9th – 13th May – Having left Paraguay which (apart from the police hassle), we really enjoyed with friendly and helpful people, we return to Bonito once again and Camping Formoso for a few days.
During this visit however, the Rio Formoso is no longer flooded and the water beautifully clear and green but very cold.
There are many fish, some quite large and a cascade of water tumbling over rocks. Diego arrives and goes swimming with Bill, but unfortunately, fishing is not allowed, so no fish dinner tonight!
We have unusual visitors to the men’s shower/toilet block. Two large macaws fly in through the open window and spend some time in there showing off, screeching and posing for photographs….real characters and so colourful!
We are able to get access this time to the internet at one of the garages in town……no hardship to stop there, as they have tasty meat pies and an amazing selection of cakes!
14th May – Diego is staying another day and has plans to visit Brasilia. It has been great meeting up with him again and we wish him safe travelling. We leave for Miranda, situated on the edge of the southern Pantanal in the Mato Grosso do Sul region.
Cattle ranches with hectares of pasture land amongst forested hills, line the road north to Miranda. Some of these Fazendas, must be in lovely locations with beautiful views at the end of their long, dirt roads.
We have been recommended camping at Fazenda Meia Lua, 10km outside of Miranda at km 547.
An 800 hectare cattle and sheep ranch with a large lake and in a tranquil setting
We have company with Helmut and Silvia from Austria, in a very nice camper that they bought in California to begin their travels and another couple from Switzerland.
Miriam (also from Switzerland), is an excellent host and very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area. We see our first toucan and many more birds arrive noisily in nearby trees to roost at night.
We are in a great location for beautiful sunsets each night across the fields.
Diego arrives, having changed his mind for the moment about Brasilia. We all go for a walk round the ranch……
…….and late afternoon, sit on the covered platform over the lake, whilst a small caiman swims over to investigate.
We have torrential rain one night, the sky illuminated by constant lightning. Even the birds have gone quiet the following morning, and many coconuts lay on the grass. We enjoy an evening meal with everyone with very good food.
We spend an afternoon at the Parque Club de Lago near Miranda watching a cattle Roping Festival. Both cattle and horses arrive in large trucks herded together and no nonsense here when it comes to unloading! The horses are incredibly fast – also in turning and stopping when rounding up the cattle. Little boys already young gauchos on their horses, also join in with the fun.
In the evening, Miriam has arranged a barbecue for everyone on her own plot of land close to the festival…an enjoyable day!
18th May – We leave Meia Lua to drive approx. 120km back towards Corumba for the dirt road that runs through the southern Pantanal. We have heard from many people, that this is an incredible stretch of road for seeing wildlife.
The word ‘Pantanal’ comes from the Brazilian word ‘pantano’ meaning marsh. It is the largest flood plain in the world, also extending over parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. The Brazilian part is located in the states of Mato Grosso (35%) and Mato Grosso do Sul (65%). It has an area of approx. 230,000 sq. km and in the year 2000, UNESCO declared the Pantanal a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. It is intersected throughout, by a large number of rivers, all belonging to the Paraguay River Basin. Elevations such as flat-topped mountains, are constantly suffering erosion from wind and rain and consequently, supplying great quantities of sediment to the marshland in a continuous silting process.
The Pantanal is home to a huge quantity of species of birds, mammals, reptiles and fish. The rains came late this year, which is why we visited Foz do Iguacu in Brazil and then Paraguay, but now the rivers have had time to go down and the roads to dry out….and the birds are everywhere! No sooner do we begin the dirt road, than we see our first, large caiman basking on a bank.
We call in at Passo do Lontra, where all the buildings are on stilts over the water, but their advertised camping is only on wooden decking, certainly not to be driven over. Monkeys begin to settle in the trees being late afternoon, calling to each other and leaping between the branches.
Our first night for camping, is finally at Pousada Santa Clara. We are the only people there, and the hot showers are very welcome to wash off all the deet spray that we eventually resorted to, to try and keep away the mosquitoes. A very quiet night here but sounds as if the locals are living it up at the main Pousada!
19th May – A blue-fronted parrot is on the kitchen table when I pay for our overnight stay – very expensive we decide, at 60 real for 1 night.
