The Pantanal is the largest wetland in the world with vast amounts of wildlife. This was not part of our original itinerary so we were not entirely sure of what to expect. The first signs were not good when we spotted that our guide was missing a finger. Undeterred we set off on a 4 hour bus ride followed by another hour in a 4x4, this last part of the journey took us deep into the Pantanal area so we began to see a bit of wildlife. The back of the jeep soon got very excited when Valentina directed everyone's attention to what she described as a crocodile up ahead, everyone dived for their cameras, people jostled for position, then as we approached it turned out to be branch of a tree. Shame that, real shame.
Our accommodation was basic to say the least - hammocks in a hut. Our first activity was piranha fishing. This involved attaching a piece of cow´s heart to the string on the end of a bamboo stick and then dropping it in the water a few yards from our feet. Not much technique required. It wasn't long before the piranha´s came flying out of
the water, Valentina was the first to succeed. We then had the option of keeping them for dinner or feeding them to the assembled caiman who by this point were pretty close. We tended to choose the latter as they were pretty puny things.
We had already seen signs asking visitors to "Respect the Animals", our guide obviously hadn't read this and upon catching a piranha decided it would be good sport to entice as many caiman onto the bank where we were standing and have them run around after this fish while he dangled it in front of them (please see video).
After an hour or so of this we went back to our huts for dinner - I was at the back of the returning party regaling our guide with stories of my monster catches. I arrived back at camp to find Valentina outside our hut looking very distressed, looking inside I could see there was quite a commotion. Turns out that a bat had managed to get in and was doing laps of our accommodation. Things didn't get any better for VVL when someone left the door open to the dining area while the light
was on - inviting all and sundry of the insect world to join us for our meal. One of these gatecrashers was the biggest moth I have ever seen - it was the size of a pigeon. Valentina unsurprisingly wolfed down her food in the darkest corner of the room and made her escape outside to the fire. The incident took it´s toll on her and for the remaining three days she refused to use any shower facilities and only the toilet during daylight hours.
The next day we set off early for a safari on foot. We saw loads more caiman, monkeys, capybara etc. In the afternoon we took to horseback to explore more of the surroundings. The horses were certainly no national winners and the more observant quickly identified the particularly manky looking ones and got on another. Valentina was not quite so astute and not only had to settle for one of the worst nags in the bunch but also one which had a foal in tow. She subsequently spent the entire time at the back where despite numerous punts to the ribs her horse ambled along at a snails pace.
The next morning we
headed off for the Paraguay river to try and find anaconda, this involved us wading through swamps with the guides out in front scouring the ground for any signs of them. We soon discovered a couple of snakes, one of which was a cobra which made a few people a bit uneasy about wading through tall grass in shorts and flip flops. After a couple of hours without any more luck we headed to the river itself in the jeep. This provided Valentina with the chance to have her first wash of the trip, as you can see from the pictures the river appears to have a similar complexion to the Thames - not ideal for washing in I´d suggest. Whilst this was taking place the guide had managed to locate the anaconda you can see in the pictures.
This was the end of our Pantanal experience and that afternoon we headed towards the Bolivian border for a night. This allowed Valentina the first chance in days to relax without the worry of any insects falling on her, this hadn't lasted long when the photographed spider was spotted heading towards her feet.
The next day we headed into
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