Aventuras I, Aventuras II, Aventuras III, Advice for visitors to Brasil, Aripuaná, Brazilian cage birds: Finches, Seed list, Pantanál

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First Trip to Brazil
Check out the orginal copy of this trip now found (1978-79)

Director Marco Antonio Gianonni, at the instigation of Ana Isabel de Assis, invited my family and me to come to the UNESP [Universidade Estadual de São Paulo] in the city of Jaboticabal for a year. The purpose was to set up a cattle blood typing laboratory. One of the places we obtained antisera was Sertaozinho. We were there during the school year of 1978-79. Jaboticabál is about a 5-hour drive from São Paulo city in the state of São Paulo.

The only part of this trip written up that I could find was my visit to Aripuaná. So, I am writing a brief account 20 years later. Ana and Victor Lemos met us at the airport. I carried boxes of blood typing reagents which were still nicely frozen. From the driver or "motorista" I got my first Brazilian bird name "urubú" the black vulture, while we were driving to Jaboticabal. Ana was to be my trainee. We were housed in the Department of Microbiology until the last month, when we moved into the Zootecnia building being built then.

Director Gianonni had to use a lot of jeito, which is the Brazilian way of getting things done when all seems impossible. My salary which was promised by the legislature was not available. This was the second example of Brazilian politics we encountered. The first was the catch-22 situation in getting our visa. If we were in Brazil, we could get it easily, but being in the USA we couldn't get into Brazil to sign the necessary papers there! That had delayed us 6 weeks until Gianonni talked with the National Minister of Education. Later we visited Dr. Giononni's home town of Bragança with its very steep streets.

I think Gianonni, who was the head of the university, had to take money from various departments to pay my way. Then we had to travel to many places in the state to find wire to make racks and tubes for the blood typing reactions. I began to see that there would not be enough time to really get the lab going well on its own.

Ana had arranged for us to rent a house owned by a researcher who was temporarily stationed at another university. But the delay had lost us the furnishings, so we had to buy a new stove, refrigerator, chairs, tables etc. On our couch one day we found a two inch yellow moth! Our house was on the edge of town across from the hospital. And a eucalyptus grove was nearby.

We were well received by various families there. We were taken on picnics, invited free to a fashion show with beautiful models from Rio parading to show off the fashions, shared part of the traditional mid night Christmas dinner with Marcelo Ribeiro, who later became a doctor in São Paulo, were invited to dinners, visited bird aviaries, etc. We saw an impressive orchid show in a bank… Many other flowers around town were notable including Brugmansias.

We had learned some Portuguese by sitting in on a class at ISU taught by Joanna Courteau. Since we started in the middle of the term, we were immediately confronted with the future subjunctive tense! My Spanish hindered rather than helped. But I did get the pronunciation rather well and gave a poster board paper at Caxambú entirely in Portuguese.

I kept up my running at the campus track and out the road on the edge of town. There I discovered an erosion tunnel at the edge of the road that one could walk through. On the track I ran 3 miles three times a week, often with Victor Lemos. The only runners who passed me and also ran the 3 miles were members of the track team. I could sprint the last 100 yards well. I was the oldest faculty member on campus. So some were impressed.

I gave an invited talk (Palestra) at Pirassununga. And got to Uberaba to the Congresso Nacional de Gado, a national cattle show which included typical Brazilian breeds: Gir, Guzerá, Nelore and Indubrasil. These can be contrasted to a range bull that walked by us on Marcelo's family fazenda. An example of a range cow can be pictured, and also a stray cow along the dirt road.

My sons and I took a car trip in our Ford Corcel around the center of the state. We found that the map was optimistic. A connection shown as a highway from one city to another petered out into a dirt track, then a horse path only! We kept going! It opened up into a 2 track way, then a dirt road then a black top then a paved road into the expected town!

Another trip was to Nova Odassa, S.P to see the caracú cattle, a Portuguese landrace breed in Brazil. As usual an interesting weed turned up.

