At last, a swashbuckling tale of South America
Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
36Trip End Nov 09, 2010
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Where I stayed
hostel portal do pantanal
5:30 am, covered in toxic mosquito repellent from head to toe, full of anti-malarial medicine and ready to see some wildlife. By 6am, we are knee deep in piranha and alligator infested waters in the Brazilian Pantanal. But not to worry- our incompetent guide (Julio) tells us the piranhas are “only” babies (I saw one, looked big enough to gnaw off a leg to me), and the alligators are “only” a maximum of 6 feet long. We trudge through the swamplands to get to a look-out tower. We are looking for jaguars, giant anteaters, foxes, tapirs, macaws. We got 2 parakeets and trench foot. We climb down the 70 foot tower as the lightening started coming closer (how can that be safe I wonder to myself as the guide is playing on his cell phone). Then we head back to have breakfast as the rain starts. We look on with envy as another family has a guide who is singing and playing guitar and showering them with knowledge about the birds and animals of the area
I guess our misery in knee deep water (did I mention the piranhas??) was somehow not apparent to our clueless Julio. Because after breakfast, he decides that we don’t need a boat and we head back into the swamp. This time, we do manage to see the World‘s Largest Rodent, a toucan and the butt of a capuchin monkey as he scampers off in the trees. We stay on dry land for about 15 minutes, but then we are back in the water. Julio breaks away and we are so far behind I cannot judge where he is stepping to make sure I don’t fall into a massive hole. We ask him to slow down. He is very annoyed by this. I ask Julio if we are heading back. He acts like this may be the stupidest question he has ever heard. Jeff notices we are going in circles and points this out to Julio. He gets very defensive. I almost trip over a log that I thought was an alligator. Twice. After 3 hours, we finally just head straight for the telephone wires that indicate the road. Why can’t Julio just admit we are lost??? As we are hiking back, a guy in a tractor comes to rescue us, because we are about to miss lunch. We arrive back to the “hotel”, march right up to the other family who we know are heading back to Cuiaba and ask for a ride back. They agree, and you have never seen two people pack their bags so fast!!
A little about expectations-- I mean, if we had been sold the tour as a knee deep, mud slushing, cactus covered in water adventure in a ramshackle farm in the middle of the Pantanal, fine (we were given a piece of foam to put against the bottom of the door to keep the frogs out). But we were sold something completely different. The price we paid was exorbitant, so shame on us for doing that, but it was a holiday weekend, and we were promised something rather different so decided to splurge on this event. We were shown photos of a resort with a swim up bar pool, horseback riding, fishing for piranhas and boating down the river. After we had already paid, as we were getting into the car (no a/c, no seatbelts, no padding on the back seat, should have been a clue of things to come), Ruy, the hostel owner/tour operator mentions that the resort he showed us didn’t have any space so he got us “the best room” at a comparable place. The place is a working farm that happens to have rooms for people to stay in. There are roaming pigs, cow shit on every inch of the place and billions upon billions of mosquitoes.
Jeff spoke to Ruy on the phone to tell him we were heading back to Cuiaba and he promised to meet us at the hostel. We arrived and he was not there. Not only was he not there, but our bags were locked in his office and the key had broken off
1 hour later, we were able to change our flight to Rio and so were waiting for our flight in the airport. Bye bye, Cuiaba! Don’t stay at Portal do Pantanal hostel! Crooks!