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Pantanal, Day 2

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In order to take advantage of the morning hours, when it is less hot than the middle of the day, we got up at 7 o’clock to go cayaking.

 

Even though we did not see much animals other than hawks and caymans on the river it was still a great paddling trip. The water was as quiet as it could be, and reflected the sun and blue sky that was over us. Halfways we also stopped to try some traditional Brazilian mate tea, which was served ice cold to us while we were listening at stories about the flora and fauna. It was not before noon that we got back, which was perfect as the food had just gotten ready when we arrived at the lodge.

DSCF7785 _Snapseed95 percent of Pantanal territory belongs to private owners, and the farm we stayed at, Fazenda San Fransisco was over 15 000 hectares big. For the afternoon we went horseback riding, which like the canoing earlier was within the boundaries of the farm. Just a few minutes riding away from our lodge we saw an armadillo, an ant eater and lots of falcons and other birds. We rode for a couple of hours through fields with cows, wet mud and high grass in the heat and finished with a little cooler sunset.

In the evening we had a lecture about the story, geography and biodiversity of the Pantanal which was really interesting before having a late night barbeque at one of the nearby mountains.

 

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Pantanal, Day 1

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The drive from Bonito to Pantanal was just a few hours, so we arrived our lodge, San Fransico, in the early afternoon with plenty of time to do some exploring already on the first day.After filling up on a really good lunch at the Lodge we went on a boat tour on the river where could try our fishing luck with the piranhas, where only a few of us managed to catch some. As there was not enough for dinner, we let our guides use them to show us how quickly the Caymans, Black Hawks and Black Collared Hawks arrived when the piranhas were thrown back into the river again, and lets just say that none of us wanted to fall over board after seeing how quickly the fresh water crocodiles snapped up the fish from the water surface.

After dinner it had become dark and at 6.30 we set off to go on a night safari, to try to spot some of the nocturnal animals that wander around in the wetlands at night, which there were many of. We managed to see some tapirs (the biggest mammal in South America), ocelots (which look like small jaguars), copybaras (worlds biggest rodent), ant eaters (which were much bigger and hairier than I had imagined!) and lots of ouls. Pantanal is filled with all kinds of exciting animals, many which I did not even know existed, and I almost cannot wait until we will get to see it all in daylight on safari drives the next couple of days.

 

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Bonito Means Beautiful in Portuguese, and is a Name Well Deserved

Bonito is a place hard to reach by your own as there are very few buses going there, so when we parked up to our hostel there were just a few Brazilian road trippers there from before and then there came an other overland truck from Tucan travel after a couple of days. Bonito is also mainly known for its crystal clear waters like Rio de Prata and Laguna mysteriosa, which also lays a couple of hours outside of Bonito and when booking a snorkelling or diving tour there you also have to arrange your own taxi which would cost more than 90 us dollars so arranging everything on your own will cost a lot and require a bit more effort than we would have to go through.

After spending the first day cycling around and expoloring Bonito on rental bikes (9usd) we had a snorkelling trip at Rio de Prata booked for our second day. Since everyone were going we also got the overland truck taking us and we got our own guide. As Bonito is really practicing eco-friendly tourism, we were only allowed to go eight in the river at a time and they also told us really strictly that we were not allowed to have sun screen or mosquito repellent on and that we were not allowed to stand in the shallow river or use our legs to kick as this would stir up the sand at the bottom making it less clear for people coming after us.

Before getting into the water, I was imagining it looking a littlebit like Silfra in Iceland, where you can dive and snorkel in between the continental plates separating America from Europe, but I was positively surprised when I saw that the waters were just as clear but had 20 different types of fish that were not at all scared of us when we snorkeled past them. Some were around a meter in size while others were really small swimming around in schools, nibbling on our arms and legs as we swam past them.

Our snorkeling guide did not speak any English, but that was fine. When walking through the jungle he pointed at a cobra and we looked at the cobra, when he whistled at the birds we listened to the birds whistling back and when he smelled a tree we just went and smelled the tree after him.

After the snorkeling we also got a really good included lunch and got to relax a bit in the hammocks while waiting for the people diving in the Mystery Lagoon (Lagoa Mysteriosa) which is in the same place as Rio de Prata. When the divers came up they also told us that the diving also was absolutely magnificent where you at 80 meters debth could look up and see the sun and trees at land. People even have gone down to 270 meters debth in that tiny river and still not reached the bottom, which also has given it its name as no one knows how deep it really is. Bonito means beutiful in Portuguese, a name well deserved as its crystal clear lakes are one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

 

Photos: Jan Bosker and Elke Dekker
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Iguassu Falls on both the Argentinean and Brazilian Side

Iguassu Falls is (one of) the biggest waterfalls in the
World and connects Argentina with Paraguay and Brazil. It attracts over a
million visitors every year and is one considered as one of the ”New Seven
Wonders of the World”. It consists of 170 individual waterfalls together making
up the broadest waterfall in the World.

