Published: August 16th 2007March 3rd 2007
First change of Tyre en route to Pantanal, Brazil
Sunday was another long day with over nine hours of driving. We ended up staying in a hotel in Camo Grande, rather than rough camping, which was a welcome change in plan. Apparently though, it just means we have to rough camp one night when the itinerary has us down to stay in a hotel - oh well, you can't win them all. The cook group did a magnificent stew & unfortunately there wasn't enough for seconds. I spent three hours on the internet, for lack of anything better to do, by which time everybody else had gone to bed, so I followed suit.
The last of three long driving days took us to our desination of the Pantanel on Monday. Our only delay was when we encountered a Budget truck (another overland company), stuck on a bridge we needed to cross. On the final few hours, we travelled on a well worn dirt road, littered with small, rickety old bridges. Apparently it used to be the main road to Bolivia & has almost one bridge for every kilometre travelled; over one hundred & thirty in total.
We arrived at the Old Farmhouse in the late afternoon; our
Trevor the stuck Budget truck en route to Pantanal, Brazil
home for the next three nights. I drank a few beers in the pool, which combined with a heavy dinner, long, hot drive & lack of non alcoholic fluids did me in. I was in bed hours before the rest of the group, some of which kicked on until almost daybreak.
I was up fairly early Tuesday for a few hours of horseriding. Quite a few members of the group had stayed up drinking until almost sunrise, so there were a few sore heads. We rode the track to a lagoon just off the main river & had a swim to cool off. The horses had obviously taken this path many time previously & knowing they were homeward bound, needed no encouragement to go a little faster on the return journey. Most trotted a while, I managed a canter & some even galloped part way back. A big storm was on the horizon, the wind picked up significantly & we made it back to the farmhouse just as the first spots of rain began falling.
I made up a tuna salad for lunch, whilst the group ate a salty buffet. The storm hit & it bucketed down
Trevor the stuck Budget truck en route to Pantanal, Brazil
for most of the afternoon. Di had some DVD's for us to watch, except the power went out so there wen't much else to do except chill out.
Fortunately the rain had subsided by the time we were due to go pirana fishing. There were eight people in our boat, which was little more than a tinny & I was slightly concerned that the water level wasn't much more than an inch below the back lip when it powered up. We travelled down river a few kiliometres, before pulling into an area to fish where the current wasn't strong. Tied to some foliage, our guide baited the lines & it wasn't long before I caught a fish; the first one of the day. Of course I was well excited & made sure I had photographic evidence, because usually I'm quite shit at fishing. It seems at home the fish aren't really all that hungry & I get bored waiting for them, whereas here the Piranas at least are almost jumping out of the water onto the hook. I ended up catching two piranas & the group caught a few keepers & a couple of smaller fish, which our guide
Banked up cow trucks owing to stuck Budget truck en route to Pantanal, Brazil
fed to Alfonso, the (friendly???) local Caiman. Although not as large as Crocs back home, Alfonso was still quite scary as he kept swimming lengths of the boat, eyeballing us for more food. Each time a fish was caught, we had to get it into the boat quick smart before Alfonso stole it, or worse, got an idea to follow it into the boat. I'm sure the latter scenario has never actuallly happened, but being so close to the water, it certainly felt possible from where I was sitting.
Apparently the Caipirinahas were VERY strong, so after feeling sleepy from beer & food, I decided to try one in the hopes of a wake up sugar rush. I did manage to out run the tiredness for a few hours, but the others were right, the Caipirinahas were strong. I think it took me a couple of hours sipping away before I even finished one. Mind you, they were in milkshake glasses & probably contained the equivalent of two normal drinks & the alcohol content of about eight!
Awoke Wednesday morning with a dull headache from the dodgy local spirits used to make Caipirinahas. Had committed to go
Horse riding on my mule, Pantanal, Brazil
horseriding again in my inebriated state last night & so dragged myself out of bed & into the same horsey smelling clothes from yesterday. Felt a bit rough at first, but the lagoon swim in cola coloured water with my pirana friends (no, I'm not kidding), cleared the head somewhat. Had an actual horse today, as opposed to my mule friend Bingo from yesterday & managed to not fall off during the cantering & galloping on the way home.
