The river cruise ended on Friday, and we disembarked at 7:30 that morning. Our guide Joao picked us up at the hotel lobby where we had first met our fellow travelers, and he drove us back to our hotel near downtown Manaus. We spent most of the day relaxing, catching up on news events and emails, and eventually going out for dinner. Vaya Adventures knew of our weird timing – namely getting off the boat early in the day, and not leaving town until late at night, so they took the initiative to make sure we had accommodation during those 14 hours or so. That's a sign of a great travel company; we would highly recommend them. This trip wasn't cheap, but the service was worth it.
When we finally went outside (it had been raining earlier, the streets were dry, and it wasn't too hot), we discovered that there was quite a street festival going on in the park next to the Opera House. There were two huge outdoor stages set up, and more street food vendors than last weekend. It appeared that there was another holiday – Brazil has lots of those! Actually the cause for celebration was the anniversary of a local radio station. I had a slice of pizza, and then watched a 30 minute dance performance. I didn't understand the commentator, but I think that perhaps the performers (eight women and two men) might have been students at the local college. Several hundred people were in the audience, and it was all free. Later that evening, some sort of popular entertainers were scheduled to perform, and you had to pass through a security checkpoint to get in, but that was no big deal. I went through easily, but apparently John got searched. Neither of us stayed for the concert, since we wanted to have time to nap, shower and be ready to be picked up at 10:30 PM.
So at 12:53 AM we flew from Manaus to Miami (5+ hours), in cramped seats. Getting through immigration and customs took very little time; they are quite organized, and we had our new Global Entry Passes. It was too early to call anyone, so we killed about 3 hours there, trying to relax. Due to a bit of a screw-up on our seat assignments, we had first class seats on the leg from Miami to Chicago. That was fabulous – what a way to be spoiled! We ate well and we could really stretch out. Too bad that flight wasn't longer – we were both sound asleep when they prepared to land. The last layover was only an hour, and given the size and crowds of O'Hare Airport, we had very little time to kill there. We were back in Traverse City by 2 PM, and our neighbor Tom picked us up. Our bags were the first two off the plane!
Saturday evening we had dinner with some of our friends, although we were pretty tired by that time. One asked us what we considered the best and worst parts of this adventure. We didn't care much for our visit to the Pantanal, where the heat and mosquitoes made it tough to enjoy the surroundings. We loved going to Iguazu (both sides of the border). I liked the kayaking during the cruise, and we both enjoyed seeing the jungle and meeting new people on the boat. We also liked Rio de Janeiro and Manaus, as well as walking around in Puerto Iguazu. Maybe my favorite thing was the fresh pineapple everywhere. It's the same in Southeast Asia. We have never found that wonderful taste in the US – perhaps Hawaii has it, but it's not like that here.
All our guides were excellent, and for that we are grateful. The hotels were fine, and some were spectacular. We ate far too much. During the trip we were on 12 different airplanes and every flight was on time; there was never any screw-up with our luggage either. Unpacking is just about done. We are glad to be home.