by Chris Hutchinson

AN ambition was realised when I read the itinerary Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines was offering.

Their ship Boudicca was visiting exciting places in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. I was also enthused by the shore excursions, offering a wide choice in each port. The tour staff’s help and expertise proved invaluable; we booked a series.

First stop in Brazil, Salvador, our walking tour took in the combination of African and Portuguese history and colourful architecture reflecting back to the 1600s. The main square “Terreiro de Jesus” a hub of cultural activity, women in traditional dress, musicians and dancers perform songs and routines. We enjoyed a lunch of “queijo coalho” (goats cheese barbequed coated in a local sauce) delicious at just 50p a skewer, off the main drag, parades of drummers sounded out the samba beat. This city is vibrant, colourful and intoxicating, no surprise it’s called “the capital of joy”.

Down the coast is Ilheus, we journeyed to Tijuipe waterfall, cascading into a crystal clear pool before weaving its way through a rocky tributary. Tranquillity is created with only the sound of the waterfall and tropical birdsong, nature at its best, our visit ended with a cold beer in bar Versuvio, the most famous in Brazil.

Next the island of Ilha Grande, once home to pirates. Boarding a schooner we sailed to Blue lagoon, but aquamarine in colour. You swim or snorkel with tropical fish whilst gazing at amazing coral. Sailing on to a deserted beach we soaked up the sun.Then to Ilha Grande village, situated below rolling hills, carpeted by rain forest, watered by clouds from the Amazon. A labyrinth of quaint streets adorned with tropical flowers invites you to explore.

We sailed into Rio de Janeiro full of expectation, first meandering along Copacabana’s black and white walk way, absorbing its vibrancy, then Ipenema beach enjoying its quieter sophistication. A great way to see this city is by a panoramic tour covering highlights, including a funicular ride through urban forest to the imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer, here you also gaze at breathtaking views of Rio. Out of the city, the botanical gardens boasts exotic species. Rio has a magic, it allures you.

Arriving at Ilhabela, in the harbour was our jeep. We travelled a few miles to Pedro do Sino, where the indigenous people warned of pirate attacks by hitting the rocks creating the sound of bells. Due to a mineral within the rocks called “Fonolito”, these sounds would echo for miles; I couldn’t resist having a go. We continued on rugged mountain trails through the rain forest, a little bumpy, but exhilarating. Descending to Jabaquara beach, our schooner awaited us,sailing back to enjoy this quiet small town. We certainly experienced the thrills of Brazil.

We were thoroughly enjoying life on board Boudicca, including delicious cuisine, interesting guest speakers, amenities and activities, also evenings in the theatre- variety at its best.

Arriving in Montevideo, Uruguay, our guide walked us through the city’s impressive main squares where street entertainers and stall holders provide local flavour; we then visited the National Museum and Solis Theatre. This city offers a balance of old and new districts.

In contrast is Punte Del Este, an affluent resort, splendid villas and apartments face on to an impressive promenade and beaches. The harbour is filled with stunning yachts sitting on azure water. A unique attraction on the Brava Beach is the La Mano sculpture depicting a giant hand emerging from the sand. One of many highs in Uruguay.

In Buenos Aires, Argentina our river boat took us on the Tigre Delta, characterised by rivers, canals and green islands all lined with an array of tropical trees and colourful shrubs. This area is home to century old mansions, English style cottages, villas and smaller houses, some on stilts painted in bright hues of blue and green.

The city’s highlights include Recoleta Cemetery, resting place of Eva Peron, the grandeur of Theatre Colon and the ornate Pink Palace where Evita waved to her adoring crowds. La Boca, famed for colourful wooden houses, bars and restaurants, is the cultural district for artists, musicians and the rhythm of the tango.

I was enjoying a glass of wine when a tango dancer called Nina, invited me to dance with her. I tried to tell her that I had three left feet, to no avail. Applause at the end, I believe, was in sympathy for my partner. Well I can always say I tangoed with Nina in Argentina!

This cruise exceeded all expectations, leaving us with indelible memories.