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Belém, Brazil, November 2007

Cidade Velha
Looking back towards the old part of the city, from Mangal das Garças
We arrived in Belém just before Cirio, which the locals says is the largest religious festival in the Americas. It is a huge Catholic festival where they parade a small statue of the virgin-mary-with-child through the streets. Silly me, I had this idea of a stuffy church parade on Sunday and not much else. It turns out this is religion, Brazilian-style, and it is a huge multi-week party. Saturday night before the big Sunday parade, they have what they call "the profane side of the festival", complete with a drag queen show.

Friday night before the parade, we saw a play on an outdoor stage, about the history of this celebration. Then about 14 costumed characters on pedestals were wheeled in front of the stage, and more stories/songs were performed.

The costumes were amazing - a guy with a beautiful body in a gold g-string, mask, boots and full-size gold wings, and very little else. A woman with a stunning jeweled headress and bare stomach with see-through skirt (under which she wore tight shorts). I am not describing it well but it made me think of Pakistan or India. A woman wearing a neutral color bodysuit and paint, and curly branch sort of things coming out of her head, giving the effect of some kind of vine or tree. 4 men and 4 women dressed in identical multi-color archer uniforms and so many complex costumes throughout the night that it is actually hard to remember them all.

After this, the parade boogied a short distance to live music, to another stage, where about 30 more costumed actors and singers performed skits and songs, then joined the parade to a third stage. Along the way in an abandoned building, they had set up dramatic lighting, and in each window was a costumed actor interacting the crowd - cupid shooting arrows, some jungle-themed women seducing men, a muscle-bound bald angry devil, and more.

A song and dance troupe entertained on the third stage with fluid movements, then they joined the parade and we all danced to the last stage. Into the parade mix at this point were thrown hideous (wonderful makeup) devils, with bottles on their backs... I wondered what the bottles were for until they started breathing fire, I guess the bottles hold alchohol. Incredible prancing and acting, very animal-like and they danced at the front of the parade to scare people out of the way so the parade didn't jam. It worked.

On the final stage the music switched to samba, the street was standing-room-only, the crowd was all moving and there were more skits and songs. The finale was a paper version of the virgin mary tethered to many gold balloons, floating into the sky accompanied by more music, while high-power fans blew shredded silver paper into the air and fireworks exploded. Unbelievable costumes, lots of skin, and I think we must have sung about 4 times the song of the state we are in (Parÿ), which as far as I can understand seems to be about the food and is a fun song. Did I have the camera with me? Noooo, of course not.


The Lonely Planet says Belém really isn't set up for tourism, but is more of a jumping-off place for visitors to the Amazon. We have really enjoyed our extended stay here, and have found Belém to be a well-planned if somewhat dirty city full of beautiful late 19th century buildings. This shot shows some neat, if crumbling, details of a typical building.

Building detail
dig the iron standpipe and tile

A favorite building is "Palacete Bologna", on Rua José Malcher near Praça Republica. It apparently is full of details from various eras, as students of architecture will notice in this shot:

Palacete Bologna detail
"Little Bologna Palace"

Another neat detail, this time from the gardens of the Museu Goeldi. I was unable to find out the name of the architect of the structure, but it reminds me too much of a structure in Parc Guell, Barcelona, by Antonio Gaudi. There are some more shots in the Photo Gallery.

Goeldi and Gaudi
Did Goeldi meet Gaudi?

We had a lot of Açaí here before we heard the local proverb:
   "Quem vai ao Pará, parou; tomou açaí, ficou..."
(whoever comes to Pará will stop, but whoever drinks açaí here will stay)

From the moment we landed at the airport, Comandante Heiss, the owner of a local aero taxi service, was our immediate friend. He and his wife Sonia have been really fantastic to us. We have been similarly lucky, thanks to Heiss, to have the plane hangared with a great bunch of mechanics. Valfredo had us to lunch one day with his family and there is a cute shot in the Photo Gallery. João was a real ace too.

We lucked into a great cheap little hotel run by a Eloizio and Goretti,Hotel Amazônia, in the heart of Belém. This location has been great for our tourism forays in between waiting for various parts for the airplane. They have all been really great to us, and have made our stay in the city much easier and more fun. Eloizio caught me posting this note, and insisted I translate the text for him. I told him it says horrible things about him, but eventually fessed up. He says I should write "I have been paid several hundred dollars to write this..."

Goretti and Eloizio
our intrepid hosts

Near the old section of town, there is a park with beautifully sculpted grounds, full of wildlife, and best of all with a tower from which you can take shots of the park and the city.
Here is a little video that gives you an idea of how we spend our days, in Windows Media format (2.73MB)

Mangal das Garcas
Mangal das Garças, view from the tower

We stayed long enough to meet up with two other earthrounders, Gerars Moss and Bob Gannett. Gerard passed through with his two crew of Brasil das Aguas. We were really sad not to meet his wife Margi, but it was great to pick Gerard's brain and trade stories.

Gerard and crew
Gerard and his Brasil das Aguas crew

Bob Gannon came through a little while later, and inspired us with his stories of Patagonia and Antarctica to the point where we decided to change our route and head South instead of East from Brazil.

Speaking of which, Gregg reminds me that I should put a link to Claude Meunier and the Earthrounders. Earthrounders has a list of ongoing and completed circumnavigations by small aircraft.

And Andrew Czernek of Mooney Events posts get-togethers and trip reports for other Mooney pilots.

They have some really beautiful parks in the city, and we went for walks and runs occasionally. We even made it out one night with a bunch of Brazilians for a "forro", a community dance, where thanks to us they coined a new phrase "to dance worse than an American". Other than that, most of our days were pretty relaxed. Here is a clip showing us doing what we normally do (Windows Media Player, 2.73MB) in Belém.

A pilot friend caught up with us in the hangar, and turned us on to the Air Force show that was happening that day. The Tucanos put on a heck of a show in spite of growing cumulous and bumpy conditions.

Air Force show
Air Force show