‘And there were only six of us.’
Birding is thirsty work. You can rack up a lot of miles during the course of the day, mostly on rough, steep trails. And when you get out of the vehicle to hike, you get even thirstier.
Sometimes you hike for four or five hours — before lunch. Then, because Brazil is so goldarned hot — so hot even the birds don’t move midday — you take a break. Then you’re out for more hiking, binoculars and cameras in tow, until it’s dark. Sometimes you’re not done even then — you clamp on a headlamp, and hike around looking for nightjars and owls.
You can drink water like crazy all day long, but when push comes to shove — and there can be quite a bit of both at those Brazilian buffets — nothing hits the thirsty spot like a nice cold beer. Oh, sometimes a caipirinha is nice, but you can polish off a Heineken (or maybe two) while they’re still mashing up all those limes or making garnishes to hang on the rims of the glasses. (Yes, one of the places did that; made little animals and flowers out of strawberries and orange slices and such. Delightful to the eye; a dreadful delay for your thirst.)
So, on a bird trip? I say bring on the beer.
Now, you must understand that I am really a Wine Girl. But on these birding trips, forget the grape. It’s hops I crave. It’s really the only time I have beer, except once in a while in the summer with a hot dog. The other drink I have on these trips is Coca Cola. Real coke, not diet. For that caffeine/sugar high. It’s the only time I drink it, and boy, is it fantastic. I swear: drinking real Coke is like unprotected sex.
But I digress.
What about drinking all the beer in the restaurant? you might reasonably be asking right about now. Well. we were in this itty bitty town called Canudos, staying at the kind of pousada that has a chain on the toilet and on the bare lightbulb fixtures too. (But delightful, mind you.) We were there because it’s literally the only place in Brazil — and the entire world — you can see the Indigo Macaw.
There are only three colonies of these bright blue birds and one of them — the only accessible one — is in a canyon a few miles from town. And yes. We found them. Got up at 4:00 in the morning to four-wheel-drive our way up into the mountains to be there at dawn when they left their nests in the holes in the sandstone cliffs.
The rest of the day passed in a heated blur of dusty birdy pursuit. The pousada didn’t serve dinner, so our guide, Marcelo, got a friend to open his restaurant just for us. It was a couple of tables on the second floor of a building in town, and we were literally the only patrons. They cooked us a special selection of fish and chicken and rice and beans, which was very good indeed. And the beer was delicious and very very cold. It went down so well that we drank every bottle they had — which was seven. (There were six of us; I can’t remember who got to have seconds, but I know it wasn’t me.)
In closing — and in further defense of beer — let me point out that Paul Newman drank a case a day. And lived to be a still-pretty-darned-gorgeous 83. Cheers!
Back in New York City. February 2024