The Pantanal

11-13 June 2003

The Pantanal is a wetland area the size of France in South West Brazil. We'd been told we could expect to see more wildlife here than we ever would in the Amazon and we weren't to be disappointed. We based ourselves in Campo Grande from where we arranged a tour that would take us deep into the Pantanal via a hodge-podge of badly organised transport spiced-up by rather fiesty Brazilian policemen who are convinced everyone has a kilo of Bolivian Coke in their bag.

Teasing Caiman makes it all worthwhile. This big lad is nicknamed Ali and he regularly comes up into camp for the dinner scraps. He had seven friends who were also there for feeding time. We spent the night about two metres away from where we took this picture.

Round 2 of the Piranha fishing competition saw a reversal in fortunes for the three nations competing and a turn for the worse for the English competitor who refused to get into a Caiman and piranha infested lake in order have a sensible chance. The New Zealand entrant was in up to his waist in water, to make up for lost time right from the bell and he really cleaned-up.

The results for round 2 are:

Brazil 3, England 0, New Zealand 7.

Resulting in a aggregate win by the NZ lad:

Brazil 5, England 4, New Zealand 7.

( whilst Jason was merrily counting his fish, Claire was smug as she took a photo capturing his bad afro.)

High on the back of the win in the Piranha fishing contest and safe in the knowledge that we were eating tonight, Jason (aka Steve Irwin) thought it would be smart to wash his smelly feet with the Caiman.

Claire by this stage had given up trying to talking any sense to him. ( But thought they probably wouldn't want to get near his feet)

Our guide assured Jason that neither Caiman or Piranhas attack people (very often) and that there was nothing to worry about. On return to the main camp we consulted our Pantanal flora and fauna book which seemed to have a slightly different opinion to the guide recommending that divers stay the hell away from both.

This is the tent we had to sleep in. It is just wide enough for 2 Bolivian dwarfs to lie in, but as you see it is far from long enough for us!

The mosquito nets were also destroyed by a parrot making the tent a total waste of time and space (limited). Combined with the animal noises, we are now averaging 4 hours sleep a night.

After passing up washing with Caiman and refusing to compete in the piranha fishing Princess Hillier then suffered the final indignation of being attacked by a tree.

The Howler monkeys make it all worthwhile. The photo shows the female on the left and the male on the right. Later that day, with the help of the binoculars, it was possible to see a family of monkeys hug in the sun.

The males make a growling noise that can be heard from kilometres away and regularly kept us awake at night.

We had heard but not seen Howlers in Ilha Grande and the Amazon and we were really excited to have this troop just above us.

Hello Dear!

The six banded Armadillo is nearly completely blind and relies on its excellent hearing and sense of smell. We could stand downwind of this cheeky chap and he would come right up to us before running off when the camera flashed. He would then return because he still hadn't figured out how bad Jason's feet were.

This brown collared ant eater has similar senses to the Armadillo so it was easy to sneak up it. It moves around on all fours until it feels threatend, at which time it stands up on it back legs, snorts loudly and gets its claws out (very similar to a woman).

Despite looking like a cuddly teddy bear there are no hugging photos as Claire would have got hurt.... or they might of agreed that all men are evil.

We forgot what this is so we can't tell you, but it moved like the clappers and we were chuffed at getting a photo.

These Parrots were a few minutes walk from our campsite.

We also saw Toucans and numerous storks amongst 50 or so other different birds.

We have now bought yellow anoraks and can be seen hanging around trees in the rain with binoculars eating cucumber sandwiches.

The Pantanal is also ranch country so when in Rome!

Having never ridden a horse before Jason thought it would be fantastic fun and not result in nearly dying from falling off at full speed or getting a really sore arse.

Live and learn.

This is our tour group. The two similarly funny and cynical Welsh girls ( right) got us through the tough times. ( the tents that were too small, beans and rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, four hours very broken sleep, and mossys everywhere).

Together we broke the day into 15 minute blocks to kill time cause the Ecological tours couldn't be bothered to take us out on our last trek. Instead we got a marathon 6 hours necklace making session that witnessed Jason's tantrum, "I'm a 31 year old man and I am not spending my time in the Pantanal making a f*cking necklace".

Claire, Maria ( French), Ann and Kerry (Welsh and very dry), Jason ( Proud Hunter Gatherer - no one else was stupid enough to get in the water to fish), and Claire (sore loser in the fishing contest).

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