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May – Still in Salvador, BR

May 1st, 2020

Well…… we’ve been here in Itapúa for over six weeks now – almost the longest we’ve stayed anywhere on this whole PanAm Journey.

We expect we’ll be here until next month as well as the Brazilian Government has extended the closure of its airport borders for another month which probably applies to its land borders as well – AND we need an a neighbouring country to open theirs in order to leave anyway.

We are continuing to monitor the situation like the rest of the world and maybe a time will come this month wherein we can at least leave Salvador to journey northward but as we’ve mentioned previously, we’d first have to know it’s not only safe to travel, but that there is a place to travel to where we can park.

Today the marmosets came back and sadly, one baby fell out of a tree and the larger of the two dogs here got hold of it.  This set off a great deal of “chatter” from the tree above the kitchen shelter.  We could make out two other marmosets that seemed not very happy and they drive the dogs crazy as they try and follow them from the ground.

Fran managed to get her camera this time:


Common marmosets are very small monkeys with relatively long tails. Males and females are of similar size with males being slightly larger. Males have an average height of 188 mm (7.40 in) and females have an average height of 185 mm (7.28 in). Males weigh 256 g (9.03 oz) on average and females weigh 236 g (8.32 oz) on average.  The monkey is multicolored, being sprinkled with brown, grey, and yellow. It also has white ear tufts and the tail is striped looking. 

Marmosets have an arboreal locomotion similar to squirrels. They can hang on to trees vertically and leap between them, as well as run across branches on all fours. 

They are found in various east central states of Brazil and their diet consists of fruit, insects, gum, sap, latex, and tree resin. They use their nails to cling to the side of a tree and, with their long lower incisors, chew a hole in the tree. The marmosets will then lick up the exudates or scoop them with the teeth. A marmoset group can contain as many as 15 members, but a more typical number is nine.

The first eight days of the month were pretty uneventful.  The situation in Brazil COVID19 wise is worsening and as of today, the 8th, the numbers are in excess of 138,000 and rising.  The City of Salvador’s mayor is talking rotating neighbourhood lockdowns soon beginning with the hardest hit ones of which Itapúa is not one (there have been less than 25 cases here) so we should not be affected as yet although crackdowns of people on the beach including surfers is supposed to commence today so doesn’t look like we’ll be spending any more afternoons sitting under the coconut trees.

This week we returned to the discussion of “do we stay and or do we go?” again.  We googled: shipping out of Brazil and came upon an overlander’s site that had done just that back in 2013.  They wrote an awesome blogpost about their experience complete with contact details, so we decided, “what the heck, let’s check on the cost and availability”.  Fran found the shipper’s website and found a contact for an agent who referred her to the same agent the other couple had used.  The fellow got back to us within a couple of hours and asked for certain details/documents to start his quote to ship Tigger to Vera Cruz, Mexico.  He did advise that there is a ship leaving Salvador (we did not expect this port to even be an option) on May 27th.  So far Mexico has not barred foreigners so that’s in our favour, but again, where would we go to stay safe and it would be hard to beat the situation we have here at Paulo’s.  We hate to cancel the rest of South America but times are different now for sure.

May’s supermoon

Doug continues to do the grocery shopping in bits and pieces everyday but Sunday and we do order in at least once a week.   We continue to get in our daily walks and exercise and generally spend the afternoon at the campground in our sheltered kitchen area.

May 9th was our 39th wedding anniversary.  Since we couldn’t go out and celebrate, we decided to reminisce.  We have ALL our photos uploaded onto Fran’s Shutterfly account and they are sorted by year and month so we went through every month of May since 1981!  That took most of the afternoon with some breaks.  We then used UberEats to get a pizza; this time we tried a new place and the pizza was even better and super delicious with cold “cerveja”.  Cheers all.

This very weekend it got quite rainy – temperatures dropped to the low to mid 20’s and we hardly saw the sun.

The signs around the neighbourhood now say “shop in your neighbourhood” and both the Bahain Governor and the Salvadorian Mayor seem to be on top of trying to flatten the curve.  Fran read there is a pharmacy in the city where you can arrange an appointment for a “drive up” test starting May 15th – however, it’s not free.

