Clear Water and Broken Gear

Trip Start Jan 15, 2006
1
27
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Trip End Sep 05, 2006


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Flag of Brazil  ,
Monday, March 27, 2006

We are currently in our third day in Bonito, a Brazilian town that manages to market an accident of geology into a large ecotourism business. (Ecotourism is a vague word that seems to imply that you will both see some wildlife and pay 40% higher prices.) The ground underneath Bonito contains significant deposits of limestone. It turns out that limestone creates two types of attractions for tourists, caves and clear water.

We visited Blue Lake Cave, a large cavern with many stalactites and stalagmites. Unfortunately, due to poor light and/or limited photographic skill our only good photo was from taking a closeup of a postcard. You gotta do what you can.

Local waters are spectacularly clear due to the dissolved calcium carbonate in the water that attaches itself to any other materials and then promptly sinks to the bottom. (I believe that this is the same phenomenon that keeps the Hudson River relatively clean on its way to NY Harbor.) Tour operators run snorkel trips down the river where you lazily float downstream making faces at the fish. They waited until they had collected our money and we were halfway through to mention that there are also a few caimans in the water.

Bonito is one of the few places outside of Rio that does seem to have significant tourist infrastructure in place. (There are still not many English speakers around.) The place, however, is remarkably empty. We have stayed at two different very nice hotels and occupancy seems to range between 5 and 20%. Our proprietor claims that January and February are much busier, but we have seen a lot of overcapacity throughout South America. This is nice for tourists, but not a good sign for the economy.

We are starting to see a lot of wear and tear on our gear. We have driven almost 9000 miles, of which probably a third has been dirt or swamp. I mentioned the busted winch. The rear window zipper on the Jeep top has died and part of the window now flaps in the breeze. Three screws on our bicycle pump were vibrated loose and we were forced to donate the pump to a kid who thought he could fix it. The biggest issue may be the tailgate on the back of the Jeep. The spare tire holder and bike rack have started to bend and one of the bolts was quite loose this morning. I retightened, but am afraid we may be forced to leave the bikes behind at some point. The engine is working fine, so I am sure we will make it back, but it will continue to be an adventure.

Both Kia and I are holding up much better than our equipment. Neither of us has had anything worse than a hangover or a bit of indigestion in over 2 months. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tomorrow we cross the border into Paraguay. We have heard the only redeeming quality of Paraguay is that no other tourists visit the country. Nobody even writes guidebooks for Paraguay. Should be interesting.
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