We were invited to spend a week with Dr. Indalecio Rodolfo Quinteros and family in La Plata, Argentina. I was to give a paper and participate in a panel discussion at the 6th Jornadas for veternerians in November 1978. Jehud B. Bortolozzi from Brazil and Mikael Braend from Norway were also there. While in La Plata, Doctor or Mrs. Quinteros took us to visit a zoo, a museum and scenic buildings such as a beautiful Cathedral.

We also got to Rio to see Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, visit Urca and Sugar Loaf mountains, and the Botanical Gardens (Jardim Botanico). Later we visited the forest west of the Rio and got a good view of Corcovado. I ran the Copacabana beach full length and back one time. Lotus fell in the Botanical Gardens and we found out later had a detached retina. In Jaboticabál after the doctor examined her, he called me in and asked in a very severe voice "WHY did you beat her?" It seems that is not at all uncommon. We once heard the wife next door being beaten.

Lotus had to have an operation right away after the diagnosis. In Campinas the best eye treatment hospital in South America, Instituto Penido Burnier, was available only for 4 or so hours from Jaboticabal. After maneuvering for cruzeiros to pay (or they wouldn't operate), the Presbyterian mission in Campinas came through by selling our check for Brazilian money. Lotus had the operation and it was a great success as testified by US doctors when we returned.

I got to fly to Aripuaná in Amazon basin with 2 staff members. From Cuiabá on, we flew in a 6 place Cherokee single engine. A rain storm forced us down at a cattle station. Then we landed again to gas up at a place on the Juruena river. They had pet birds such as currassow and parrots, and also monkeys etc. The 40 house town of Aripuaná later became a gold rush center. When we were there each was a research station for cattle who were starving on forest fodder supplemented by corn. I rescued a small orchid from the trunk of an enormous tree recently felled in the cattle lot. Later back at Jaboticabal it bloomed for us.

The river divides into two falls, the Foz Andorinhas and Foz Dardanelos. Several species of birds fly to the island which divides the falls to roost safely.

Again the map was premature. It showed the TransBrazilian highway going north across the river bridge and continuing. The dirt road actually went up to the river and stopped - nothing over the river nor on the other side.

At Aripuaná I met Paul Roth and his wife, ornithologists from Switzerland, and Anthony Rylands from England. Anthony was studying the "saguí" or marmosets. Anthony had had a dangerous experience. In reaching into a tree branch in his research area he was stung by a scorpion. He got back to the swift flowing Aripuaná river (more than a quarter mile wide) and into the boat by himself and became delirious. He didn't recall how in the world he avoided being swept over the 220 meter high falls, but he got to the other shore. He spent 3 months in the hospital at Manaus.

I jogged to and back from the landing field there and was joined by the librarian. He kept asking me if I didn't want to stop and rest. I found out that HE wanted to stop and rest. I collected more spiders (aranhas) there for Dr. Herb Levi at Harvard University. There was very much to see (e.g. a beautiful moth) and learn. They kept a goat tethered under each of the 3 sleeping units (which each held about 10 rooms). This was to distract the onça (jaguar) which had been known to climb the stairs in search of food.

We bled the capybaras or capivari (the largest rodent in the world) in the zoo there in order to test the blood for complement. Being relatives of the Guinea pig their blood should be useful in blood typing and similar tests. That was a struggle. Carnavál was going on while we were in Aripuaná. My companions were anxious to get back to Cuiabá for that greatest of Brazilian holidays. The pilot had been carefully instructed when to pick us up. And there being no refrigerator, the capybara blood had to be flown out to be processed in Cuiabá as we had arranged. He came, but picked up other passengers! I thought there would be a fist fight. But the pilot was our only way out of Aripuaná, so my companions calmed down and he came back for us 2 days later in time for the last day of carnivál. The blood was ruined, of course.

Carnavál at Cuiabá was LOUD. Each group in the procession stopped temporarily by the decorated side of a church with eight big clocks. On the opposite side of the street were grandstands. Each group danced, played and drummed VERY LOUDLY. After a while I had to leave and rest my ears.

While I was in Cuiabá Lotus and my sons saw the first Carnavál at Jaboticabal in 3 years while I was in Aripuaná. It had been banned for a time because it was too "rowdy"= wild.

