South America | Brazil | Mato Grosso | Cuiaba – The Pantanal
Well, last time we left off right before we went on the bus to Cuiaba. We actually spent a whole day in Campo Grande because our bus left at night. Lyla and I started playing Gin and Rumi during our downtimes and I have been winning like a champ. 🙂
Anyways, our bus ride is easily classified as one of the worst. Because of Campo Grande’s small size and location, the only buses they have are initiated from some other city. Our bus was supposed to start at 10:45pm. Well a bus arrived at that time, both of us thought that it was the bus. So the bus driver checked our tickets extensively and refused to accept the fact that Lyla is American even though he checked her passport… I got on the bus and found a woman sitting in my seat… hmmm… Well, it turned out that it wasn’t the right bus and our glasseyed driver didn’t bother to check. Well we waited until about 1 in the morning until the bus arrived. We boarded for five minutes and then they dropped us off in a cafe and went to ‘supposedly’ clean the bus. 2 hours LATER, (Lyla and I just about passed out during then), the bus came back finally and we were off. Well the rest of the ride was uneventful except we had the best seats we’ve ever had! We sat #1 and #2 in the front on the second level and had great views of the road.
We booked a tour for the Pantanal when we got to Cuiaba. We can tell you that it is one of the most wonderful places we have visited! It was worth all the bus rides in the world to see. The Pantanal is a region of wetlands that has an abundance of wildlife. They often say that the wildlife you see in one day in the Pantanal is what you see in one year in the Amazon. Well, in the span of three days, we saw: thousands of crocodiles, 3 different kinds of herons, two different kinds of kingfishers, many capivaras (largest rodent in the world), thousands of piranhas, tuiuiu (a big brazilian white brid with a humongous beak and a beautiful red throat), a long water snake, spider monkeys, Tucanos!, blue parrots, green parakeets, a couple of tapirs, few deers (a rare find), and thousands and thousands of mosquitos (Lyla´s personal favorites).
We have also met quite a few wonderful souls of the backcountry. Rodolfo is an expert fishing man, who fished about 10 piranhas and pacus in a span about 5 minutes, and who can go through our birding guide naming every bird in its local names in about 10 minutes. Dede, our cook, was an expert in making the piranha soup and other delicious foods. Jose, a 65 year old cowboy, who lead a horse trip for us, looks like only 35??? Torre was a beautiful sad dog that Lyla loved… he was bitten by a capivara. Chico, a capuchim monkey, became Lyla’s boyfriend because she completely fell in love with him. Oh, and there was a nameless cat that loved a good scratching.
My turn, this is Lyla speaking. Yes, it´s true, I fell in love with Chico. Our guide Alex said he had a friend for us to meet at the neigboring fazenda so off we went to meet a person – or so we thought. Lo and behold, a fuzzy wuzzy monkey greeted us instead. Chico was all love and kisses, holding hands, wrapping his tail around my arm, etc. etc. until, that is, Alex left to bring Chico some fresh water. That´s when Chico started screaming bloody murder: “ALEX, DON´T LEAVE ME WITH THESE STRANGERS!!! HEEEEEEEEEELP!” Chico leaped from my arms and scampered up a tree crying,whimpering, hooting for Alex to return. Luckily, Alex was gone but for a short time and brought not only water but a yummy treat quickly devoured by Chico.
Wow, poor Mike, one whole paragraph devoted to one little friend – just think how long it might take me to share the stories of all the other friends Alex introduced us to. However, I shall try to be brief and comment soley on the highlights of our trip.
One such highlight was the night hike with our new human friends Katarina, Andreas, Jurgen and Raoul. K, A, J and R joined us at Fazenda Rio Claro the second night. On the third day of our trip, we moved to Fazenda Arara Azul. That very night, we donned our hiking boots, long pants and doused ourselves in mosquito repellants (pointless for me since my passport must have said: ATTENTION ALL MOSQUITOS: LYLA IS YOUR PRIME CANDIDATE FOR BLOOD DONATION – ATTACK AT WILL!).
Anyway, back to the night hike. So, here we are, six tourists, um, six not so brave tourists and one macho Brazilian guide. We are from Sweden, Holland, Suriname, China and the most exotic place of all: Iowa. We head out on the only dirt road leading in and out of the fazenda to explore the night life in the Pantanal. The mosquitos are of course attacking me with zealousness and I hear Mike try his mantra on me again “Just don´t think about them, Lyla.” Yeah, right oh boyfriend of mine, like I can block out the thousand of needles piercing my precious skin. But, you know what? Soon, none of us would even think about mosquitos, I mean, they can/t really harm you that much, right? Not like running into a crocodile can – or, running into ten crocodiles, or say, a THOUSAND REPTILIAN MONSTERS!
Yes, my dears, there we were, arms linked, reveling in the beauty of the night, the expansive sky with infinite stars flirting with us when the roar of a crocodile resulted in the unison international scream of fright from the six of us (while our guide just rolled his eyes in exasperation). From there on, we moved as one, whimpering at the slightest sound. The jacare´s were everywhere – their eyes followed our every move – their thoughts of “mmmm, mmmm, dinner” pierced our minds and we trembled in fear. Okay, so maybe only I was this scared because Mike, who is not supposed to be reading over MY shoulder, just reminded me that HE didn´t scream in fright when the jacare´s roared. Fine. He can take his courage and flaunt it. Trust me, the first few times we heard those roars (which we later learned were crocodile burps) most of us couldn´t help but jump a few feet into the air. I only wish that Alex had snapped a photo of us in our state of fright – it would have been a fun way to remember ourselves during an evening filled with surprises.
Well folks, I would love to share with you many more stories, but we must bid you farewell until our next internet session.
Please do send us word on how you are doing via our shared email address at [email protected] Words like: Brent has a new girlfriend, Damien has finally gotten over his fear of cheese, Rouzan is now the world female hockey champion shooter, Tim decided to leave school and join the peach corp, Naomi bought a ticket to meet us in Rio…
Ok if this last polite request for communication doesn’t work, then here is our final weapon, the guilt trip: it took us two hours, three bridge crossings, five policemen/women, several innocent bystanders, a postal service official, an airline travel agent, and some non-communicative grunts for us to finally arrive at such pristine yet hidden location of postal telephone office. Meanwhile, we nearly went postal. We look forward to hearing from you now! 😉
Until then, beware of where you step, a jacare might be lurking around the corner waiting for you…
Lyla and Mike