Upon our arrival at Foz Do Iguaçu we were greeted by an enthusiastic staff member who questioned our sanity were we to not visit the Pantanal, several hours north, the worlds largest area of wetlands (as we were to see), encompassing the worlds most dense flora and fauna ecosystem. We conducted a little further research (my only reference to date was John Grisham´s ´The Testament´ where the main character contracts Dengue Fever and is nearly eaten by tribes) and were in agreement, we could hardly call ourselves adventurers if we were to deliberately shun an area host to between 10-35 million cayman (alligators).
Adequately persuaded, we took a 15 hour bus to Campo Grande, and transferred from here to the Pantanal, approximately 7 hours away. In order to get to the heart of the Pantanal, where our camp was located, we had to contend with the roads, or lack thereof, of the Pantanal. We boarded a jeep and after several hairy moments we did eventually become stuck in the mud. It took the combined national forces of Israel, Denmark, Kiwi´s and the ever reliable Brits to free it about an hour later, not before some locals on
horseback had mocked us heavily, and we were on our way. Along the way we sampled the vast landscapes of the Pantanal, wetlands 4-5 metres deep submerging trees, swamps and jungle stretching as far as the eye could see. We also witnessed plenty of wildlife, armadillos (soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside) deer, monkeys, caymen alligators and plenty of not so exciting cows, along the way. We then watched everyone jump off the jeep and head to the lodge, apparently the height of luxury, whilst me, Sam, and a Great Dane named Bastian braved it in the cheaper but apparently more cheerful campsite, where hammocks would be our sleeping quarters.
On the first night we enjoyed a traditional meal conjured up by resident chef extraordinaire, however enjoyed less the prevalence of mosquitos, which ate us alive, and dictated an early night in the hammocks which were upstairs in a room filled with smoke and surrounded by a net to keep the little bleeders away. The early night was probably a wise move in hindsight as each morning we were practically dragged out of our hammocks by a guide whose favourite English term was LETS GO LETS GO,
followed by VAMOS VAMOS and VAM VAM at 6am. A feature of the trip was being rushed around only to then be given hours of rest time later in the day, slightly infuriating.
Our first full day however was to be thoroughly enjoyable, starting with Piranha fishing. The only experience I have had with Piranhas to date was on Super Mario, where they were to be avoided at all costs, so actively hunting for them was a little bizzare for me at first. However, we soon came round to the idea and were cruising along with bamboo rods dangling in one of the many Pantal lakes, trying to lure in aggressive fish, actively provoking them by splasing the water. After several minutes of inactivity, the person next to me leaped up in excitement and after a little wrestling the Piranha was on board, teeth and all. More inactivity followed until another guy landed a smaller piranha, he was a little more excited and threw it on board only for it to land in my lap still alive. I may not have caught a Piranha, however not many people can say they have had a live Piranha chomping away at
them, scary business. Those who failed were reassured by Danish Bastian´s catchphrase ´this is why it is called fishing and not catching´. Well said amigo. The closest I came was when after a struggle and having lost my bait I pulled the rod up to no avail, ´got away´ I casually remarked, only to be overruled by our guide who said I caught a branch. We then beached the boat 20 metres down and were told to go swimming. A few eyebrows were raised however the Brits once again led the way, Sam diving in and a bomb from myself, reassuring those around who followed suit. It was here where the tarantuala was picked out of the water and passed around, swimming here may have been a bad idea.
After relaxation/volleyball (unsurprisingly not my forte) at camp and more rice and beans, we boarded an old school Massey Ferguson tractor, the only vehicle deemed able to plough through the rising water levels around the camp, were told to ´hold on very strongly´ and were subsequently dropped off at a jeep for our jeep safari with a couple of other peeps, and our guide. The jeep ride had several highlights,
as we saw several more cayman, capybara (largest rodents in the world, and very ugly), Toucans, Jabiru, Kingfisher, Savannah Hawks, plenty of Parrots and much more wildlife. We were also treated to some fresh guava, and a stunning sunset, which my camera didn´t quite capture the full extent of. On the way back the guide scoured the lands with a spotlight and we managed to see hundreds of orange crocodile eyes reflecting in the lakes, nocturnal racoons, and the trees were dotted with fireflies flickering. All this was very enjoyable, however arriving back to find the trusty tractor had broken was not, as it meant wading through waters which we visibly saw had crocodiles in, and also meant trusting the guide, who was not the most reassuring of folk, scaring us repeatedly and singing ´baby I will smack your face´, a reference to his hip hop obsession we were subjected to at camp. Luckily we made it, not before stopping for a snake which was luckily not poisonous, however did seem angry.
The next day (29th Feb), we were scheduled to trek in the morning, and ride horses in the afternoon. Unfortunately the trek was slightly abandoned due to
ridiculous water levels. According to the guide we had arrived during peak season in terms of rainfall, and general flooding as a result of water making its way down from the north of the Pantanal. Incidentally by this stage our camp had been rained out, and going anywhere (including the toilet in the middle of the night) meant getting drenched, all part of the adventure. During the trek however we did manage to stumble across a dead baby deer which had unfortunately drowned, the guide placed it next to a tree ´to be eaten by vultures´ and we moved on. We also saw a watersnake which though not poisonous, ´could do serious damage´, though it was too quick for the guide to grab and probably scare us with.
In the afternoon we went horse-riding which was another first for me, though a slightly less extreme first, which despite the heat was good fun, but for the fact my horse was incredibly lazy and didn´t seem to enjoy the water as much as its amigos. Again we saw more wildlife, and the guide took us around some of the jungle, where we stopped for fresh coconut, watermelon, and some water
via a water vine tree, an excellent jungle diet. Later on in the evening we were challenged by 2 Chileans for a quick game of footy, 1-0 Inglaterra.
The next morning was our final in the Pantanal, and it was another boat trip for more of the same, and once again enjoyable, the Sun shone and we relaxed in accordance. We then endured another journey, this time out of the Pantanal, and managed to avoid many vehicles which had become stuck due to our man-on-a-mission driver. Many of those stuck had obviously come prepared as almost all were drinking cold cerveja´s and were mildly intoxicated. One such fellow took exception to my recently purchased Flamengo shirt, which until that point had gone down a storm, however was overjoyed to see Sam in a Vasco shirt, he kissed him and was nearly crying. Another such fellow threw mud in the air as high as he could when our driver helped his car from its precarious position. A month now in Brazil has numbed our surprise at such acts however it was once again nice to see some characters. Last night was spent nursing our mosquito bites in a mozzie free
zone and later on we head to Puerto Iguazu, Argentina, where we are expecting to see a few more.
Until next time, enjoy!
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