After a 18 hour bus journey (our longest yet) to Purto Iguazu, home of the famous Iguassu Falls, we dropped out bags at our hostel and set off with Aki, Reynolds and Buddha (Scott Bowden) to see what all the fuss was about. The falls didn´t let us down and the view overlooking garganto do diablo (largest and most powerful waterfall) was breath taking. We were lucky enough to go on a boat trip under one of the smaller (yet pretty large) waterfalls testing Charlie´s waterproof camera to the limit. Talking of cameras, apologies for any off-centre pics as George´s camera screen in broken and he hasn´t quite mastered the point and shoot tecnique as of yet. He calls the pictures arty, Charlie just says their rubbish.
The following day consisted of lounging by the poolside and playing cards as we prepared for another large, overnight bus trip up to Campo Grande (pronounced Granje in local lingo), the gateway of the patanal. On arrival we booked a tour and headed off to Fazenda Santa Clara where we would spend the next 3 nights. Being good budget/student travellers we went for the camping option to save us a bit of money.
This condoned us to sleeping in hammocks on the banks of a caimen (smallish alligator) and pirahna infested river. Sounds like we made a mistake, however it was as close to the real Pantanal experience we could have recieved and the scenery was unbelievable. Plus we had two pet toucan and a pet paraqueet for company and you don´t get that in a swanky hotel.
The following morning we went horseriding. This was not any old pony club, health and safety nonsense, that we had feared it might be, but instead our task (lead by our guide called Paulo) was to round up a large heard of cattle. Funnily enough we failed miserably and spent most of our time gallopping after individual cows whilst Paulo tryed to lassoo our dinner. After a huge lunch of meat, rice, beans and pasta we went on a boat. This was apparently our best bet of seeing the ellusive jaguar, although unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) this sighting elluded us. The scenery was nice though. A collosal thunderstorm engulfed us on our way back and a bolt of lightening visibly struck the ground less than 100 meters away coupled with a very loud and admittedly
quite scary bang. We got very wet, again. The rains at least kept the mosquitoes at bay for the night although the itching had already well and truly set in.
The next day we went on a ´jeep safari´ which prompted us to wear shorts and t-shirts without repellent as we believed the wind would keep the little buggers at bay. Although half way through our trip Paulo jumped out and told us to follow him on foot through the forest. It was the equivalent of strolling into a lion´s den in Lady Gaga´s meat dress. An ´all you can eat´ buffet was on the menu for our hosts who unsurprisingly didn´t waste this opportunity. At least we managed to see some howler monkeys, capybara and maccaws. The afternoon served up some piranha fishing on the banks of a river where caimen lay waiting for their chance to grab some of the bait. We quickly learned that a sharp smack on the caimen´s head with our fishing rods was the best deterrant. For those with too little patience for ´proper´ fishing we recommend you give piranha fishing a try, as every cast enticed an immediate bite. Although they were
remarkably good at wriggling free after stealing the bait. After getting through, what seemed to be, a full cows worth of bait, we had caught 3 small ones between us, while Paulo had got 7 big ones which we later barbequed for supper. Yummy.
On our final day we went on a trek through the forest and saw some more howler monkeys, coiates (small raccoons) and some interesting plants. We also witnessed some sheep being castrated. On that note, we left. It was sad to leave as it had been a great few days although we had to move on. Our next stop was Bonito.
The rather arrogantly named city was , unsurprisingly, beautiful. We did some snorkelling in the 'Rio Plata´ amidst crystal-clear (literally) water and saw hundreds of fish ranging from a metre long golden one to little ones who gave us a bit of a nibble. This was where Charlie´s underwater camera really came into its own although photographry isn´t a skill that either of us are particually good at.
The next day we visited the Gruta Lagoa Azul which as the name suggests consisted of a blue lagoon at the bottom of a
70m deep cave filled with stalagmites and stalagtites. It was cool. We naively decided to cycle to the cave, a mere 20km away from Bonito. However the brutal combination of unforgiving heat, lack of water, embarrasing fitness levels and rude lorry drivers meant we arrived sweaty, dirty and out of breath. The same combination meant we returned even more sweaty, even more dirty and even more out of breath. Taxis from now on.
Tomorrow we cross into Bolivia, a country we know little about. Although we are unsure whether they have electricity let alone internet so it may be a little time till the next blog. The Death Train awaits, wish us luck...
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