This is the first installment of 6 articles describing a trip to the largest country in South America.
Why Brazil? …….Any time ClearH2Ofilms is looking for amazing scenery, big drops and first descents for our new project, we always know Brazil will deliver the goods. The timing could not have been better as veteran filmmaker Ryan MacPherson had been contacting us about going to Brazil for a cache of new stuff he wanted to explore. That was all the convincing we needed. We spent six weeks driving all over North Eastern and Central Brazil in search lifetime experiences. Follow Jesse Coombs and the group as they battle travel nightmares, terrible logistics, viral disease, breath taking scenery and some of biggest white water in the world through the remote regions of Brazil.
The adventure begins and travel troubles started….even before the trip got underway………
Man, what a crazy trip this has been so far. Where to begin?
I waited to book my flight to Brazil until I knew when I would get the two Super Heros which was just fine.I got an excellent price of $791.I also booked my PDX to Miami flight at that time which was about $300 or 30,000 frequent flyer miles miles which was just fine as well.I then was so distracted with work that I didn’t take care of some details that would cost me dearly later.
About 7 days before my flight I made my decision and ordered the tiny Asus EEE lap top for writing on the trip arrived the day I was leaving.yikes! I paid a good price on Newegg.com, less than $300, so this worked out fine. So far so good.
The visa to enter Brazil was one of the true high dollar screw ups.I started packing for my trip the weekend before my flight and when I decided to check on visas and vaccinations I was in for a couple painful awakenings. I forgot and the travel agent, Paula, who was not at all responsive to me, did not mention that I needed to get a visa for travel to Brazil.
I figured this out on Saturday, and Monday was a holiday.Ouch.I flew on Wednesday. I spent a lot of time researching options on Saturday, and I came up with two options.My preferred option was for overnight my visa to a visa service company, have them process it in a single day, and then they would overnight the visa back to me.I hoped someone would be open on Sunday but it was not to be.Luckily the visa service companies were open on Monday, despite it being President’s day, and I was able to learn that this option would not work for me. They said I would have to take the visa in myself.
That meant my last hope was the second option.I booked a flight on Monday to leave Tue morning at 6am and fly back at 7pm that same evening. I woke up at 2am and drove to the airport for my flight.I arrived in SFO at 7:40am and took BART to the Montgomery st exit.I walked to the post office and waited in line to get my $130 money order. I then walked to the Brazilian consulate and waited for my number to be called.I heard the girl turn away someone who didn’t have a contact name, address and phone number, so I quickly called Claudia to get her family’s address and phone.
My number was the next one to be called while she is giving me the information.The translation from Portuguese to English is difficult, especially with i’s and e’s, but we struggle through it.My number is called shortly after I get my stuff together.
I go to the desk and the woman is not happy with me at all.She asks in exasperated voice why everyone is waiting until the last minute and asking the consulate to rush for them.From the way she is talking I am not the least bit hopeful that she will get me the visa in time.
She looks at my passport and sees that I have been to Brazil twice before.She asks incredulously why if I have been to Brazil twice I did not take care of the visa immediately. I told her I was blessed with a bad memory and completely forgot. She looks me dead in the eye and says if I was older she might believe me.She says I was in Brazil in 2006 and my visa should still be good.This works in my favor as this is not my fault.
She looks closely at the visa in my passport and says it is a 90 day visa. Bummer!She is frustrated with me and the others handling this last minute and I am very concerned that I am going to be sent home empty handed.After much apologizing on my part she agrees to see what the consulate will do.She says it will be ready the next morning.I explain to her that I fly to Brazil the next day and that would be too late for me.She is REALLY not happy with me.
I try to show her my itinerary and it is all she can do to not look away in disgust.After much more apologizing on my part she agrees to go back one more time to the secret office in the back which as far as I know may just contain donuts, coffee and a lot of inside jokes about stupid tourists who wait until the last moment for everything.
She comes back several minutes later with sugar in the corner of her mouth (not really) and says the visa will be ready for me in the afternoon, but she is not sure when.I ask her when they close (3pm) and tell her I’ll be back at 3pm to wait.Wow, I was convinced that she was going to turn me away, so I am feeling very lucky that I should be getting my visa in the same day.
