25.02.2012 - 29.02.2012 28 °C
Our connection in Sau Paulo had the gate changed and we had to rush through the terminal. We arrived in Campo Grande about midnight. Our transfer took another four ish hours before we arrived in Bonito, gateway to the Pantanal. Our door was knocked on at 8am, saying we were booked on a tour leaving now. We understood our itinerary was still to be confirmed on arrival, so after arriving four hours earlier we weren't compos when they said go. We got to the office ten mins later and found out that we actually now had half and hour...? So I asked the boss what the trip was, cancelled some boat ride and booked to go snorkelling down a crystal clear river for the afternoon. It was a fresh water spring and filtered under the limestone. Floating down the river, the clarity was like being inside a giant aquarium.
Afterwards we walked into town for the bank and got a hair cut. First time in five years that I've actually managed to get a shaved consistent grade one back and sides, fantastic. Why Hong Konger hairdressers feel they must actually spend ages cutting the back and sides, I don't know. It took the usual 20mins, but cost $2.50. He was shocked and very appreciative when I gave him a fiver.
We went down a cave the next day, with a pool at the bottom that looked deep blue. Very pretty. Other group members were a pain and we were left waiting around a lot. Maybe we should start to do these trips without the organised tours, but then how do you get around and get in etc? Our afternoon tubing trip was cancelled because the incompetent receptionist booked the cave trip (second) that couldn't be cancelled and we'd be back too late for tubing, the one thing I was looking forward to here. After they failed to book us a room at our next stop, we gladly left for our trip into the Pantanal.
There's a lot of bugs here in the Pantanal. More than in the Amazon. Mel has been bitten so many times, that it's easier to ask where she hasn't been bitten than where she has. Mel is my personal repellant. They much prefer her. Graeme rode his first horse today, to be fair the horse was doing the driving, just following the horse in front of him. But I did get him him to trot a bit and I was just getting the hang of rising trot by the end. At one point the horse decided that he wanted to go under a low branch, which left me hanging on to the branch cartoon style while the horse continued. No worries, I got back on, just like riding a bike...Anyway, after riding through some lovely landscape for a couple of hours I was still able to walk and less like John Wayne than I had expected. There were a couple of Brazilian lads on the tour that were keen on footy, so we had a bit of a kick-a-about. I showed them how the English deal with their silky control.
Afternoon walking safari was a nightmare in mosquito heaven. We were driven a couple of hours from camp and led into a dense forest. It started to get a bit surreal when a few of our group had been stung by wasps, caught on thorny bushes, stuck to plants etc. There was a language barrier with the guide, so we didn't know exactly what was going on and he seemed to randomly change direction a few times. Someone mentioned 'Predator' (might have been me) as another of the group at the back was stung and the guide showed us a tree that has killer ants living on it: when the tree is attacked, the ants will climb up and drop on the attacker to bite nastily and kill it. Great. So it started to get dark and thoughts of 'Predator' turned to 'Blair Witch'. The guide stopped us all and asked us to walk in single file and in silence as the animals here were not used to humans and we were not on a walking track. He said there were several animals here that would 'attack and kill' us, including wild boar and jaguar, if we didn't comply. We shut up, but continued waving our arms in an anti mosquito perpetual dance.
A lad from East London told me today that the most poisonous spider in the world is the Daddy Long Legs. Apparently the daddy of long legs can't use it's lethal weapon, but does actually carry it. Seems pointless, maybe a tall tale (long legs)?? Will have to google that one up.
Saw a few Tucans, very cool. Lots of Caiman alligators. A South America fox and some Capybara's. Plenty of Stalks, Herons, Macaws and masses of colourful flutterbys.
Have eaten well here; they gave us steak, egg and chips tonight, bang on. Washed down with a couple of beers, which felt deserved and may help as a local anaesthetic for the bites and aid sleep.
Mel and I both caught Piranha fish this morning. Success! We spent most of our time fishing six feet away from a 2.5m long Caiman alligator, who got thrown the odd fish to keep him full.
As with China, a few nice city buildings and an Olympics will not make this country leap to the first world overnight. It's a beautiful country, but it seems harder work than it could be by now. Someone we met said 'Brazil is a rich nation pretending to be poor', referencing the corruption and how the people get a raw deal from the government. Maybe we should have visited Sau Paulo to change our economic impression, but unfortunately our time here is limited, there's so much more we'd love to see. For now, we'll be pleased to get into Bolivia and out of a week in mosquito heaven.
When we caught our connecting flight at Sau Paulo the immigration lady stamped us out of Brazil (the flight was going to Santa Cruz, Bolivia via Campo Grande, Brazil) and she also collected our visa papers.... So we've been in Brazil for five days while our passports say we've already left. How will Brazil or Bolivia immigration, if we get that far, deal with this? We caught a bus for 5hrs to Corumba, a west Brazilian border town and found a hostel for the night. We bought overnight train tickets from Puerto Surez, Bolivia to Santa Cruz for the following day, but they would be delivered in the morning. We went to sleep wondering what will happen with the train tickets and how the passport issue will turn out at the border...