He makes the perfect captive audience for one of those father/son conversations. The kind that a son might dread and a father might relish. Let’s face it, he’s in pretty safe territory as he has my stomach not to mention my life in his hands …so what I have to say can’t be all that bad now can it? He’s about to graduate school with a commercial pilots license and depart the State of Oregon for life’s further adventures. Any immediate influence I might retain diminishes to almost zero, so a chat is in order and rather fitting that it is in his chosen environment. Do you not think?

We cover the gamut with the ultimate object being his knowing that I wish him the very best, that he carries aloft with him the enormous pride I have in him and never more so than on a day like this, that as always, I am a resource to draw upon for advice, for encouragement, for moral support and for ongoing love and concern …and never again for dollars other than for dire emergencies and sound, revenue generating ideas.  That final point obviously didn’t come across quite like that but am sure we all get the gist of it.

Its fun and satisfying to sit shoulder to shoulder with this big strong man that as a baby once laid upon my knee, barely longer than my forearm and no heavier than a gallon of avgas. He’s the same kid that balanced on my hip as we went about town, who rode in a backpack as we farmed, moved irrigation pipe and chased an unruly Golden Retriever. At times like this I get to wonder if in turn my own parents had moments like this as I fledged and flew off. I wonder if their feelings were similar to mine right now, some three decades later. I cant imagine them being a great deal different despite times and locations being quite different. Surely its a universal moment of love and fear, of pride and joy, of trepidation and no small amount of envy, with every different facet dressed with some sense of loss, of a sweet sadness for experiences lived, of opportunities missed and the ever present questioning of oneself over a job carried out to the fullest of ones abilities. Well, it takes two to tango and from up here the whole world lays before him today. If I fell short anyplace he has the skills and fortitude to make it up and if in turn he feels he is coming up short then he can dig deep into what I worked hard to instill, and there he will always find me …pushing hard and cheering as loudly as ever for him. Between the two of us it looks like we have bases covered.

The trees of the coastal range thin out and turn into the Willamette Valley, that Eden at the end of the Oregon Trail. I can breath easier at the abundance of flat land on which to land should the need arise. The kid behind the aviators takes care to skirt Eugene airport and an incoming Skywest flight as we proceed north to deposit me back in Albany. Back in the valley we admire the manicured beauty that is agriculture in this part of the world. There is perfection in the center pivots, perfection in the lines of orchard trees and a glorious imperfection in the breeze ruffled heads of the grass seed fields. We cross to the east of I5 and set up for a straight in approach to the Albany airport and before I know it the wheels give the merest chirp as they settle on the runway and we make a turn onto the first taxiway. What a gorgeous, incredible day. It was worth the wait in every way, and sometimes what a wait it was! I really don’t want the propeller to stop spinning as it signifies the end to something, but stop it does. I remove the headset and collect my bits and pieces (even as I forget my camera).My pilot escorts me over to the car and there we hug and fist bump and off we go by road and air with mission accomplished.

I really hate to leave so drive on down to the end of the runway and park. I am very much like that kid again on Park Rd, having ridden my bike to the “hole in the wall” from where I can view the aerodrome at Samlesbury and wait endlessly for an airplane to take off, only this time it’s not just any airplane. Today, I know the pilot, its my own kid at the controls, yoke and throttle in hand, feet to rudders, eyes scanning for traffic and I soar with him as he lifts off and clears the perimeter fence before turning south and returning the aircraft to Cresswell. I wonder if he sees the white car at the end of the runway and did it take him back all those years when he and I would sit together and watch planes take off for who knew where?

Thank you for a great day Gavin. We could not have had a more beautiful one or spent it in better company. Keep your love of flying alive and your aviating skills well honed. As Conrad once said “Now go kick the tires and light the fires”

On A Wire in a Wireless World

March 16th, 2011

Our rather ugly maroon dune buggy by Selvagem shudders its way over the cobbles in search of a barge by which we will cross the estuary, its engine emitting popping and wheezing sounds rather than anything that might be construed as mechanical and trustworthy. Our driver, the trusty cousin, fakes the wearing of a seat belt while our own flap around, perhaps awaiting a six pack to secure …as if the salt rusted ends would ever have a hope of connecting anyway. Coughing our way off cobble and onto tidal flats we are motioned up a couple of well placed planks onto a flat barge that sees us two up with another buggy about to be poled across the estuary for a suitable sum of cash. The punters, members of a cooperative work a week on, week off shift and it appears there are only a slight few hours when service is not provided, while at peak periods there may be twenty or more craft jostling for buggies, bikes and donkeys not wishing to swim.