As I am leaving the building I decide I will buy her a token of my appreciation.I have a couple hours to kill so I continue the project I started in the consulate’s office of going through dv tapes to see what is on them.I was hoping to do email, of which I have plenty needing my attention, but it seems no downtown San Fran shop was much interested in providing wireless except Starbucks who charges the equivalent of a double shot grande mocha latte with extra everything to use it.
I met my good friend Otis (Ted Holman) who lives in San Francisco for Dim Sum lunch and a great session of catching up.It is funny how while circumstances have changed, he and I are the same kids with the same jokes inside.After lunch I swing by a coffee shop for a gift for my new and hesitant friend in the consulate’s office and head back there with my tail between my legs.I sit patiently and play electronic chess and read.
Slowly but surely everyone trails out of there until it is just myself and one other guy who seems to have his act together a bit better than me but still running into problems.In my defence, the one thing I did do well other than groveling was that I filled out my application exactly including the required postal money order, passport photo, flight itinerary, vaccination card, etc.Quite the process.
The lady tells me the visa still needs the signature of the consular, and my heart sinks as it is already pretty much closing time for them.But then she continues and says that he will be back shortly.I give her a friend and affirming smile hoping that she will look past my screw up and make this all come together.About ten minutes after they are officially closed she calls me over to the window with the paperwork.She explains the visa to me and gives me back the paperwork for me. Wow!
I can hardly believe I am holding the visa in my hand. If there was one single risk to my trip this was it, and I was getting over the hurdle.Despite the costs of getting the visa done, it was worth it.I pass the chocolate bars I bought for her and her co-workers and tell her it is in thanks for being so helpful. She presents me with a sincere smile and hopefully my gift will help the next person who makes such an agregious oversight.
The Malaria prescription and vaccinations are another consideration.I won’t know the downside of these until I get back.I have 6 weeks of mefloquine for malaria, so that will be pretty damn close to what I would need which is 1 week prior and 2 weeks after which would add up to 7.I am going to be strong on the deet and do my best to keep the mosquitos at bay. The consulate was okay with my yellow fever and typhoid shots, but I am not sure they looked very closely.Who knows, maybe they did. I think I am covered by my vaccinations, but that is not a sure thing as I was able to get a medical professional to review my inoculation with me.I’m going to do my best to keep the mosquitos off me and hopefully not find myself with symptoms.
I needed to bring two kayaks on this trip.Ben is going to give his Rocker to a guy who broke his Rocker in Brazil, and I am bringing two brand new Super Heros for Ben and me.It is hard enough to fly for a month’s trip with one kayak, much less two.The first thing I did was research the different airline policies to ensure that I would not be told I could not bring them.I was only half successful in this regard. USAir has a good kayak policy which is $80 for the kayak and that is cheaper than just about anyone out there.My flights from Miami to Brasilia though are on TAM airline, and I could not get a straight answer out of them one way or another.Ben was able to get his boat through, so I am hopefully for my boats.I triple wrapped them in cloth, blue tarp and plastic cover.Hopefully they will let them pass.So far USAir has been great and I am on the plane waiting for us to depart from Las Vegas for Miami.I packed super light so one boat weighs 50 (52 with packaging) lbs and the other weighs 70 (72 with packaging) pounds.I have an internal frame backpack that I borrowed from Anna as my carry on and a school backpack as my personal item with my electronic items.This must be the lightest I have ever packed for an international kayaking trip.Not including the kayaks I have about 70 pounds of stuff including all my river/kayak wear, laptop, still camera, video camera, book, electronic chess, clothes, camping gear, etc.
If there was not enough insult to injury, I forgot to pack the leatherman in the kayak and so it got pulled out of my internal frame backpack carry on and I had to pay $12 to ship it back home.Worst!Again, my own fault though.
The first flight was uneventful and went well.One thing that was nice about it, so two flight attendants approached me about my ASUS eee and had lots of questions about it.It seems they were very interested in the small form factor and ability to still do all the normal computer activities. And of course the price is very attractive for a computer.I also told them about the solid state hard drive which will be more reliable and durable.
Follow Jesse on his travels at his Kayak Journal