Craig and Ross in Brazil, 2013

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September 1st 2013
Published: September 1st 2013
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Episode 5: Giant anteaters, river snorkelling and Iguazu Falls

September 1, 2013

Hello to all.

This is the last blog of our Brazil trip, featuring more critters and excellent scenery and friendly Brazilians.

We flew from the Pantanal south to the city of Campo Grande in the state of Matto Grosso do Sul, then got a bus 4 hours southwest to the tourist town of Bonito. Our aim was to look for giant anteaters and do river snorkelling. We arrived in Bonito just as a vicious cold front came up from the South. I was aware that this could sometimes occur in July and August and we had packed some warm clothes just in case. The place where we were staying failed to provide sufficient bedding for the weather event, and we froze all night long. Got up at midnight to put on everything we had brought with us, till we looked like bizarre Michellan tyre men. I said to Ross the next day:

"Did you hear that rooster crowing all night? It didn´t follow the script, it should have waited till dawn." He replied:

"No I did not. All I heard all night was my knees clacking together and my teeth chattering due to the bloody cold."

After endless hot days of 30 degrees plus, we froze thru the next day, which hovered around 11 degrees. We spent it doing much needed laundry and internet stuff.

Thankfully, the front passed and the next day the weather resumed its normal duty: warm and sunny. We were picked up at 6am by a local guide to go looking for giant anteaters, which are apparently frequently seen around Bonito at this time of year (and any other wildlife). The day proved to be one of those magical wildlife days that I live and breath for. We saw no anteaters in the morning, but saw lots of other stuff, including several armadillos. They barrel along like little wind up cars, suddenly reversing and going in the opposite direction. For my birding colleagues (Vicki, Ton et al.), we saw lots of rheas (South America´s answer to our emus), comical red-legged sereimers, burrowing owls perched on termite mounds, currasows, red and green macaws on their nest (a hollowed out old palm tree), impossibly red Vermillion flycatchers and equally impossibly organge Troupials. Lots and lots of raptors too, including tiny nesting kestrels.

At around 2pm, we came upon a giant anteater in a field, slowly moving among the many termite mounds that dot the landscape in this part of Brazil. Giant anteaters are about the size of an Alsatian dog, with big bushy tail, long thin snout and massive claws for breaking open termite mounds and eating the termites/ants. Our guide, Victor, explained that they have very poor eyesight and hearing, but accute sense of smell. So long as we kept downwind of it, we could get within a few feet of it. Surely it would see or hear us coming across the grass, I thought. Anyway, the three of us slipped through the fence and crept closer and closer and closer. Sure enough, the weird looking beast was oblivious to our presence. It ambled past Ross and then walked right beside me, more or less brushing my shoes with its bushy tail. I held my breath. Wow, another exotic mammal that I had long dreamt of seeing in the wild. We ended up seeing four anteaters that arvo, the highlight being an up close encounter with a female anteater carrying a baby on its back. It was excellent. Plus Ross was very pleased to see the nesting macaws.

In Bonito we also did the most popular tourist pursuit here - snorkelling down the incredibly clear Rio da Prata (Silver River). The river has the clearest freshwater I have ever seen (due to the purifiying effect of the underlying limestone) and it is full of colourful fish. At a warm 25 degrees, it was great - you just drift along with the current. While snorkelling, I scoured the riverbank, submerged tree roots and reeds for any anacondas - known to inhabit the area- but with no success. My only sighting of an anaconda on the trip was therefore the glum specimen I saw crammed into a large wooden box in the Amazon.

In Bonito, we fortuitously meet up with Ronaldo, a Brazilan guy that we had meet in the Pantanal one week earlier and who shared my passion for wildlife. We spent one evening comparing photos over dinner at a groovy local place called Taboa. Taboa had graffiti everywhere - on the walls, doors, ceiling. It was part of the decor and was encouraged. In the men´s loo, Ross pointed out some graffiti that read in English: "Gina Rhinehart was here, 2010" . Gee, she gets around.

From Bonito, we flew to Iguazu Falls, our last port of call in Brazil. The Falls are on the Brazilan-Argentine border, they are world heritage listed and are larger than both Niagara and Victoria. Iguazu is not just one waterfall, but a multitude of massive falls all around you in a crescent shape. Upon seeing Iguazu, Elanor Roosevelte reportedly said: Poor Niagara.

Being mostly in Argentina, the best panoramic view is on the Brazilan side. We had an excellent day there. It includes a walkway where you go out into the middle, with the thundering Falls all around you and rainbow that was almost a complete circle. I also got to finally see some coatis at Iguazu (naughty racoon like mammals with long striped tail). We had forked out for Argentine Visas, so we went across to the Argentine side too, which affords a more up close experience.

That brings us to the end of this trip. We fly back to Rio now , for the flight home.

Highlights of this trip include the fantastic Pantanal and its birds and jaguars, the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro, the wonderful anteaters, Acai sorbet and the addicitve Caipirinha cocktails, and also the great friendliness of the Brazilian people. Also little quirky things, like soft spongy toilet seats and peppermint encrusted toothpicks!

Not many negatives, but they might include the unexpectedly bland food a lot of the time (too much salty meat, bland cheeses and pastries for me) (but the Churrascaris where they come round with meats on big skewers are great). Another con is that, apart from food and drinks and domestic flights, Brazil is rather expensive (somewhere between USA and Europe). Accommodation is pricey for what you get (their 5 star equals our 3.5 star I would say).

That´s all. I will post the best of the photos when we get home.

Love to all and please remember to vote for a decent inclusive political party at the election, and not a mean spirited, ignorant man......

love Craig and Ross


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