Passing an obvious tourist from Natal, rental car buried to the axles in loose sand and still within site of the crossing “cousin” driver gives the old Vdub motor enough ethanol to smooth it out and it picks up speed enough to make eyes squint and hair fly while exposed skin gets sun scorched and dermabraided simultaneously from the sand whipping back off the tires. The tracks of such fun will inevitably lead to a favored dermatologist. Its all a roiled and warm Atlantic ocean to the right and wind blown, dune perched palm trees to the left, Fishermen’s shacks and Jangadas both drawn up above the tide line, windows and doors open, sails set as awnings and hammocks everywhere swaybacked in occupancy. Barely indented tire tracks lead north to Maracajau and points well beyond and out of site, even after a day or so’s hard driving is my guess.

Before the old motor gets to breath really hard on the sandy straightaways we veer off into the dune scape on some “enforced” tourism that involves patient donkeys draped in Bougainvillea, daft photos with ones own camera, dromedaries, wind blown beach attire and best of all an opportunity to have a long pull of sweet coconut water from a freshly and deftly decapitated green nut. It’s all in good fun and the young guys doing the sales pitches are good natured and dying to try out their english language skills. When not engaged in commerce they loll against the obliging donkeys, deep in cell and text conversations, presumably with all the absent girls, left back in the city of Natal, plainly seen in the far distance from atop these dunes and seemingly a world away.

Taking a near vertical drop of some 150′ down the side of a dune and into shrubbery …riding unbelted in the back of a vehicle that has never seen “better days” takes largish amounts of faith and stupidity, neither of which were summoned in time before it happened and was over and done with. The feeling of  being still alive after a dumb move is a good one and really should promote much sounder decision making. Something about a good breakfast of papaya, the sun, the salt and no doubt a beer while speeding along a wide open beach in a manner surely outlawed most anywhere else must stifle good decision making. Veering away from the ocean and its cooling southerly breezes a couple of  giddy full throttle maneuvers sees us perched atop ever taller dunes and overlooking a rather ominous yet fresh water filled lagoon across and into which, zip lines are suspended. Its a surreal place and it is furnace hot. It takes no time at all for an enterprising “dune youth” to lead this lamb to a slaughter far from home and equally as far from rudimentary medical care, If I am any judge.

The modus operandi of the next close to death experience is to sit in the remnants of a a very old tire and some canvas webbing, If my memory serves me right. In colloquial English it would be referred to as “getting your ass in a sling”. Whatever it is, It is suspended from a wire that spans the lake with sufficient slack in it to ensure you slam into said lake rather than the far shore. Abject fear or false bravado alike will be captured on video, this time by “lake youth” comfortable in a lawn chair upon on a raft close to where you and the dark waters will come together.

Being strapped in requires “dune youth” to practice his English and expound on how he deems it insufficient and requiring of further night school classes. You have to place this rather astonishing conversation into the context of this place that visually might as easily be Yemen as it is Brasil. Before I can even ask why he seeks fluency in English he starts by telling me how we all now live in a wireless and globalized world ( witness his cell phone(s)) and that the people he daily hurls off the dune come from across the globe and English is the common thread of communication and commerce at this point in time. Of course by now I am feeling less than intelligent, not because of the ridiculous ride I am about to take but because I am privy to a crash course in globalization from a kid so insightful, resourceful and hungry that I feel painfully uncomfortable with my own suddenly meagre skill set and perspective. Speaking of pain, the sand beneath my feet is in the process of vitrification and only now does the water below look like a good idea. “Dune youth”, through with the globalization of this particular idiot, bids me lift my feet and then switching to Portuguese, ( I am sure ) tells me to kiss my ass goodbye as gravity and the wire above give me an entirely new focus.

Globalization ( A perspective, as seen from a sand dune )

January 13th, 2011

Its a surreal, eye piercing, cerulean sky that fills all the spaces not white walled, and in doing so gives short shrift to melding the prior evenings quick surrender to this days slow awakening in a “cell” whose bleached, bare white bones, are making much of minimalism. The unseen, clearly heard and ever so lightly felt southerly trades sail through palm fronds as a yellow breasted, sharp billed bird lets rip with a little ‘Frevo’ to a new day. There with a low gurgle is the Atlantic’s salt, pushing against the river’s fresh water, as each together, submerge the shorelines sharp edged bivalves and flood food to roiling schools of waiting, whiskery catfish. It all demands an elbow’s elevation …of further attention.

