Published: October 22nd 2012October 22nd 2012
Day 366 Thursday 11th
Foz is a funny sort of town (I guess it goes with the name), there isn’t a lot to do here (other than the falls) it doesn’t have much character, there is a heavy dose of casualness here that is borderline irritating but we kind of like it. Started our day with a great breakfast buffet before heading out to do some shopping. The casualness here is best seen in the erratic hours the shops open or close and no two shops seem to have the same hours. They main drag Avienda Brazil is mainly filled with mega shoe and clothes shops and Shelley managed to pick up a couple more tops. “God bless Brazil” was her comment after emerging from one shop as Brazil seems to be the best place to pick up clothing. Their shops have clearly listed prices, ranges of sizes and the store owners don’t follow you around like you are a known kleptomaniac on weekend release.
Tried unsuccessfully to get bus tickets from travel agents in town but unfortunately none of them could sell us tickets to Campo Grande so in the afternoon we got a taxi
back to the bus terminal and picked up bus tickets for our bus out of town tomorrow. Was going to get a local bus back to our hotel but the buses were more packed than Sydney peak time so we went the expensive option of a taxi back. For dinner we got a Brazilian version of a kebab, and except for the cold potato chips in it, it wasn’t too bad.
Day 367 Friday 12th
Moving on tonight, which gave us the luxury of sleeping in and having a slow start to the day. Didn’t vacate our room till 11.30 and after leaving our bags with the hotel went for a long walk down to a mall we had spotted yesterday. Cataratas JL Shopping Centre was a 30 minute walk from the hotel and along the way we noticed nothing (and I mean nothing) was open. When we arrived at the mall we discovered only about 10 percent of the shops were open and there were very few people around. We are not positive but we think today may be a public holiday. Travelling is a bit like comedy in which
Rio da Prata
The water is this clear
it is all about the timing, and lately our timing has been so wrong that it is starting to get irritating. Even the cinemas were closed so we wandered around till about 2 at which point a few more shops had opened, (but not much more), and we headed back to the hotel.
Sat in the foyer till 4 when we went out for a bite to eat as a late lunch/early dinner and then grabbed our bags at 5 and a taxi off to the bus terminal.
Foz bus terminal is a small but busy place and not the kind of place you want to spend more than an hour in. Our bus arrived at 5.45pm and we were underway at 6. It feels so good to be back on the buses in Brazil, they are so much more comfortable and have heaps more leg room. The Brazilian roads are by far the best in South America and are near spotless with very little roadside litter….the complete polar reversal to the rubbish strewn Bolivian roads. Our bus stopped at every town we passed through (and there were heaps) and at 9 we stopped for half an hour
at a terminal so we could get a bite to eat. There was only a couple of snack bars, but that was okay for us as we were not hungry, but it was good to get off and stretch the legs. Back underway we all settled down for a lovely night’s sleep….well not really.
Day 368 Saturday 13th
We rarely get more than a couple hours sleep on planes or buses and envy anyone that can doze off and snore. There is something unnatural trying to sleep in a chair on a moving object. By the time we rolled into Campo Grande at 7 in the morning we both felt like the bus we were travelling on had run us over. Before we had even retrieved our bags off the bus we were set upon by hostel/tour touts. There wasn’t a lot of them but boy were these guys aggressive for a deal and just wouldn’t take no for an answer. Inside the terminal we had to use the toilets and the pestering continued and most were trying to get us to go to the Santa Clara Hostel in
the Pantanal. This place had come recommended by a lot of people, but no one raved about it and was on our short list to use but we now had second thoughts about going there. The touts may have been con artists or freelancing but wasn’t happy if the place was using this sort of tactics to get people in.
There are genuine places booking tours and accommodation for the Pantanal in the bus terminal and we were going to go around and see what they had but in the end we were too tired and far too pestered to even bother. We ended up running from the terminal with a guy chasing us all the way to the taxi trying to get us to sign up for a deal…..bloody annoying. When looking for accommodation in Campo Grande couldn’t find a hostel and opted to book into an overpriced hotel which we later regretted. Once again our timing is out and if we had thought about it we should have just jumped on a bus through to Bonito but in the end was stuck in Campo Grande for two nights. This did at least give us the time to
do some homework on who we may go through to do the Pantanal and Shelley discovered that we should be in Bonito….damn.