The weather is beautiful, the sun showing off the colours of our feathered friends once we are back on the track.
We are having a wonderful day……it is worth braving the mosquitoes for! There are many bridges on this dirt road, (all numbered) and they are ideal places to stop, wait and watch. All bridges and the track are in very good condition, we only see two Fazendas with their entrance and land, still under water.
It is a perfect time to be here and I hope the photos will show this.
On one of these bridges, the water below is full of caiman of all sizes, huge heads rearing up, trying to bite into another dead one floating on its back. Other giants are basking on the banks, their mouths wide open!
On the other side of the bridge, capybara (the world’s largest rodent) are swimming, resembling hippos as they lumber in and out of the water.
Yesterday, a guide at the Passo do Lontra, told us about one of the toucan’s favourite trees – the Embauba, with white bark and white also on the underside of the leaves. There are many of these trees and we watch them carefully, and it isn’t long before we are rewarded with some great photos of this amazing bird.
Besides eating fruit, toucans will also seize small chicks and on a number of occasions, we see very small birds flying at the toucan, in an attempt to guard their nests.
We drive as far as bridge 50 (there are many more), and turned around to find somewhere else to stay for the night. Fazenda Sao Joao looks inviting and we make a good choice. This beautiful ranch is a private area of 2000hectares, all buildings have been constructed from recycled materials, and activities (as in most places), can include horse riding and drives to explore the flora and fauna of the area.
We see more capybara as soon as we enter the gates to the Fazenda and a solitary Jabiru Stork or Tuiuiu, the world’s largest stork, and the symbol of the Pantanal.
This Fazenda is situated in another piece of wetland paradise. Horses are standing in the water, cooling down after another very hot and humid day, and herds of cattle graze across the water in distant fields.
As we park under a tree for shade, a Jungle Runner Lizard runs out from some leaves, and we are surrounded by birds of all kinds.
Late afternoon we go for a walk and are so lucky in seeing two giant Hyacinth Macaws. These beautiful birds with loud calls, choose only one partner to mate with for life and are becoming globally endangered. They are the largest of the macaws and nest and feed from only a very few special trees, their powerful beaks adapted to crushing seeds from which they feed. Only one chick usually survives from the 2/3 eggs that are laid.
Ema or Greater Rhea (a relative of the ostrich and emu), wander through the fields, allowing us to get quite close. They are the largest birds in Brasil and although they are incapable of flying, they can run as fast as 60km/h. These birds can also be reared commercially for their feathers, eggs and meat.
Blue and Yellow and Red and Green Macaws also fly up into nearby trees.
We have another excellent buffet meal in the evening, meeting up with Edward and his wife from Sao Paulo who arrived in a fantastic, old Toyota full of character.
The sunset across the marshes is beautiful, the stars spectacular and all we can hear from our roof tent, is a chorous of frogs and occasional splashing from the horses in the water.
20th – 21st May – A very different day – overcast and misty, giving a completely different but still beautiful, feel to the marshland. One of the guys who has his own very special and handsome horse, rides into the water to round up the horses and bring them into stalls for their morning feed.
Red and Blue Macaws fly into a large mango tree close to the kitchen, followed by pretty little parakeets and other birds all hoping for left-overs.
We leave this lovely, relaxing place. The owners and everyone who works here, have all helped to make our stay special and we would definitely recommend this place whilst in the Southern Pantanal. We see many more birds, but being a dull day, their colours have lost their sheen, especially the kingfishers.
Our highlights (apart from the birds) are seeing an Armadillo, that suddenly emerges from the bushes and quite happily stays around on the track to enable us to take photos, a Red Brockett Deer and a Giant Ant Eater, the latter only in the distance. All these animals are quite elusive and so we felt very fortunate in seeing them.
As we reach the main road again it is strange to return to the sound of traffic instead of birds, frogs, cows and horses. We drive back to Fazenda Meia Lua, another lovely place that we would recommend to overland travellers. It is good to be able to enthuse about our trip to Helmut and Silvia, as they are leaving tomorrow to visit the same area. We catch up on jobs at Meia Lua and plan for our trip into the northern area of the Pantanal near Cuiaba in the Mato Grosso region.