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Remaining Time in Brazil

Statue of Pele, the famous Brazilian ‘futbol’ player who hales from these parts

June 9th, 2020

Tuesday, June 9th, began with Doug heading back to the dentist for the first of many appointments and going grocery shopping on his way back.  Our apartment has a 2-in-1 washer/dryer machine (stored in a cupboard on the balcony) and Fran took care of that chore and got online to catch up on stuff.  She also took a walk on the malecon:

We don’t feel as comfortable here in Santos as we did in Salvador, COVID-wise, as there are so many more people around.  We’ll stick close to home for the most part – having that large balcony doesn’t make the living space feel so small and we can see the beach so that is helpful.  It is set up with chairs and two large sliding doors that open up to make the place feel much bigger.  We get the sun in the mornings and it’s quite pleasant to sit out there in the afternoons.

We are still feeling a little “wiped” these days despite seeming to be over the acute stage of the Chikungunya virus we had.  That stage is supposed to be over in about a week to ten days.  We don’t feel quite normal yet, energy wise.  We have read that the stiffness can linger for months – oh great – called a sub acute stage for those “fortunate” enough to reach that stage.  Fran is still experiencing more than her usual knee pain, some wrist and ankle pain as well as her left shoulder.  For Doug it’s the right side of his neck, right arm and left knee.

Wednesday, we both felt pretty good and got back into our morning exercise routines and we hope things will begin to feel normal physically now.  Doug returned to the dentist later in the afternoon to get the mold done for his inlay and Fran got her teeth cleaned.

We can see many cargo ships out on the ocean awaiting access to the port from our balcony:

Friday the 12th – it’s now been two weeks since diagnosed with the ChikV.  While we feel fine for the most part, we are still somewhat tired and the joint pain is not completely gone; it’s not nearly as severe and it comes and goes but it’s hanging around.  Apparently in about 15% of cases, this symptom can linger for a few years!

The weekend dawned wet and cool and stayed that way until Monday midday.  Tuesday the sun began to shine and it slowly started warming up again.

Monday, we chose a US agent to help us get through customs etc in Houston.  Our Brazilian agent here gave us the name of their agent and we did reach out but they were in Minneapolis!  We found one right in Houston and began corresponding with her; she is local and less expensive.  She sent us a power of attorney to be signed (luckily did not need to be notarized) and an ISF (Import Security Form) to begin filling in.  The piece of info we don’t have yet is the actual bill of lading number – Ramiro tells us that won’t happen until the ship is ready to load and Kathleen, the agent in Houston, says she needs it before the vehicle is loaded!  Tricky business.  We sent her the signed POA and the partially completed ISF and Ramiro said his agent  would send the bill of lading number when he has it.

Life was pretty unexciting the rest of the week other than Doug going to the dentist a few times; he had new pain on the other side of his mouth now as well – his bite was off.

one of the many canals dumping into the ocean
looking up a canal from the beach into the city
one of the surfer monuments
interesting PPE!
many orchids grow on the trees here
beach park

Friday, the 19th, we finally heard from Ramiro that the truck was now allowed to enter the port (YEAH!) and their staff delivered it there.  Luciano was working on the customs documentation in order to get the electronic inspection done.  Being the end of the week, nothing will happen until next week we expect – not a great deal of time left.  The ship is supposed to arrive in Santos next Thursday and depart Friday so could be close.  We are okay if it leaves late, we just want assurance that the customs inspection has no issues.

A few hours later we got unfortunate news that our truck did not get the “green light” and will need a physical inspection.  For anyone who’s flown into Latin America, after you pick up your bags at the airport and head to customs, there are two lights: green means no customs inspection and red means they want to see inside your bags; similar situation here at the port it seems. So Doug will meet up with Luciano and join him for the inspection process once we know the date.

Fran’s joint pain has come back big time and Doug’s neck pain has dissipated a great deal although his knee pain can be bad – especially after a run.  She decided to begin taking the high strength paracetamol (acetaminophen) again and Doug got some from the pharmacy as we’d left the remainder that we got in Salvador, inside Tigger.  Saturday, Doug’s neck pain was back so we are both taking it easy now.  The treatment for this lingering pain is rest, liquids and pain meds so we’ll see.  The weekend weather was spectacular with lots of sunshine and temps reaching into the low 30’s C / low 90’s    F.  Supposed to cool off a bit during the week but not a great deal.

Here’s some random Santos photos:

The Cathedral downtown
City Hall
one of the canals with egrets fishing
recycling receptacle on the beach
Surfer Monument
pretty building
an interesting building
there’s a gondola to take you up to a viewpoint
Monument to the many Japanese immigrants

Sunday during Serena’s call with her father for Father’s Day, she informed us she’d been exposed to COVID and had had a drive thru test done on Friday.  She was awaiting the results today – they came in later and although she feels fine, she’s tested positive.  We are glad she’s not sick but are saddened by the news.  She lives and works in Big Sky and the tourists have begun returning so it was almost inevitable; she claims despite two signs on the shop door recommending wearing a mask, almost no one does.  So now her boyfriend, Kurt, has gone for the test and will know in 24-72 hours if he too is positive.

