Harry R. Matthews' Retirement Home Page

Americas, 2013

by Harry R. Matthews

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In January 2013, Lorraine and I flew from Tauranga to Rio de Janeiro via Auckland, Santiago and Sao Paulo. We stayed a week at the Sofitel Hotel which is at the Ipanema end of Copacabana Beach. Our room looked down and along Copacabana Beach, with a view of Morro do Pao de Acucar and its cable car in the distance. I had lots of fun taking photographs from the balcony. We thoroughly enjoyed this hotel, except that our lack of Portugese language made communication with housekeeping a bit of a challenge. The concierges were especially helpful when Lorraine discovered that she had lost her passport (see Lorraine's Blog).

We left Rio on Regent Seven Seas Mariner for a cruise north to Miami, USA, via Manuas which is way up the Amazon River. For our departure, Rio do Janeiro put on a thunderstorm with dramatic lightning, which I photographed from the balcony of our cabin at the stern of the ship. The movement of the ship meant long exposures were not feasible, so I set up the camera and pressed the shutter button when I saw lightning. Amazingly, this actually worked.

We stopped at a couple of large cities on our way north before entering the Amazon River. As we cruised up-river, we stopped at a couple of villages and met friendly villagers. The city of Manaus, deep in the Amazon Basin looked mostly derelect from the ship. It seems that modern construction/reconstruction has not taken place here but new buildings have just been added in the outskirts. However, the famous nineteenth century Opera House was everything it had been hyped up to be. I was quite pleased with the interior shots I was able to get at high ISO settings (no flash permitted).

On the way back down river we stopped at Parintins where we saw a performance of the show that won the annual competition here. Amazing costumes and props but very poor venue with no stage and no raked seating so little opportunity for photographs, although I did get one worth showing. Our last stop on the Amazon was Santarem where we went on a rain forest walk. Of course, the original rain forest along the River was the first to be cut down and so this was second-growth forest. Nevertheless it was an interesting walk and I enjoyed photographing the guide and the bush-wacker, who kept the trails open with his machete as we went along.

We were supposed to stop at Angel Island, French Guiana but a heavy swell prevented us going ashore. In the Caribbean we stopped at Barbados and St. Barts; fun but the shore excursions we chose were not very photopgenic. In San Juan, I went on another rain forest walk and photgraphed another guide as well as scenes from the walk.

In Miami, Florida, we hired a cra and drove south-west towards the Everglades National Park. We stayed here a week and enjoyed walking and photographing the wild-life, especially the birds and alligators.

From Miami, we flew to Savannah, Georgia, USA; Savannah was a highlight of the whole trip. Partly it was the music festival -- we went to four events: one classical concert and three jazz performances involving mutiple groups. Partly it was the 18th and 19th century architecture and the excellent walking tours we had. And, partly it was the feeling of "Southern Hospitality" and graciousness thoughout the city. The early Spring light was great for photography.

Our final stop was New Orleans. This was much more brash and much less prosperous tha Savannah but still a great place to stay a week. We especially enjoyed watching, listening and photographing the street entertainers. A tour showed us how far post-Katrina reconstruction still has to go and highlighted the difficulty of enticing people back into badly damaged and now run-down areas.

A month after returning, we are still a bit "shell-shocked" by all we experienced on this fascinating varied trip. Its great to have the photographs to reinforce and to share our memories.

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