Propped up thus, the far view reveals a low slung horizon of the most exquisitely sand colored sand dunes. Sand the color it is in ones dreams, fondest imaginings and bragging brochures. Lapped on their far side by barely heard, unseen and ever ceaseless, warm Atlantic waves. The dunes lay across a broad, silt loaded estuary, where with a methodic step wades a dark skinned man who pays out the silvery white mesh of a gill net bundled over arm and shoulder. It slips beneath the surface, a graceful, wishfully captive arc, visible and suspended only by bobbing white floats. In the immediate foreground sways a hammock, and now coming seemingly to rest in its own creamy cotton arc the fisherman shakes finger length slivers of silver into a grass basket at his waist. Now, a mere elbow’s height no longer reveals enough and as a Jet and its lag are of a distant yesterday, exploration is the order of the day.

Upriver, over a coffee cup’s rim, a steady flotilla of rafts ferry an assortment of vehicles from our shore out to the sand dunes and the first of a string of fishing villages. It appears a real melee out on the river with rafts for bikes and motor bikes, rafts for a car and rafts for three cars …and maybe more. Punted by one or two sinewy types who plant their poles onto river’s bottom and then proceed to walk the length of their raft, it slides beneath bare feet as they walk in place. Time and time again with quite some exertion as indicated by a slight bow wave. The whole procedure having something of an illusionary quality. Raft gazing is accompanied by a shameless savoring of an endless papaya …picked and proffered at the point of perfection. Multitasking is easily displayed  as not only can I study the art of punting while savoring a tropical fruit, I can make river waters froth and boil with the toss of a piece of breakfast roll into an expectant school of catfish, no doubt habituated to this time and place, out of the current and momentarily safe from the cast and recast of the silvery white mesh.

The rough and ready english translation of a spiel delivered in portuguese by a gent who appears at table side, is that rather sadly, he is just too darn busy to take us to where I had  know idea we wanted to go in the first place. How remiss of me. Yet there is no need of despair, he having a most reliable cousin ( who just happens to be close by, as in out in the street! ) and he would be thrilled to furnish a dune buggy into which we could jump and thus proceed to tear down endless, trackless miles of spectacular beach and on to infinity. Infinity being Fortaleza some 500 km up and around the nub of Brasil or south to Rio some 1500 km straight down …its beach all the way, baby! Obviously, I’m in, as the other choice calling my name is a delicious day of hammock, a good book and ice cold Bohemia. Sipped to the delicious cadence of the trades, too decadent by far. (to be cont…)

Genipabu …por favor, que caminho?

December 2nd, 2010

The milk run drops in on Fortaleza, disgorges the cramped and contorted, takes a quick cleansing, replenishes with those still standing tall and with posture aplenty yet to destroy then departs for Natal… to repeat the process all over again I suppose. I wonder, where and when do the Webjets sleep? This being the end of the line for me today, the theory has it that its time to rent a car, rent a bed and ready oneself to acquire those nifty “flip flop” tan lines that give November bragging rights in Portland.

A car rental transaction in Brasil bears no resemblance to that same transaction in the US (Supremely easy) or even in the the EU (Moderately difficult). In Brasil the manner of the agent is always most pleasant but its clear each hopeful driver’s transaction will take one to one and a half hours and being fourth in line is going to allow you to eavesdrop your way through a full immersion Portuguese class. You come to the conclusion that the Amazon Rain Forest is giving itself up to produce multiple forms in triplicate and that in signing them all, one has more or less purchased a car they fully expect to be stolen during your kidnapping or at the very least be parted out to become a beach buggy as you savor a two Caipirinha lunch. Provided neither happens, then a few days on “normal” roads ensures you hand back a car where every kilometer driven accumulated the wear and tear of a hundred kilometers and the front end will never again know the joys of proper alignment or even tire wear …and the triplicate form person knows it! Its not clear if the insurance you are also signing up for will cover your own disappearance. A final escape from the solicitous and ever worried looking car attendant requires a full blown walk around the car as if it were a billion dollar jet fighter and signing off on every nick, ding, scratch and missing part. More signatures acknowledge you will drive away with spare wheel, jack and a battery. Read the rest of this entry »