For me (Scott) Campo Grande is by far the second most boring town in the world (second only to the “B” town that Shelley has forbidden me to mention again). In the afternoon we wandered around the place and discovered that it lacks sights, character and charm. We did manage to pick up a meat pastry thing similar to an empanada for lunch from one of the towns few eateries, but found no restaurants open. I ended up catching up on some lost sleep in the late afternoon while Shelley went internet searching, which made a nice complete reversal for us.
For dinner we headed out at 7 and discovered that the town is even worse at night than the day with nothing open and the streets taken over by the homeless. Never really felt threatened as we walked around but would chose not to be wandering home drunk at midnight…..that is of course could have only been possible if I could find somewhere to have a drink. We ended up finding a place to eat
Rio da Prata
Shelley following me
about ten blocks away from the hotel where we got a huge deep fried empanada thing, which wasn’t bad and would probably return to tomorrow night except apparently even less is open on Sunday nights….it is all about the timing.
Day 369 Sunday 14th
Oh joy we are still in Campo Grande, or as I will always remember it as “Crappo Grande”. The only good thing about staying at the Crappo Grande Concord Hotel is that the buffet breakfast was huge and had a good selection of fruit for brekkie. There was no need to rush out this morning as it looked like they had forgotten to unroll the footpaths from last night. From our window we could see hardly a car or person on the streets….this town doesn’t even have stray dogs.
Decided to just do a long morning stroll and walked half an hour down to the local markets next to nothing was open but we vowed to return for dinner. Nothing else to do in town other than dying of boredom so we headed back to our room to catch up on blogging and reading.
Rio da Prata
Chasing a fish
what we thought was 4pm we headed off to get a late lunch/early dinner from the markets we saw this morning. We later discovered that we actually crossed over a time zone coming to Campo Grande and it wasn’t 4pm but 3pm. Anyway the markets were filled with “Sabo” eateries, which is as a result of the towns large population of Japanese immigrants. Brazil in general has a large Japanese population and Campo Grande has the country’s third largest population of Japanese people, and as a result the market area is filled with lots of Japanese eateries albeit with a Brazilian bent. We are struggling with the Portuguese language and so the menu we looked at meant nothing to us and so we did our usual “potluck” thing and ended up with two plates of a stir fry noodle thing that wasn’t too bad but we drowned it in chilli and soy sauce. Wandered back to our hotel along deserted streets and spent the evening and night watching television, thankful that tomorrow we are moving on.
Day 370 Monday 15th
We are getting a minibus that the HI Hostel in Bonita
has arranged for 1pm so we made our way out to the bus terminal and arrived about 12.00 and when we got there the office was closed with a note on the door to ring a number. Scott walked up to the Tourist Information office where the lady rang the Hostel, Scott tried to explain that we had booked two spots on the minibus for 1pm but the guy on the other end was only interested in pushing Pantanal tours. He eventually said no worries some one will come and pick you up soon so we waited near the doorway thinking we would stand out because of our backpacks. At 12.30pm a man approached us wearing a HI Hostel shirt, great, we were lead to a 4WD and thought this is strange “where is the minibus?” Maybe there are only two of us and then we seemed to be going the wrong way and back into town, we pulled up at a hostel and thought OMG there is a mistake we are supposed to be going to Bonito. A man came out and said this is where we get the minibus from it would have been good to know this
as it was not too far from our hotel and would have saved us from going out to the bus terminal and of course the taxi fare. It was then we realised this was the man from the phone as he started pushing the Pantanal tours and said by the way the bus leaves at 2.30pm which really annoyed us. Not only had we wasted money but time but unperturbed he continued with his Pantanal spiel to which I said that we had not heard anything good about the tours and he shut up.
He showed us around to an area we could wait and there were an Irish couple who were taking the same bus so it was nice to have someone to talk to and fill in time. In the end the minibus we caught was the 3.00pm bus so we were not off to a great start and the bus was crammed and stuffy. It would have been better for us to have got the local bus it takes 2 hours longer but it is cheaper and we would have arrived about the same time. We arrived at the hostel at 6.30pm and we
Rio da Prata
Fish every where
are pleasantly surprised the room is great and the staff helpful and not pushy. After we settled in we walked back to reception to book some tours, we had chosen snorkelling at Rio da Prato which had 2 spots left. Emma and Michael the Irish couple who we met on the bus trip walked in and we ended up swapping our trip to Wednesday as they only had one full day here and we are here for a few so we are flexible. Dinner was a sandwich at the hostel which was pretty good and we sat up till midnight talking with Emma and Michael. By now there was a huge storm coming so we headed back to our rooms before it hit.