For Sunday, Mother’s Day, spoke with both kids and Fran’s sister tried to set up a Zoom meeting for the three of them with their Mom but somehow it fell through on the Care Home’s side. But Sandra got her on the phone and although they couldn’t see her, we did all speak to her.  Also the Care Home asked people who wanted to, to send in photos and they printed them and delivered them to the residents.  Fran’s Mom really enjoyed that.  Doug spoke with his mother on the phone and we learned her gift hadn’t arrived yet.  We heard a week later it got there.  Seems it was stuck at the border for a bit.

The week started quite wet again but still pretty warm – in the mid to high 20’s. Life carried on while we wait to hear from the shipper (and after reaching out to some locals whom we’ve met on our journey through Brazil, we are await two more quotes) and we continue to discuss the pros and cons of staying vs leaving.

Here are some random beach shots Fran took on her daily walks:

don’t we wish this place on the beach was open!

Doug went to start the truck on Monday and the battery wouldn’t click over!  We tried charging from the auxiliary but it seems the spot we are camping in isn’t giving the small solar panel enough charge and it wasn’t full either.

So we found Paulo and asked him if he had and would he lend us a battery charger and he did.  Doug topped up the main battery and then took Tigger for a drive.  Before returning he topped up the gas take as the prices have dropped quite a bit and also made a stop for some heavier essentials, like beer and diet coke!  Upon returning he topped up the other battery as well.

Wednesday the 13, Doug continued his streak of bi-weekly marathon walks with a good portion of it in the rain.  It cleared up that afternoon and weather stayed sunny and clear for the next several days.

While awaiting a quote for a possible shipping of Tigger to Mexico, we have been advised that they need to check into this matter of TIP not being extended (because we cannot do so due to COVID nor as we’ve mentioned previously we also cannot review our visas as they have all been suspended since March 16th).  Also the ship is no longer stopping in Salvador so we’d have to drive to Santos with the next ship date of May 29th.  Ramiro advised that there’s not enough time to prepare for that on their end (and ours with customs) so we’ll see what happens.  We will look into other cargo carriers as well.  We are still awaiting his actual quote.

Thursday, we noticed that with all this humidity and recent rain, Tigger is looking rather sad and there’s some mold beginning around the outside walls and moldings.  Doug took it out on Friday afternoon for a good power wash and now it looks shiny and clean – they even “cleaned/oiled” up the black metal parts and they look brand new.  Unfortunately, the pressure washed destroyed our front fake license plate but rather than replace it, since we are “planning to ship” soon, Doug removed it and reinstalled our actual plates.

A Happy Victoria Day weekend to all our Canadian family and friends!  We’re sure it will be different from all other “first long weekend of the summer” but hope you stay safe and enjoy.

Fran’s sister, Sandra, was able to set up a Zoom meeting with our mom on the Sunday to make up for Mother’s Day:

Due to the times, the one of the Overland Rallies held in the US was changed to a “virtual” one; Fran signed us up to attend online.  There were seminars etc. you could follow online.  Well late Saturday afternoon, she got an email advising she’d won one of the prize drawings!  It is for a Truma AC/DC 36 litre fridge/freezer.  That was a bit of excitement.  We heard from them on Monday and they are shipping our “prize” to Buffalo, where it will be kept safely with our car.

The rain began again on Tuesday after several sunny days.   Paulo had told us a few days ago, that there is a lady down the street who makes homemade soup and bread and told us they get it nearly every day so if we are interested to let him know.  Today we took advantage and tried it out for dinner.  It was pretty good but Fran didn’t care for whatever meat was in it.

We heard from the first agent we reached out to today, and he said they were having a meeting with Customs today and he’d get back to me by tomorrow with a quote.

So….We got a quote today (the 21st) for a cargo ship (via RORO – roll on roll off) for June 26th to Veracruz, Mexico.  It’s not unreasonable but we have a few questions and hope to get a second quote at least to compare it with.  This one means driving south again to Santos – Brazil’s most major port – which is not something we are happy about but the picking are slimmer than usual these days.  On the 22nd, we received a second quote, this time for flat rack shipping – much more expensive but out of Salvador.  That agent told us he was awaiting two more quotes so we hope to receive those early next week.  We have one more agent looking for us as well that we found through our friends in Rio Grande do Sul. The weather cleared up late today and the forecast is good again for the next few days.

May 25th is Fran’s mom’s 88th birthday so we had a family Zoom that afternoon.  Tough way to have a birthday, but she’s safe and it is what it is.