So the only happening on Monday was Doug returned to the dentist.  He got his cleaning and a mold made of the tooth the dentist worked on last week.  Now he waits till Thursday or Friday for the permanent one; cutting it close.

Tuesday, mid-afternoon we heard from Ramiro in Santa Catarina, our shipment is the first they’ve had in years that got red lighted!  He figures it’s the COVID times and maybe the expired TIP did not help.   Then shortly afterward, the local agent, Luciano, messaged Fran that we had an appointment for the inspection tomorrow morning at ten and that he was requesting authorization for Doug to be there and in that request explaining that the camper has many keys for many openings and that they can be difficult to not only open, but to close back up again.

Then we got the really bad news:  Customs says that because the Vehicle Permit is expired (even though we cannot renew it) they want to charge a penalty equivalent to 10% of the value of the motorhome as they deem we have “overstayed” and that is the standard penalty!  We argue with our agent about how it’s not possible, he knows it, but says Customs does not care what the Federal Police say.  He is working with them now to see how to get this cancelled so at this point, there’s a good chance we are staying in Brazil – the penalty would be more than the cost of the shipping!

We heard from Serena that Kurt tested negative but as he’s been living with her, he too must quarantine for 14 days.  Since she’s off work until the 2nd, they are going to backcountry hike in the wilderness for a few days.

In the past few days Doug had been chatting via WhatsApp with our friend, Marcos (whose place we’d stayed at in Lagoinha in February) and he said his girlfriend’s parents live in Santos and that her father was a doctor.  He might be able to help us with anything we might need including asking about the ChikV after effects.  He provided his contact details.  Doug spoke with him on Tuesday night and he recommended a cortisone type pill that we could get from a pharmacy without a script (unlike in the US).  Doug went on Wednesday and it’s a once a day prednisone pill tablet that we both took after lunch.  Dr. Paulo recommended we take this for 1-2 weeks. Well, it worked for Fran the same day.  She feels much better.  It took Doug a few days but it finally kicked in for him although the joints that it didn’t work as well for seem worse than Fran’s remaining pain spots.  His left knee is still quite painful when bending.

We decided on Wednesday to get the Canadian Embassy involved in our plight through our contact; they were very responsive and had someone reach out to both the Federal Police and Customs.  The Embassy advises that it will not “interfere” but will provide information and translation/clarification.  They were provided with a publication which we forwarded to both our agents.  Still waiting…… Before doing that we had heard for Ramiro that it is possible to get this charged “Waived” but we are still waiting…..Seems doubtful we’ll make the ship for the 26th but Ramiro says there’s another on the 29th…..  Still waiting….. We did provide them with Ramiro’s phone number to the Embassy but we don’t know if they reached out to him as it was really Customs that needed to be spoken with.

Doug received authorization to attend at the Customs Inspection today at the port.  He met Luciano’s colleague downtown.  Eduardo and Doug walked to the ferry where they caught the Port Authority water taxi to the port (10-12 min high speed ride).  Entry to the Port required photos and taking of temperatures; there was lots of security, hand sanitizers, masks are required and no hats allowed.

Naturally, there was a problem with Doug’s “authorization” which did get sorted in about 30 minutes after which another photo was taken before going through a security machine and a metal detector.  Now Doug and Eduardo took a port authority bus to a building for safety gear: hard hat and a vest before getting back on the bus to meet the inspector who got his equipment.  They all walked to another building, entered the secure area of vehicles to be shipped, then arrived at Tigger which was alone except for one other vehicle, an unplated Land Cruiser.

The inspector set up his camera equipment on a tripod and did a video conference call filming Tigger in and out – only thing he wanted open was the cooler!  Afterwards he continue in a conference call for a while.  So they ONLY wanted access to the coach – none of the outside cubbies or storage boxes and inside the coach they opened a few cupboards but not all; did not open fridge, bathroom or microwave but did want to see inside the cooler we carry which we had stuffed with things but they did not look through them.

Now it was a race to catch the water taxi before it broke for lunch.  They just made it.  During COVID times instead of 12 passengers, they only allow 6 so they were lucky.

We awoke Thursday with Fran feeling pretty good and Doug not a great deal better.  We are hoping it will kick in today for him.

We have still not heard from either of our agents and we gave them until ten in the morning before reaching out.   This did not go well; Luciano, has now had the case referred to the customs officer’s superior, but we need an answer today!  Ramiro told us there’s another ship on Sunday but it will cost $1500 more!  So if this doesn’t pan out, we will have to decide if we want to retrieve Tigger and stay or bite the bullet and pay.  If we take it out of the port to stay, we owe $500 for port fees anyway, so it’s really only $1000 more but naturally we’d rather not spend that, so we’ll continuing waiting…….

Well it was a super stressful day – we FINALLY heard at 3:18 pm that Luciano had worked his way up the chain of command and the customs clearance had been obtained.

They sent us a photo Tigger was being driven to the ship:

at 4:40 we received photos of Tigger onboard!  Phew!