Day 371 Tuesday 16th
All night the wind howled and the rain poured with flashes of lightning and loud cracks of thunder. It was still raining in the morning when we went across to have breakfast and it did not look as if it was going to stop anytime soon. We hung out in our room till about 10.30am when the rain was starting to ease so we
Rio da Prata
The training area
walked across to reception and asked about another tour we are interested in, "The Abismo de Anhumas" which involves rappelling into large cave that has an underground lake. We have to do a training course first to see if we can handle the equipment and to see if I can handle the height as it is a 72 metre drop into the cave. I am not the bravest of people and I am not sure if I will be able to it, but the training course is at 9 metres so if I can’t do that we do not have to pay so it is worth a go. We then went walking through town and found where we needed to do the course tomorrow night and checked out the shops in between torrential rain. We retreated to a café for a coffee where I managed to stuff up the order, I asked for a strong double shot cappuccino and it appeared that he understood. When it came out we both had a cappuccino and a double expresso not sure why he thought we would want two coffees each. I am now banned from ordering the coffee as I seem to
always confuse the waiters and Scott just sits there shaking his head. We ran into Emma at the café as she had decided not to do the tour but Michael had done it, hopefully the weather is a bit better where he is, although I guess he will be wet with the snorkelling anyway. By 2.30pm the skies started to clear but it is still unsettled I hope tomorrow is better and warmer as the water temperature is meant to be cold in the river.
Met up with Emma and Michael in the hostel common area at 6.00pm to find out all the goss on the snorkelling and sat up chatting till midnight. Said our goodbyes as they are leaving tomorrow and we will probably miss them in the morning.
Day 372 Wednesday 17th
The sky is blue today so it looks like it is going to be a fantastic day. Today is the 25th
anniversary of us meeting at a party from which we started dating so it is great that we had a good day planned. Our anniversary present to each other will be on Friday
Rio da Prata
Floating over a fish
when we get to push each other into a 70m deep hole so until then all partying is put on hold. We had breakfast at 6.30am, picked up the underwater camera we hired from the hostel for 38 Reals and got ready for our 8.00am start. There were 12 plus the driver and guide squeezed onto the minivan for the one hour drive. We had to stop at a bird sanctuary which we did not think was on the schedule today, and here we had a two hour “sit around and wait”. Scott and I decided we did not want to do it as we had seen the one at Foz and it cost 38 Reals each, Michael had been lucky on his day that they did not stop here. There is a nice area to sit and the time did go quickly and we were soon on our way to Rio da Prato fazenda, which is a private cattle and sheep farm which contains the rivers. Here we were allotted a 12 noon time slot and had to wait till then to get our snorkelling gear so we had to hang around for another 50 minutes Again the area
Rio da Prata
Shelley ready to go
is nice and has hammocks to chill out in while you wait watching the parrots fly around.
At noon we got fitted out with the gear which included a wet suit, goggles, snorkel and rubber boots which you wear from now till the end of the snorkelling and you put all your clothes in a plastic bag. From the visitors centre a jeep takes you to the edge of a secondary forest which apparently did not exist 80 years ago and it is here the 2km walk starts. The walk is pretty and we saw some different birds but not much else, which we did not expect to as it is a well worn path with groups going through at 30 minute intervals. At the small river Rio Olha d’ Agua the 3km snorkelling adventure starts with a quick talk about not touching the bottom of the river and the vegetation so the water remains crystal clear. The guide leads everyone around in a short swim ensuring that we were all OK with the gear and instructions then we were on our way. The water is amazing and the fish are so tame swimming all around you
Rio da Prata
Crystal clear waters
there is 55 species of fish in the river including the big black round Pacu and the gold dourados. Some of these fish are 1.2 – 1.5m long, they are bloody huge and come swimming right at you showing you there teeth like a challenge. The water is shallow in the small river but the visibility is incredible and with all the fish around you it does feel like you are swimming in an aquarium. During this part there was a section where we had to swim hard left and grab the guides hand and then a rope to climb out of the river. In this section the rapids are too strong and we needed to do a short walk around them and rejoined the river on the other side. While we were getting back into the water the guide pointed out a small caiman sitting on a rock near the rapids bobbing his head and keeping an eye on us, he also said for the next section we had to keep left. We swam a short distance and then we realised what “keep left” meant Scott was in front and all of a sudden I saw him swimming fast
Rio da Prata
Like being in an aquarium
