Life on the Farm

Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Being in Brazil and south of the Amazonian Basin we decided to head inland to checkout the Pantanal region and its wildlife. Up early we got the local bus from Camp Grande out to a custom's point called Buraco das Piranhas. It was a little bus stop in the middle of nowhere and obviously not that popular as we were the only ones that got off. There was only a couple of people floating around, one guy waiting for a bus, a customs officer that kept walking backwards and forwards across the road every ten minutes, the owner of a little food stall selling coke and chips, some stray dogs and some chickens looking after their new hatchlings. Basically there was not much to do except wait for the promised jeep that was to pick us up. About two hours later, watching the nervous customs guy pace around a lot and a stray dog trying to hump Rick's leg, we figured this jeep just isn't coming and started to think about our options. There was a pay phone across the road and we managed to find the number of the tour company, Megan wandered over but was quickly back looking dejected. The phone only took phone cards not coins and we didn't have a hope in hell of finding a phone card in this place. As we were debating what to do next, a truck roared down the dirt road to drop off a few backpackers returning from their Pantanal experience. Megan walked up to the driver and said "Are you from Green Track?" Initially he said "No", but for some reason changed his mind and said he'd take us down the road anyway.

After a bumpy ride in the back of the truck we finally arrived at the Green Track camp. Turns out he was the Green Track transport, but as we weren't at the bus stop at 9AM with some other backpackers they figured we were no shows. Strange as our bus was arriving at 11AM anyway! With nothing planned for the afternoon, we kicked back on a hammock and caught up on some sleep.

That night we went to bed pretty early as the campsite had no electricity. It felt strange to be going to bed at 8.30PM but little did we know we'd be up very early. During the night we heard lizards on the roof, squeaking away as they were catching bugs. At about 4AM the jungle came alive as the animals greeted a new day. The sounds of hundreds of different types of bird, chirping and squawking was enough to wake up anyone. After breakfast we went for a morning walk through the surrounding jungle with our guide Sandro. We saw monkeys high up in the trees and birds including the Ibis, Rosebill Spoonbill and some Jabiru Storks, the symbol of the Pantanal, to name a few. Sandro also introduced us to some of the native fruits. Some were sweet and others bitter with one tasting nice but having an awful after taste. Walking around in the jungle we'd covered ourselves with mosquito repellent but this didn't help against the ticks. We both ended up digging few of these little blood sucking buggers out of our legs.

After a hearty lunch of local Brazilian food they saddled up the horses (that were so skinny they looked like they should have eaten our meal instead) and we headed up the road into the jungle again. Being up higher we could see a lot more and our guide Carlos, advised us that the animals only saw horses not the humans on them, hence we could get closer to them. Meandering around we walked through the jungle and surrounding open spaces. At one stage Megan's horse decided it wanted to eat a bit further off the track so it headed into the jungle, a low hanging branch almost knocking her from the saddle. After complimenting Megan on her limbo ability whilst atop a horse the guide (a fellow Aussie who had married the Brazilian guide and owner of the company, Carlos) instructed her to pull in the reins a little for a more comfortable ride! On the horses we saw a beautifully coloured Toucan and managed to see a little Armadillo.

Again early to bed and awoken by the early morning clatter of the jungle coming awake. As it is the dry season in the Panatal most of the water holes had dried up, but we decided to go for a swamp walk anyway. Along the way we saw more animals such as Black Caimans, a Toucan, Tamandra (Ant Eater) and a family of South American Coati's out for a walk. One saw us and scrambled up a palm tree then poked its head out from behind a frond, growling the whole time. Entering one of the swamps we also saw a Capybura (giant rodent) jumping into the water for a morning dip. The highlight of this trip was wading through the squishy mud as we crossed the flat swampland, at least this time we didn't have any problems with ticks.

In the afternoon everyone at the camp (about 10 backpackers) jumped in the truck and headed down the road to a river. Once there we jumped in canoes and headed upstream. We didn't get the chance to paddle as Sandro jumped in our canoe and did all the hard work for us. The river was inhabited by heaps of Black and Speckled Caimans; they were on the banks everywhere. At one stage Sandro headed straight for one on the river bank. It quickly jumped into the water with a big splash, scaring the crap out of Megan as it was less than half a metre away from her. After heading upstream for a while we turned around and stopped on the banks for some fishing. The rods were a basic design - a long bamboo pole with some line and a hook on the end. The bait was some raw meat. We both managed to catch some nasty looking Piranhas and another fish called a Snake Head. One of the Snake Head's Rick caught came off the hook and actually bit his fishing rod, refusing to let go. They were nasty looking fish with long sharp teeth. Megan also had luck at one section of the river landing a couple of fish, though she didn't realize she had a large Black Caiman about two meters behind her in the water, keeping a watchful eye.

On the way back from the river (and after being attacked by thousands of mosquitoes) Sandro jumped in the back and with a powerful spotlight we did some night spotting. There were Deer's and Capyburas all feeding by the swamps, but as we drove across one of the wooden bridges there it was lying in the shallows - a Yellow Anaconda! Carlos jumped out of the truck, raced down to the river and jumped right in pulling the snake out by its tail. It was huge. After bravely grabbing the snake behind its head, everyone was screaming excitedly, ecstatic we were finally able to see one up close. Sandro could be heard over everyone yelling "I found ANACONDA!" Rick was first up with the snake draped across his shoulders and Megan, swallowed her fears and bravely had it draped across her shoulders too. What an experience to see and touch a wild Anaconda. After everyone had had the Anaconda experience Carlos let the amazing snake go and it slithered off into the jungle, leaving the annoying tourists that had disturbed it behind. On the ride back to the camp everyone was on a little high as we'd all wanted to see an Anaconda in the wild and it had happened on our last night. Finally we finished the day in the showers, sharing with the local frogs, while some parrots and a pair of Blue Macaws attacked the palm tree above our heads. Dinner was fried Piranha and Snake Head (the fish not the Anaconda) - yum!

Our experience of the Pantanal was fantastic. Green Track were great (we'd recommend them to anyone) and our guides Carlos and Sandro knew their stuff. It was great to be camping out in the jungle with no electricity, just the animals and stars above to keep us entertained.

08/07/2009 - WE HAVE SINCE HEARD FROM A FELLOW TRAVELER ABOUT SOME PROBLEMS EXPERIENCED AT THE GREENTRACK CAMP. ALTHOUGH WE DID NOT EXPERIENCE THEM OURSELVES I AM CONCERNED ENOUGH BY THESE ALLEGATIONS TO RECOMMEND PEOPLE CONSIDERING THIS CAMP EXERCISE CAUTION WHILST THERE. ADDITIONALLY I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND FEMALES TRAVELING ALONE USE GREENTRACK.

The next day we got the bumpy truck ride back to the Buraco das Piranhas bus stop to wait for the onwards local bus back top Campo Grande. Unfortunately the bus was running very late as we'd heard it had been stopped three times by the local federal police. The run from Bolivia to Brazil is a known drug trafficking route, hence their diligence (either that or they are bored. They did come on two more times on our trip back too). On the bus we were doing our best not too be too worried as we had already paid for our bus to Foz du Igacu and it was going to leave at 8PM with or without us. We were going to be late! As we arrived in Campo Grande, Megan raced off to see if the bus hadn't left yet while Rick grabbed the bags. It was still there, though as we got on it pulled away. We'd had 1 minute spare up our sleeves!
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