One day Vitor Lemos gave me two 2 day old doves that had been in a nest fallen during a rain storm. I didn't think I could raise them since I had no Gerber's meat based formula which I has used successfully before on baby ring necks and pigeons. However, I got some pellets used for birds generally, softened them and raised the doves to near maturity. They turned out to be Zenaida auriculata, a close relative of our mourning dove. The main notable difference was that the tail was not long and pointed as in our Zenaida macroura.

Later my sons brought in two doves from an otherwise rather sterile eucalyptus forest nearby. Their nest was knee high. They were quite young nestlings but grew very well on the pellet diet. They turned out to be the long legged gray-fronted dove, Leptotila rufaxilla. It was fortunate that we got them, since the entire forest section was cut for wood the next week before they could have left the nest.

We noted that the other tree harvested frequently was the introduced Pinus elliotii. It was strange-it often grew 12 feet straight up before branching! It turns out that this pine needs frost or freezing in order to start side branches! I started my interest in Brazilian seeds as well.

The major crops in the state of São Paulo are oranges, coffee and sugar cane. Some freezes which are rare here killed many of the coffee trees. Many of them were replaced by soy beans. Sugar cane was burned before harvest to get a rid of dying leaves. This resulted in clouds of smoke during several months of the year. But did result in easier harvesting of the sugar cane. Often, the sugar was converted to alcohol.

I was invited to give a poster board paper at Caxambú, MG. while there we visited the park of Waters with beautiful flowers, spiders webs 12 feet tall and a small mountain which we climbed. There was a Christ figure statue at the top. At the base of this figure was a small room containing a hive of Africanized bees. After entering to discover this, I immediately turned around and walked rapidly away. Nevertheless, I got stung on the top of my ear. I warned my boys and Lotus to avoid that statue!

When it came time to leave, we paid a despachante, (type of legal counsel) to smooth our exit visa. A little bribery here and there and he had our exit visa in good shape.

We wanted to visit Manaus as we were leaving Brazil so we did. It was hot and muggy. Lotus could hardly stand it. And she couldn't go with the boys and I on the river boat trip because of her healing detached retina. The Rio Negro there at Manaus is nearly 2 miles wide AND has an average depth of 120 feet!!!! Shortly below Manaus the Solimões river joins the Rio Negro and becomes the river finally called the Amazon by the Brazilians.

We went on a tourist boat trip there. First we went in tiny "canoas" holding about 18 people along iguarapés. The trees closed in overhead and I ran out of my 400 film. They showed us anaconda snakes and 6 foot pirurucu fish.

The little canoas stopped at an enormous floating steel island that had a novelty shop, a restaurant, a dance floor, and about 12 tourist overnight rooms. We ate pirurucu which was more tasty than most fish Lotus tries to get me to eat. Their scales can be used for finger nail files-or for a banjo pick! Douglas caught a lizard on this steel island!

Then a large boat, that could hold perhaps 150 people, took us down river past the junction of the two rivers. This is the famous Encounter of Waters! The two rivers are colored differently: black and reddish brown, and do not mix until many miles downstream. The mixing effort soon roils the water because one stream is traveling about 2 1/2 miles an hour and the other 4 miles an hour-or is that kilometers?

In Manaus we bought 3 paintings by José Ribeiro. One painting had 8 birds in it. We could identify all except one. We still display these paintings.

While leaving Manaus Airport, we talked to a US family who was much like us. They had spent a year at a University farther south. But they had been denied exit visa privileges. They had not had a despachante get their visas and, therefore, had not paid the really small briberies. They were still there after we went through the Federales exam with no problems.

Posterboard presentation

Additional Photos of trees, flowers, seeds etc.

        Some Brazilian Art

Check out the orginal copy of this trip now found (1978-79)

Please also click on this link to read my report about Aripuaná.

Aventuras I, Aventuras II, Aventuras III, Advice for visitors to Brasil, Aripuaná, Brazilian cage birds: Finches, Seed list, Pantanál