Today we also received a second flat rack quote out of Salvador.  It’s much better and although a little pricier than shipping out of Santos,  it saves us a 2100 km drive through some high COVID infected areas.  We have posed a few more questions, including when does it sail (supposed to be weekly) and we’ll take it from there.  Mexico still has not banned travelers so we believe we are going to proceed.  The plan, subject to change, of course, would be to pick up Tigger and head to the US (we can still enter being US citizens) and make our way to Canada.  We have a few plans in mind for when we arrive there, so for now we’ll leave it at that until we decided.  There are a few things we could get done while in Mexico, so not sure how long we’ll be there.  Tigger has a ten year permit so we can come and go easily – the hope would be that the border to Mexico will reopen this fall, and we can winter down there.  😉

Tonight, Fran had another ZOOM with her friends from C&M – a law firm she worked at back when we were first married  – they’ve stayed in touch all these years.  Six of the eight participated.

On Thursday, May 28th, Fran woke up with severe joint pain and had trouble moving around.  She decided to maybe skip her daily yoga but thought she’d do a stretching one in the hope that the pain would improve.  It did not.  By lunchtime she decided to go lie down as she’d not been sleeping well lately and lying down made her joints feel better.  We began to think COVID when she began to feel feverish.  She took some Tylenol which reduced the fever but not really the pain.  She had no other COVID symptoms.

Friday morning, Doug spoke with Juliana and she “guess diagnosed” that it was probably not COVID but Dengue, Zika or Chikungunya virus – another mosquito born virus.  She said she’d had it as had others she knew and that she could take us to the hospital for a confirmation and medicine.  This was so very kind.

It was about a 12 minute drive to the hospital which was very modern with efficient staff all in PPE (they had a separate wing for COVID patients so little chance of contamination).  We had to pay up front (tried to use our credit with no success) so Juliana again being so kind, paid for us.  They took Fran into a small office to diagnose, get medical info and take her vitals (BP was very low 95/56 and temp was 100 F) and then into a different room for questions and ordering of IV meds.  Thank goodness Juliana was with us to translate.  Turns out you cannot get the blood test for this virus until you’ve been sick for five days so if we want, we can return on Monday – we’ll see.  Usually, most people feel better in 3-7 days.

Fran spent 20 minutes getting an IV with cortisone and a pain reliever the latter of which took a while to begin working.  After another half hour, the pain only seemed to be in her knees so they released her with prescriptions for extra strength Tylenol with codeine and a fever/pain reliever.  By this time, Doug was feeling pain in his upper back.

The plan today was that Doug was going to the dentist as he’d been having some tooth pain.  Juliana had made him an appointment so when we left the hospital, she dropped him off there, took Fran back “home” and then went back to him.  It turns out since he was not well the dentist told him to wait until he was feeling better to come back.  With any luck, that will be early next week.  We stopped at a pharmacy to fill the prescriptions and Doug talked them into giving us two batches of each so there’d be enough for him too.

We spent a few hours lying down in Tigger until Doug got bored and went to the outdoor kitchen area for a while before ordering pizza for dinner; first time in a long time that we’ve not finished a whole pizza in one sitting.  Fran’s fever broke that night but Doug’s increased by evening.  Fran slept great that night, Doug did not.  We awoke Saturday with only Fran’s knees and upper back still hurting but walking was not so difficult.  Doug was in a good amount of discomfort and still fighting the fever. It was a dully cloudy with scattered sprinkles and a decent breeze so being inside the rig was not too uncomfortable.

On Friday afternoon we heard from the local shipper who advised that there were two sailings we could choose from and that he’d put in a reservation request for the first one on June 9th.  We may need to bring the rig to the port on June 3rd of 5th.  He won’t know for sure if we got a spot until Monday, June 1st so this blog post will not include that detail.  Once we know for sure, we’ll have to find an apartment to sit in until we fly to Mexico.  There’s no rush as the sailing will take 30 days which means around July 9th – we hope by then there are more flights available.

Sunday we both began to feel better in the afternoon probably because we did too much in the morning.  Doug’s fever broke this morning.  We began doing stuff to get Tigger ready to ship should we get the go ahead tomorrow.   If that’s not a go we are considering driving down to Santos as much as we’d rather not as that sailing would be faster than the next one out of Salvador.

Until next time, stay safe and we’ll keep updating our home page with our whereabouts.