The Pantanal (a tale of many animals and many buses)

Last time I left off, we were in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Campo Grande hoping and praying we’d be fed… Luckily, a German guy that was staying with us had a little Portuguese and we ended up ordering pizza. A word to the wise: don’t order pizza in Brazil. Unless you like your pizza with no tomato sauce and several inches of greasy cheese. But anyway, it was food and it was eaten, if not quite enjoyed. We were woken early the next morning by a visiting cockroach (yeah, that hostel wasn’t the nicest in the world…) and were picked up at 9.30am to go to the Pantanal.

After a 6 hour drive – partly in a minivan with the coldest air-con ever and partly in an open-sided jeep, with a stop-off for food half way – and some excitement over seeing toucans (just flying around as if this was totally normal!) we arrived in the Pousada Santa Clara. It was an amazing place. The pousada had macaws flying around everywhere, peccaries (wild pigs) wandering around looking for a scratch, toucans in the trees and a river with piranhas and caimans a short walk away. Accommodation was basic but did the job and it was nice to have a private bathroom. Food wasn’t to my taste, but Michael enjoyed it – it was all served buffet style.

But the best part was the activities. Our guide was named Marcello and he was amazing. He’d be talking to you and suddenly he’d put his head to the side and listen… he’d have heard an animal in the distance. In our three days there, he took us on a nature walk, piranha fishing (I was the QUEEN of piranha fishing; I caught three – and also two caiman, accidentally…), a jeep safari (aborted by rain, sadly), horse-riding, a night jeep safari with a spot-light and a boat trip. As well as the animals mentioned above, we saw howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, deer, giant river otters, capybara, kingfishers, hummingbirds, coati, ospreys, herons, cormorants – and we almost almost saw the greatest prize: a jaguar. When I say almost… Marcello saw her, but by the time we all located where she was, she was gone. I saw a rustle in the bushes, so I’m counting it as seen. Some pictures are below – some are better than others (i.e. Michael’s are better than mine!!)

We had a overnight bus to Iguazu booked for Wednesday night and so we left rather reluctantly on Wednesday at about 2pm. An epic journey ensued… firstly our mini-van was super late to the pickup point (so I had panic and Michael had exasperation at my panic) and after a fairly terrifying trip (is there a speed limit in Brazil?!) we made it to the bus station with literally seconds to spare before the bus was to leave… only to find that the people who we thought had our ticket reserved did not in fact appear to have our ticket reserved. I nearly cried at that news but luckily something swayed them to help us, whether it was my sad face or our pathetic lack of Portuguese or the fact that we weren’t moving from the ticket desk til someone helped. They ended up holding the bus for us while they sorted a ticket and we got on, about 15 minutes late. Without any food apart from sweets. But we were on the way!

DSCN1319So that bus took 11 hours, the next bus took 3 and we took a taxi over the border to Argentina (nicest driver ever…!), where we now are. Today we rested There was food. Thankfully. And reading. And swimming pool. Tomorrow we are day-tripping back into Brazil to see the Iguazu Falls from there; Saturday we’re going to look from the Argentina side and that evening we are taking another overnight bus to Buenos Aires! The picture to the left shows us right on the border in two countries at once. Do excuse how frightful we look, it had been a lot of buses at that point, nearly 24 hours of travelling!

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