Bedazzled by Brazil

Day 63 – In the North Atlantic between Senegal and The Gambia – Find Insignia on CruiseMapper

When Partout was not being baffled by Brazil, we were being dazzled by it. Melted, perhaps, by the torrid tropical temperatures and humidity but still bedazzled.

Brazilian Culture

A guide in Salvador told us Brazil is the only Western Hemisphere country whose economy was built 100% on enslaved people brought from Africa. Almost half the enslaved Africans transported to the New World were taken to Brazil, and Brazil was the last Western nation to abolish slavery, in 1888.

The impacts of this shackled migration go beyond anything we could possibly observe in 10 days of port stops. What couldn’t be missed was that Brazil today is visibly, vibrantly, deliciously a mix of African and European cultures.

We saw the mix in Brazilian art with African themes.

We saw the influence in the vivid coloration of buildings, boats, clothing.

We tasted the influence in the feijoada (a stew of black beans, pork and vegetables sprinkled with toasted cassava flour and other finishes), farofa (bacon pieces fried with cassava flour) and moqueca (fish stewed in coconut oil and milk) and all the other foods with African roots (and more color).

We saw the interplay in the capoeira, an art form developed by slaves to conceal their martial art moves as dance.

Brazilian Beauty

We’ve mentioned being being awed by the spectacular setting of Rio de Janeiro, but pictures are worth a bunch of words.

This was one view from the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city.

And another showing the city boasts not only a spectacular bay and beaches but a natural inland lagoon.

Even Doris (who has been heard to say, “You’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all”) had to admit the Brazilian beaches – many of them endless strips of dazzling white sands that ran the entire length of cities – were not like any she had ever seen, and that’s before you get to the teeny weeny bikinis and Speedos.

The eye candy was unlimited. How can you admire a place where they set the sidewalks with a mosaic of stone, and each neighborhood has its own design?

Even the plant life was sensuous. This beauty was growing up a host tree on a busy street in Ipanema.

Brazil even impressed with beauty of the skin-deep sort. On a mall sortie one day when it was simply too brutally hot to be outdoors, Doris spied a Botox boutique right alongside the shoes and athletic gear.

This is a country that takes beauty seriously. After all, has anyone ever seen a city anywhere else with a set of (probably augmented) boobs as public art?

Brazilian Eye-Openers

Our eight stops in Brazil, including two overnights, were eye-opening in other ways.

The density was one. Brazil is the world’s 5th-biggest nation by area with the 6th-biggest population in 2021. We began to consider any city with less than 3 million people “small.” Sailing away after dark from any one of of the five northeastern cities we visited, the lights onshore went on for what seemed like hundreds of miles, more reminiscent of the USA’s East Coast than anything in, say, Europe, much less Africa.

Combine millions of people with urban beaches, and you get stretches of coastline that look like this. Okay, duh, but our jaws dropped now and then from the sheer endlessness of it.

Also in the category of scenic “duh” were the Portuguese artistic influences, especially in churches, where the colors and ornamentation could have (and maybe were) transplanted whole-cloth from Lisbon.

For all the country’s economic muscle (the Embraers we all fly on American airlines come from here!), there is also staggering poverty. Economic inequality is global, but it was spectacularly on display in all the cities we visited. From a distance over the water, the colorful favelas could appear almost scenic.

Close up, the conditions came into grim focus.

We departed Brazil satisfied with our orientation and eager to see the regions of Africa where the Afro in Afro-Brazilian originated.

We did not get that glimpse in our first African port of call, Cabo Verde, an achingly dry archipelago that was not uninhabited before the Portuguese arrived in the 1500s. (We’re not sure what those colonists did for water since they didn’t have the desalinization plants the nation relies on today, but they settled.)

The Cabo Verde blend is Portuguese and British for reasons we did not entirely understand, but what we will never forget were the island nation’s soaring mountains, breathtaking beaches and crystal-clear aquamarine water. A better port to break up our Atlantic crossing to Africa could not be imagined.

Another Question Answered

Megan asked, “How long will you be out of sight of land (en route to Africa)? What do you notice when you have no buildings and shorelines to distract you? Will you see more birds and sea life?”

Life afloat is divided into “sea days” and “port days.” Of the 180 days we will spend circling the globe, we will be at sea about 60 days. This includes the three days we just spent crossing from Brazil to Cabo Verde, the westernmost country in Africa, and then another day getting from Cabo Verde to Senegal. That makes for four out of five days with no land ho between the continents.

What we most notice when we are out of sight of land is how busy we are! There is almost no minute from dawn until long after dark on a sea day without activities to entice us or to which (like team trivia) we don’t have a commitment to attend. Sea days are also workout days on board (yes, Fitness Afloat will follow eventually). One way or the other, we keep busy.

That said, we also spend a considerable amount of time just sitting on our veranda or on a deck staring at the ocean, noting its color and mood, studying clouds, relaxing in the ocean motion and simply marveling at how wide and deep is the sea. We have seen flying fish in the North Atlantic, and other passengers have seen dolphins, but we aren’t seeing nearly as much sea or bird life out here as we did on the west coast of South America and, of course, in Antarctica.

What we were seeing between Brazil and Cabo Verde was vast floating islands and little atolls of sea grass – the very same sargassam grass that hit the news the very next day after we saw it for its upcoming landing on south Florida beaches, where it may be noxious and even hazardous.

Coming Soon!

West Africa: In Pirate Waters

6 thoughts on “Bedazzled by Brazil

  1. Did you know that Tim Hortons ( our iconic Canadian company) is owned by a Brazilian company, 3G Capital, a multi-national hedge fund company…..says Bob.


    Just loving these updates! The pictures are fantastic and hearing about all your experiences is wonderful! Thank you for sharing!


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