Tackling The Amazon
Part 2: Arrival
||11/13/10 - 11/20/10
When our trip was postponed from February to November, it felt as if the day to depart would never come. We had planned, almost a
year's worth of editorial to draw from this experience, so when it was pushed back, we scrambled to readjust our Search for One tests. Our peacock adventure was replaced by a memorable trip to Falcon Lake, Texas and naturally, we filled in as needed with our usual adventures to Clear Lake and the California Delta. But the nagging question remained, what if we were able to kick off the year as planned and will November ever get here?
When travelling within Brazil, flexibility is the key - you cannot be in a rush to go anywhere.
Travel throughout Brazil, not just from Manaus into Barcelos, is done via small charter planes as it's impossible to drive from one city to the next thanks to the rain forest.
That question would soon be answered come the end of October when we realized it was time to start packing. All this time we had been preparing for the usual luggage weight restrictions of fifty pounds per bag, and somehow overlooked the small plane requirement flying from Manaus to Barcelos. Add to this fact that we had alerted several manufacturers throughout the year of our plans to take our show to the Amazon, and we had a pile of product to sort through for this unique testing opportunity.
Finally, boarding our flight to Barcelos.
When we finally realized the forty pound TOTAL weight restriction per person, culling began in a ruthless manner. The final tally? 47 pounds for Cal, 45 pounds for Zander, 38 pounds for JIP. It would have to do.
We joked about it, but much to our chagrin, the pilots were indeed using that piece of paper hanging down from the top console as a map to help guide them to Barcelos.
We were spared no anxiety in the week leading up to this trip when we heard from Steve Yatomi that the group prior to ours ran into trouble with their travel Visas at the airport and were almost not allowed to leave the country. We scrambled to find out what the problem may have been, but Steve was traveling with that group and was out of range for communication almost as soon as he sent the message. It was far too late to do anything about it, so we reluctantly decided to just roll with it and see what happens at the airport.
Inside, the plane is a bit cramped ...
... but that far from dampened our spirits as we were finally on the last leg of our 24 hour journey.
Signs at San Francisco International the morning of our departure were not good. Zander and JIP arrived for our 6:00am scheduled departure first and immediately ran into issues with
Delta's automated check in machines. There were no agents available for assistance and Zander spent half an hour trying to get his machine to read his passport. With some help from JIP, he was finally able to make it work. Cal arrived with his brother soon after and Zander immediately came to their assistance warning them of the potential difficulties. Apparently it was machine specific.
Cal's went through just fine and when his brother ran into similar difficulty that Zander encountered, a quick change in machines yielded faster results. Then it was off to the luggage check-in line.
Before taking off, our pilot stopped at the beginning of the runway, looked right, and stayed in a holding pattern until this plane landed in front of us!
In the air and on approach to Barcelos, finally, glimpses of the river.
Since all our bags were right around the 40lb weight limit for the small plane from Manaus to Barcelos, we anticipated no problems, however, what we didn't realize was that the check-in agents for Delta would not know how to deal with our rod tubes. They almost would not allow us to check in our tubes, but after a lot of anxiety and confirmation with a supervisor, our rod tubes were allowed. The agents then looked at our travel visas and surprisingly all was fine. Another concern was alleviated.
Cal, Zander, JIP, and Cal's brother, Kin on the tarmac in Barcelos.
We stopped over in Atlanta, Georgia before continuing onto Manaus where we arrived at 1:00am. By the time we got through customs, collected our bags, found our meet and greet agents, loaded up in the shuttle, and got to the hotel it was well past 2:00am. Meeting time back in the hotel lobby for our shuttle ride back to the airport and our small plane charter was set for 8:00 am. Just enough time for a short nap.
A small wait as they loaded our bags onto a truck for transport to the boat.
Travel to and from the airport was pre-arranged by ATA via shuttle, and while the reservations at the hotel for our overnight were made ahead of time by ATA, the cost for this overnight stay was an additional $70 per person paid at the time of check out. Still, it was a better alternative than waiting in the airport all morning with our luggage.
A look at the Barcelos Airport.
After an unusually smooth travel experience thus far, the next morning we were enroute to the airport to face our last bit of anxiety the flight to Barcelos and the 40 pounds per person weight limit on luggage. At the airport, we were greeted by some of the outfitter's liaisons where communication was conducted through broken English sentences and a lot of hand gestures. They essentially gathered all our bags and guided us to the ticket counter where our luggage was collectively weighed then loaded onto carts to be taken to our plane. Just like that. No tags, no double checks, no hassles with weight. Finally, the last obstacle was complete and we were set to catch our flight to Barcelos.
Before going to the boat, we had to stop at this tourism office ...
... to obtain our permits to fish for Peacock Bass.
These charter planes fly continuously back and forth between destinations and we waited quite some time for our plane to return from Barcelos. When it did finally arrive, we saw it was a small, twin engine prop plane with single seats along one side, and double seats along the other. It had no more than 8 rows of seats total and was so small our rod tubes were slid in along the aisles right next to the seats instead of in a cargo hold.
Then it was a short walk to the river.
Zander waiting atop the steps down to the river's edge.