and hard as there was a strong current and rocks ahead. As soon as I saw him do this I swam frantically as I could left as the water pulled me along we both missed the rocks and got spat out the other side but a few others got small cuts on their hands. We continued the swim further being surrounded by fish some of which have grumpy faces and swim straight at you only diving out of the way at the last minute. We got to a section where the water was bubbling out from the bottom of the river and you can feel it pushing you away, I tried to drive down but did not get too far even Scott found it hard to get to the bottom. From this point the larger Rio da Prata starts and in areas it is not a clear but visibility is still great and the sun rays where shining through the water making you feel that you were in a movie scene all surreal and dreamy. We stopped at another platform and saw an otter dive into the water and swim to the other side. At this point everyone else in
the group opted to get the boat a short distance back up to the river so we jumped in. The boat went close to the shore line and we got to see some more otters who were very camera shy today. It was all over to quickly I would have loved to do it again but it was time to change into our dry clothes and jump into the jeep back to the main area for lunch. At 4.30pm we headed back to town stopping on the way when we saw a Rhea (emu like bird) with over 20 chicks and on the other side of the road a huge anteater.
We arrived back at about 5.40pm so decided not to do the training course for the rappelling as it would be a rush so we just took it easy and because lunch was at 3pm and so huge we did not need dinner.
Day 373 Thursday 18th
Our Hostel puts on a fairly good spread of food for breakfast and the open common area is a good hang out point. This has been one of the better
hostels we have stayed at and all the staff are lovely, which is an added bonus. Slow start to the day and then walked downtown to get my mop of hair cut off. We think it has been about 8 weeks since the last cut and Shelley reckons I am starting to look like a Koala bear. The woman gave me a buzz cut for 20 Reals ($10) and I felt so much better for it. Wandered back to our hostel for lunch and blogging till 5 when we headed back to town. The hostel is 15 blocks from the plaza so it is a good long walk, and tonight we had another two blocks to go to get to the rappelling training course.
Got to the training centre at 5.30 and they got us kitted up straight away into our harness and climbing. Before we knew it we were 9m off the ground and being rigged for our descent. Did this twice and got the thumbs up that we had mastered it….didn’t really feel like it, but I guess we did okay. The instructors spoke next to no English so it was very hard understanding how or what
Rio da Prata
This fish was huge
to do especially for our descent. Hanging on the ceiling with the rope brake in my hand unsure which way would make me drop faster and which way would stop me was a little disconcerting, but as you can guess I am neither still hanging there or laying in the hospital so I figured it out. Climbing the rope was a harder than we thought so neither of us are looking forward to getting out of the hole tomorrow.
With the thumbs up that we could do “the hole” tomorrow we had to then sign a waiver and give a next of kin…always gives you positive vibe. The operation apparently has no insurance, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise, and I wondered if anyone in Australia could get away with that. We were then informed that we had to organise our wetsuit for the snorkelling in the cave from a place 3 blocks away. The guy running “Bonito Scuba” could speak English and gave us some good info on our adventure tomorrow as we tried on our wetsuit…we are now starting to get really excited. All afternoon the sky was getting cloudy and dark clouds started appearing
and just as we were leaving Bonita dive the rain started. As we walked up the street back home lightning lit up the sky and before long we were caught in a deluge. Took shelter in a supermarket where we had an ice cream and waited for about 50 minutes before the rain eased. The streets in town were completely awash and eventually when we did start heading back we found an awning on a shop had fallen off and some of the dirt side street had gullies gouged across them.
Got back to the hostel where we had to organise our transport for tomorrow. It is really weird how none of the tours in town come with transport and you have to organise that separately. There may be a good reason for this, and I sure hope someone can put a positive spin on it for us because to me it seems like an added rip off. Tomorrow has turned out to be an expensive exercise and I can understand why not too many people do it but hey it is our anniversary present.
Day 374 Friday 19th
Abismo de Anhumas
Harnessed up and ready for our plunge
didn’t get a lot of sleep due to a combination of nerves and excitement and by morning we were feeling tired but ready to get into our adventure. Had a quick breakfast got all our stuff together and met our driver at the front gate. Our transport out to and back from the Abismo Anhumas is costing us a silly 100 Reals ($50), but other than running around town trying to get prices we really don’t have much of a choice.