Had every intention of writing my journal in the afternoon, but the optional activity of extreme hammocking overrode my desire to do anything remotely constructive. After snoozing away the afternoon & yet another salty buffet dinner, all the girls sat around the dining area & gasbagged, whilst the boys congregated outside by the pool. Most of the girls had been savaged by mosquitoes over the past couple of nights & decided to spend this one indoors, away from the little vampires. Gemma in particular had been eaten alive on the first night, as she'd forgotten to reapply repellant & her legs looked like she had a severe case of measles. It seems in this place, no amount of Deet, citronella
Horse riding, Pantanal, Brazil
or mozzie coils can keep you one hundred percent protected, as the tough little critters even manage to bite through clothing. Now we know first had why the tour leaders call this Pantahell; I just hope there isn't another place on this trip (or on earth) where the mosquito problem is worse.
Left the Pantanal on Thursday morning & fortunately the dirt road was pretty good, considering how much it had rained on Tuesday. There was only one bridge we had to walk over whilst Tony drove the truck solo, as it had been damaged in the storm. Fortunately it held & we continued the three hour return journey back to the main road.
Continued driving all day & arrived in Bonito late in the afternoon. We're staying in a hostel, which means no tent to erect, so Charlie & I headed directly across the road to the local bar for a drink. Took a break to pick up our bedding, sign up for local activities & make Vegemite 'n' cheese snacks, before returning to out bar. Managed to cool down after a long, hot day over a few beers, then switched to (you guessed it) Caipirinahas.
Homemade tuna salad lunch, Pantanal, Brazil
Challenged some local boys to a few games of pool, Charlie on one team, me on another. My partner was very good & so we kept winning. Another Caipirinaha later & we joined past visitors in graffitiing on the bar walls. We traced around our hands & Charlie wrote some obscure statement, which neither of us could read five minutes later. After losing one too many games of pool, Charlie went home. I stayed on for a while but departed with the last few stragglers of our group, so I wasn't left there alone.
Another wicked beer/Caipirinaha hangover ensued on Friday. Skipped breakfast in favour of a sleep in & woke up with a dip in the pool. Had an awesome lunch at the hostel, my first real meal in almost twenty four hours, then decided it was time for a hair of the dog.
Spent most of the afternoon drinking beer & cooling off in the pool. Played a game of pool volleyball with some people from the Kumuka truck; it was Ireland versus the rest of the world. Was a close contest, but the world won in a tie break & I served the
Karen & Robyn making lunch, Pantanal, Brazil
winning point. A great result for my first 'proper' game of pool volleyball.
Spent an hour snoozing in a hammock, before heading into town for dinner at the Taboa bar. Ordered a really interesting & delicious champagne & icecream drink, teamed with... a hamburger. Apparently the night life in Bonito doesn't kick off until about one or two in the morning & I couldn't be arsed staying up, so walked home with Charlie, Naomi & Jess.
Spent some time on the internet before eating breakfast at the hostel on Saturday morning. Tony drove the group one & a half hours to the snorkelling place, where we were divided into three smaller groups & were kitted out with wetsuits & snorkels. The lake & river was a short drive away in the park, then we walked about twenty minutes through a forest to the starting point.
My group had to wait for the people in front to get going before beginning in the large pool. The number of fish was staggering & they all seemed to cohabitate in harmony. Some of the bigger fish didn't look particularly friendly & so I stayed well clear until it appeared
Lake Pirana fishing, Pantanal, Brazil
that they indeed weren't interested in eating me. After the pool area, we circled around & snorkelled down the river. We had to get out & walk a short distance to avoid some fast flowing water & had a couple of other rest spots before floating downstream about eight hundred metres to the end.
A short drive back to the main building & it was time for a late lunch. The buffet spread put on was so brilliant, it was hard to choose what to eat for fear of filling up too fast & missing out on something better. Drove the long drive back into town, being tailed the whole way by an approaching storm.
Tony dropped me off in town on the way through to camp so I could spend time on the internet. I got so engrossed catching up that I completely forgot it was my groups turn to do truck clean. I arrived back not a very popular camper, but assured the group I'd make it up to them later in the trip. Decided to do a bit of reading in my room before retiring early in preparation for a long day tomorrow.
There are more photos below