Trip Start Nov 08, 2004
55Trip End Nov 08, 2005
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We left Sao Paulo on a 12 hour over night sleeping bus. Even after sending some luggage home with our Rio friends we still had enough to struggle with.
We caught a bus from Campo Grande for 4 hours and were then out in the heat and climbing on the back of a 1975 Toyota 4-wheel drive. The sun was seriously hot and we didn´t know it at that point but the canopy had fallen off the truck the week before, so we had a nice 1.5 hour drive "safari" style. As the sun was setting it was magnificent to see the reflections off the swamps
The authentic farm that we were sold turned out to be not 100% authentic ... surprise surprise. The old barn was converted into a dorm with 26 beds, 2 fans, 2 lights, 4 small windows with mozzie nets over them. It was 38 degrees inside at 7pm when we arrived, so we immediately negotiated to set up our own double mosquito net in an outhouse behind the kitchen.(I couldn't persuade Caroline to just drag her matteress out into the open for some reason... could have been the snakes and taratulas!) That was to be our space. The problem was that a noisy generator was 10 meters away, so it was cooler (still boiling!) but noisy. Once they decided to kill a cow for dinner and nicely left its head in the room right next to our mattresses - C was not too impressed!) There were hammocks, but the generator was the same distance away. In fact the generator was in the middle of the farm .. not too clever as it would surely be better to invest in a few hundred meters of cable to locate it out of hearing distance. The only other building was the farmhouse, with an extension on the back which was the dinning room ... again with no fan or air conditioning, so this tactic ensured you ate fast and thought twice before going for seconds as opposed to going outside to stop sweating. So the farm was 7000 hectares (small in this part of the world), and only ran 100 cattle. It was more profitable to use it for tourism.
The the facilities were tough to deal with for 3 nights as the generator was on until 3am and then started up again at 6am so you only got 3 hours sleep, but the wildlife was amazing and kind of made up for it.
The location was very good, you could see Caimans (local Alligator) right next to the hammocks, Tarantulas in the Toilet, Blue Macaws in the trees over the dirt track, and Tucans in the trees around the surrounding swamps. You could hear Bull Frogs (whose call is like a continuous burp!),female frogs (whose call is like a cat miaowing!) Howler Monkeys. It was a fantasic jungle chorus(although only when the generator was off!)
The local farmer, Hugo ,was the boss, but he was on Brasilian time (where 5 mins is equal to 1 hour) and totally dis-organised. The first morning we were going for a safari drive and the lovely Toyota got stuck in the swamp. After we spent 1 hour trying to push the damn thing out of the swamp we gave up and walked back to the farm. They did have a tractor which took a long time to start manually without using the Toyota to crash start it. They eventually brought in the tractor to tow the truck out.
They were accepting as many people as possible (to fill each bed) but only had the one 4 wheel drive, only had one outboard motor so they had to tie two boats together to share the engine (which also broke down when we went fishing). And in the heat they ran out of water. So not very organized!
The trip included 4 excursions. The safari drive was good, we saw Capybara´s ( huge rodents that are very cute), the tracks of an Anaconda, Rhea´s (like Ostriches), Great Black Hawks, Southern Screamer Birds. During the horse ride we saw Tucans, a Jaburu Stork, a family of wild Pigs (which apparently can attack a horse if with young and Caroline couldn´t keep her horse still!) Luckily they walked past within 10 meters.
The Pirahna Fishing trip was great but we didn´t catch any, so logically we all went for a swim in the same river. A night walk in which we heard that famous chorus again, and Caroline even went on a 5:30 am dawn walk as she couldn´t sleep( and that really tells you how hard it was to sleep!)
Through out these excursions we had a local guide called Marcelo (Indio). He was an excellent guide, who always carried 2 big knives in the back of his jeans. He made necklaces out of aloe vera plants with a Caiman Tooth or testical on it, and using a local berry he mixed the insides together to make a clear paste which when used to tattoo your skin goes black over the next hour.
The Pantanal lacks the excitement of Africa´s big game and food chain, but is very similar to Australia´s Kakadu National Park ( but much more remote and less touristy). It is a beautiful place for viewing birds in particular and has amazing swamp lands that have not been impacted by man. It is definitely worth the time to see.
PS the photo album shows the photos as normal .. I am trying to get more hi-tec and include some of them in the text.
PPS Caroline´s version of this will be in her diary on STA Travel soon. Its at http://www.statravel.co.uk/c_yearout/diaries.asp