Got out to the cave by 8 and after a short wait while three others did the ascent we were then kitted out for our drop. The people running the place are a good bunch, but only a couple could speak a bit of English so we were always a little unsure of our instructions. Sitting in the harness dangling over our 72 metre drop was fairly nerve racking but once we got underway it got better. We were both linked together and we did have a safety rope so it was all safe. The hardest thing in the descent was keeping the same speed as each other as the rope brake was a bit tricky. We also
Abismo de Anhumas
Looking down from above as two girls slide down
had to be pulled across about 3 metres so we could land on a floating platform otherwise we would end up in the drink. Once we were landed we could actually appreciate how tall 72m really is and we could start panicking about climbing out.
We had to wait for another couple to descend and then we were into our wetsuits for our snorkel around the cave lake. The water temperature for the day was 19 degrees but we had full body wet suits so it wasn’t too bad. The snorkelling was incredible and we got to see the most amazing features. The underwater stalagmites were huge and resembled stone missiles as they rose from the lake bed. The light coming in from above gave the water a surreal blue colour and we both felt like we were floating in a Hollywood set, maybe “The Abyss” or perhaps with the cone shaped stalagmites it felt more like “Alien”. We were sort of sorry we didn’t bring an underwater camera although I am unsure due to the poor light if any of the photos would have come out. The depth of the water in the cave is currently 20m and
Abismo de Anhumas
Down at the surface of the cave lake
it can rise a further 5m or drop 2m and is all fresh mineral water. After swimming around the cave for about 40 minutes we hoped out and as some people started their ascent we were given a long lap around the cave in a boat.
We had to wait maybe 30 minutes before it was our turn to harness up and start our climb. To walk 72 metres is easy, to walk 72 metres up stairs is an effort but pulling yourself up a rope 72 metres is whole different story. The mechanism is very clever and involves a joint push with your legs and a pull with your arms and enables to rest when you are tired. When we first started the rope was really springy so we were both bobbing up and down a good 1 metre with every lift and to makes matters worse we were spinning around as well. We were linked together with a rope and I was told to stay one metre ahead of Shelley and we had to try and keep our left sides facing each other, which would be easy except we were hanging by a rope inside a huge
Abismo de Anhumas
Looking back up to the opening
We took it nice and slow with lots of breaks so as to rest our arms and take in the incredible views. Never done anything like this before so it was such an adrenalin rush and it was good to try and take it in a bit. Near the top the rock face comes in and the last 10 metres is through a narrow rock crack so we had to swivel sideways to get through. By this time we were pretty tired and the harnesses were rubbing in all sorts of places so we got stuck into the climbing and got out as quick as we could.
This had been the first time we had ever done anything like this and so it was kind of scary but also fun……we sort of still can’t believe we did it.
Just as we got to the surface a huge storm hit with heaps of lightning and thunder accompanied with a torrential downpour. We could take shelter in a small hut but the guys running the show had to keep hauling stuff up and they just about got drowned. We waited for about 30 minutes till our taxi turned
Abismo de Anhumas
The floating bridge and pontoon on the lake
up and had to run about 50 metres down a track to get to him and in the process got soaked.
Got dropped off at the hostel around 2 and had a great hot shower before heading downtown. The rain had stopped by this stage and so we dropped in at the bus terminal and picked up bus tickets for tomorrow before finding a bar to have celebratory drinks. Tonight was our delayed anniversary drinks as well so we may have stayed a bit longer than we should have. The whole town was full of motorbikes as there was some sort of show on in town so the whole place had a great vibe with all different sorts of bikes roaring up and down the main street.
Can’t quite remember when we got back but because we were leaving early in the morning we had to pay our bill tonight. Thankfully we had sort of already worked out what the bill should be so it didn’t come as too much of a shock but it was painful….even more than the morning hangover. The Bonito HI Hostel is a great place, the rates aren’t too bad and either are
Abismo de Anhumas
Us in our snorkelling gear
the food and drink prices but the tours in Bonito are sky high. We initially thought the cost of our excursion today was expensive at 465 Reals ($233) each with no transport or lunch, but there was only 9 of us in the cave and we had 6 staff looking after us so I guess you cannot complain too much. Today was great and it has us thinking about trying to do it again when we can.
There are more photos below