This called for a Corona!                                                    

So next is our flight on Monday about which we heard from United today that it is a go and we have confirmed that we will be there.

Friday we awoke to the cloudy skies with a forecast for a wet final weekend.  Before it started raining Doug went out to get a few groceries and walk and Fran took advantage of the lack of rain by  taking a walk on the beach. We found out just a few days ago that the beach is actually open from 6-10 am everyday as long as you social distance.  Rest of the day, there is security driving up and down it, asking people to leave.

Our building
kite surfers in the cool weather

That afternoon we received a copy of the bill of lading for our “cargo” and the invoice for the transaction.  It came in exactly as quoted and after a few miscommunications, we got it paid via wire transfer.  Being Schwab customers, we are allowed three free wire transfers a quarter, so no additional cost for this service.

The Lord Vishnu motor vehicle carrier that is transporting Tigger

Now we await tracking info for the ship and which port it will arrive at.  So back to the waiting game.

The weekend was foggy and rainy but we had not much to do.  Doug had one final dental appointment that Saturday morning and we invited Luciano to drop by to give him a few small tokens of our gratitude for all his persistence.  We spoke just inside our apartment in masks and then he left.

Sunday, we did laundry and began to pack.  It was still cloudy, cool and at times rainy.   We also did a good sized “Amazon”  shop to be delivered to our hotel in a few days in Houston.  (We did look into an AirBNB for Houston, but for some reason there is a third admin fee; normally you see a cleaning and service fee but in TX there seems to be a tax and it’s steep!)

Monday night was our flight but we had to check out of our AirBNB by noon – we did manage to get a later check out as no one was booked to come in that night.  We had our “brunch” and called an Uber around 1:30 to get to the São Paulo airport, 107 km away.  We did not want to wait until evening because we had no place to wait after 2pm and we also did not want to be in the thick of any late afternoon rush hour.  We hoped the airport would be pretty empty and we could just find a place to squat until check in and boarding.

We were are the airport by 3:30 and of course, the United Check In counters were not open yet.  We’d tried to check in online but as you soon as you confirm your identity, a question pops up asking “if you been to any of the following countries in the last fourteen days” and Brazil is one of them so you cannot continue.  The self-check in monitors at the airport do the same thing so we had to wait until 7:30 for the counters to open to actually check in and drop our bags.  We found an empty place to sit

and hung around till about 5:45, went for burgers in the food court which was practically empty and then went to wait upstairs near the check in counters in a corner.

Check in was easy and then we went to security which was super quick as there was hardly anyone there – only one line up but almost deserted – just our flight seemed to be going through and it was sporadic.

We had the truck’s stereo packed in one of our carry on bags and that got flagged on the machine but once they saw what it was, all was good.

We proceeded towards our gate, stopping at duty free for some Baileys (3 bottles for $46!) and then went for a beer in an empty bar where we watched some international volleyball on television – Canada vs Brazil.

We went to our gate, found a quiet empty area with a plug and waited till our flight was called.  Boarding began at 10:40 – supposedly by row but not really although the back rows did board first.

Boarding began at 10:40 – supposedly by row but not really although the back rows did board first.  We were in 34 of 40.

With sadness in our hearts as we did not get to finish exploring this huge country, but holding many, many fond memories, we say “tchau tchau” to Brazil.

We travelled 7667 km / 4767 mi over nearly five months (plus another three weeks holed up in Santos), bought four new tires, fixed the gennie again (!), spent numerous wonderful days on the beaches – including watching dolphins help fishermen – explored national parks, animal preserves, colonial towns and cities, were amazed at Carnaval, thoroughly enjoyed our week in Rio, and were enamored by the Brazilian people and their friendliness with so many kind offers of assistance.  Doug really enjoyed our quarantine time to do a walking marathon every two weeks.  The parts of the country we have ventured to over three visits to Brazil were not as unsafe or as expensive as we’d been lead to believe.

Lights of Sao Paulo below – our last glimpse of Brazil

Our flight left on time, we were served a hot meal and soft drinks (no alcohol) and then we had an eventful flight; due to the lack of people and no middle seats taken, Fran stayed in our row and lay across the three seats catching winks on and off and Doug moved to an empty row and did the same.  We landed more or less on time.

While on the plane we were given a health questionnaire and before going through immigration, were stopped; some people had their temperature taken, others like us, did not.  We picked up our bags, went through customs no problem and found out where the shuttle to our hotel was located.  They picked us up and let us check in that early and we settle in for the rest of the day.  We have booked a different hotel from tomorrow for a week that has more around it for amenities like groceries.  If it works our well, we’ll probably stay another week but we need to hear where the ship carrying Tigger is docking so we can be near there around the arrival date which is scheduled for July 15th.

Although we didn’t get to visit the Guyanas or Venezuela, but we did fly over a corner of the latter and two of the former:

So in the space of 9 hours and 40 minutes we flew 7961 km/ 4945 mi to go from Santos to Houston.  We were lucky to have a direct flight.

We have gone from a latitude of S23.95 to one of N29.87!  Amazing!