Our trip into the Pantanal

Trip Start Feb 12, 2007
Trip End Aug 10, 2007

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Flag of Brazil  ,
Saturday, May 12, 2007

THE Pantanal is a wetland area of 89,000 mē (half the size of France) that covers much of the west of Brazil and also extends into Bolivia and northern Paraguay.
After a 23 hour bus journey from São Paulo we arrived in Corumbá - a small town near the Bolivian border.
From here we took a three day tour into the surrounding swamplands.
We were based at a small lodge complex on the Rio Miranda which was entirely raised on wooden stilts to be clear of the wet season floods.
In the evenings especially, but also during the day, the air was swarming with mosquitos. But covered in repellent by day and protected by our mosquito nets at night, we got away with very few bites.
On the first day we went for a horseback ride through the wetlands which had the horses wading through three feet of water.
Johnīs broken shoulder (which was on its way to healing) didnīt give him any problems while the horse was walking, but our guide (who was well aware of the ailment) found it funny at one point to make the horses gallop for a while, causing considerable pain.
The following day we took a jeep tour along the raised park road and into the heart of the wetland.
From the jeep we saw countless caiman alligators, giant river otters, many different species of wading birds and birds of prey and even some toucans.
At one point a large anaconda slithered quickly off the road in front of us as we approached.
In the morning, our guide took us on a walk through the swamp itself (serves us right for making the poor horses do it the previous day).
In sandals and rolled up trousers we waded and squelched our way through the water-lillies and rushes to areas of dry land where we saw wild koatis and howler monkeys in the trees.
In the afternoon, we took another walk through a dryer area which was prime for spotting jaguars and anacondas but unfortunately we were not in luck that day and in the mid-day sun, the walk was rather a slog.
On the third day, we took a morning boat trip along the river, which gave us an amazing perspective of the wildlife along the riverbanks.

Again we saw lots of caiman, along with several capybara - the largest rodent in the world, and we got a great view of the wading birds.
Back on dry land, one of the guides had managed to catch a baby anaconda (not easily done judging by the teeth-marks on his hands and wrists) and gave the visitors a chance to hold it.
John took the opportunity, but kept it well and truly at armīs length!
That afternoon, we went piranha fishing in the river by the lodge using chunks of meat as bait.
Not having any luck from the bank - despite the meat being viciously and skilfully nibbled from the hooks by the piranha - our guide took us out the the middle of the river on the boat.

It didnīt take long before Anna felt a strong force on the end of her line and with a lot of effort managed to pull up a huge piranha.
Unfortunately, despite his best efforts and staying out till sunset, johnīs attempts were unsuccessful.
Back at the lodge, our fish was prepared, fried and served up to us with our usual dinner of rice and beans.

The lodge had its own domesticated baby capybara which was extremely cute, despite its tendency to leave deposits on the dining room floor!
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