Pictured above, our very good friends, Ed & Louise, from Ft. Myers, Florida. Last evening was formal night #17 – only two more to go on this leg of our journey!
Fortaleza, at 2.3 million, is the fifth largest city in Brazil. We arrived this morning shortly after sunrise. Earlier this week, we made stops in St. Helena & Ascension Island while crossing the Atlantic from Africa. The weather was decent all week with corresponding low swells. Our compulsory harbor pilot was nowhere to be found at our scheduled arrival time so at 6:15am, Captain Mercer advised us we would be holding at the harbor entrance for at least 45 minutes – while always a gentleman, he clearly was NOT happy.
Once docked & the ship was cleared, Cheryl and I disembarked at 9:30 and caught a shuttle bus to the marketplace, about a 20-minute ride. We could tell quickly we were back in South America – graffiti on buildings, trash thrown about. The first picture you see here is quite deceptive – in fact, the skyline itself is most impressive until you actually drive into the city. Don’t get me wrong – there were some very nice structures, but all were fortified with 15-20’ iron fences & safeguarded with razor wire. The marketplace was nothing more than a converted jailhouse with several small shops selling lace, wood products, & clothing. The ocean was directly across the street – we noticed a decent hotel and decided to walk over. We had to hike through a vacant field and then cross three motorways. You can see from the pictures below that the residents don’t use trash receptacles. The beaches were nice but we weren't dressed for it - plus - it was already in the mid-80’s with high humidity – we decided to return to the marketplace and catch the shuttle back to the ship. The hotel gate guard stopped us and warned us not to turn right once we left the property – he said we would be mugged, even in broad daylight. We could see the abandoned buildings nearby with several gangs lingering. We were directed to take the pedestrian bridge over the roadways that connected the hotel to the marketplace – we didn’t see the bridge when we initially visited the hotel.
The shuttle bus was waiting – thankfully – and we were back at the pier 20 minutes later. The drop-off point was a few blocks from the ship, so it was quite a walk, although we were INSIDE the guarded port. As luck would have it, the winds whipped up some coal residue so we had to walk through thick clouds of swirling, black scum which in-turn adhered to our perspiring skin– NOT pleasant at all, to say the least!
After a quick cheeseburger & fries, we returned to our cabin – Cheryl’s in the shower as I write this. We leave for Belem at 2:30pm – not soon enough. This is definitely one of those ports & cities we wouldn’t recommend. We are very much looking forward to our next port. We stopped in Belem last year and although the city itself is much worse than Fortaleza, we’ll be venturing deeper into the Amazon jungles this year and we both find the people, culture, & way of primitive living very interesting. Coincidentally, I was bitten by a mosquito last year in the jungle and the bite is still visible on my left ankle – after all these months. Nothing serious – no reaction – but the bite mark still remains. I plan to wear long pants this year!