Our overland group had decided that instead of staying one
night in Port Iguazu in Argentina and then pack our tents to move on to Foz de
Iguazu in Brazil, we should go straight to Brazil and spend all three nights
there instead. As we got there late in the evening there was not much to do
other than staying in at our hoste, Hotel Paudimar, do some cooking and
afterwards having some drinks at the bar to use the rest of our Argentinean
Pesos and celebrate that two days of straight driving was over. Since we only
had two full days at the national park, we had decided that it would not be
other than fair to spend one day on the Brazilian side and the other taking a
shuttle over to the Argentinean side to fully explore the waterfall and make up
our own minds about which side was the prettiest. Some short facts about each
of the sides:

The Brazilian side:

      
The city on the Brazilian side is called ”Foz de
Iguazu” or just ”Foz”

      
Entrance fee to the national park costs 23 us
dollars which includes a shuttlebus going from the park entrance up to the
”Devils Throat”, which is the biggest waterfall and the highlight for many when
visiting the falls

      
Our highlights on the Brazilian side was to
first see the whole waterfall from a distance to see how huge it really was and
afterwards walking to walk towards it until we were standing right at the very bottom
of the Devils Troat.

      
The absolute minimum time to explore the falls
from this side is three hours, where the rest of the day can be spent going to
Ciudad del Este in Paraguay or to the Itaipu dam which is the second biggest
dam in the World.

      
Best tip
: instead of taking the panoramic
elevator up beside the Devils Throat, take the walk instead and be alone for a
while. The national park on both side is really crowded so I am sure you will
appreciate it!

The Argentinean side:

      
The city on the Argentinean side is called
”Puerto Iguasu”

      
Entrance costs
17 usd and includes unlimited
rides with the train between the viewpoints

      
Highlights being walking through jungle and
along the roaring falls where we saw ”coies”, fresh water aligators, tucans and
gigantic catfish

      
The minimum time to explore the park from this
side I would say is a full day

      
Best tip: walk the 2 hour blue path beside and
down to the falls and try a boat ride at the bottom (20usd). It takes you under
and through the falls, which gives you both a cheap adrenaline rush and
beautiful view from the bottom.

It is absolutely worth going to both falls and spending a
whole day in each, but if you had a gun pointed to your head or a really tight
budget I would say that you should choose the Argentinean side over the
Brazilian, as it is cheaper and also much cheaper. The national park was really
touristy, somewhere between Victoria Falls and Niagara Falls but that is also
for a reason. Iguassu Falls is absolutely awesome and a must see when traveling
in South America.

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Overlanding through Argentina and Brazil

The last leg of our 3,5 month around the World journey has already started, which is a journey with an overland truck going for 21 days from Buenos Aires to Rio, through the drylands of San Ignacio and the wetland of the Pantanal, with stops at the Worlds biggest waterfall (in volume) in Iguassu, the Worlds clearest snorkelling waters and the beaches and islands of Paraty.

So far the truck has taken us 1300 kilometers from Buenos Aires to Iguassu falls on the Brazilian border. We have been driving two full days from early morning to right before sunset, in time to set up our tents for each night. Except from the cities, where we live in either hotels or use proper camping facilities, we do bush camping which means that we will stop at some quiet place along the road to camp in the nature.

We are also cooking almost all meals our selves, and we rotate in groups for the shopping, cooking and cleaning. In addition each one of us have a special responsibility (eg. gas tanks, lockers for passports, the water tank etc) on the truck to ensure cleanliness and safety of us and our things. Gas stations are usually where we find our toilets and where we do the cooking stops, but like yesterday where we made a lunch stop at a UNESCO heritage site (The Jesuit Missionary ruins of San Ignacio, 9 USD entry), we also try to stop to see a few things along the road.

The overland truck is spacious, and the many hours on the road is spent sleeping, reading and knitting for some. We also have stocked up with 300 liters of drinking water so that we will not be needing shops and gas stations once we go into the jungle. Our truck has also had a small breakdown along the road, as both our guides (which are girls btw) are trained in mechanics so after less than an hour we were back on the road again.

As we have been getting closer to the Pantanal and the Amazon, which are known for their wildlife, the birds have gotten prettier, the animals have gotten more exotic and the insects have become much bigger. Last night we found a tarantula looking spider outside our tent and the ants climbing the trees here are as long as a full grown grape back home. I guess this is just warm up for what is coming ahead as we go further into the Brazilian countryside.