Adventures in Brazil begin
3/26-Sat Paudimar Hostel-visited Foz do Iguacu(about 40kms
The hostel we stayed at was very nice and it was located close to the Foz do Iguacu Parque National. Now that we had a Brazilian visa, that is good for 10 years, we decided to see the falls from the other side. This took about an hour for the bus to take us from the hostel to the Park entrance, an hour to wait in line to buy a ticket. It was a saturday and the third day of a 4 day weekend for the Argentines. So it was busy. We then walked from the bottom of the last of the falls to the devils throat, the first drop. It took about an hour, and was approximately 2miles. With all the stops and photo opps it took this long. Wow, it was a sight, the water was down a bit from what it was last year and we could actually see more of the devils throat this time. Karla was going nuts taking pictures and trying to get rainbows as often as possible. The final leg was to litterally walk out a rock bridge to look down into the Devils throat. What a bunch of water, I noticed a cloud of something in the mist. It was well over a thousand grey swifts soaring. This large swift actually nest behind the falls and is the Argentine symbol for this national park.
We then decided to have a typical Currascaria lunch at the restaruant overlooking the Iguacu river before the plung. This is an all you can eat meal. Meat(prime rib, tongue, kindeys, pork, chicken), potatoes(fried, boiled), salads (about five different kinds), then desert MMMMMM. We are having a hard time this trip loosing weight, no wonder..
3/27-Sun Paudimar Hostel(No driving today buses only)
We just hung out this day. I cleaned out the fuel pump, and added an additional fuel filter, that took about 3 hours. Then Karla and I sat at the pool, warding off the heat and humidity. We met a Brazilian couple also camping in a trailer. They were particularly friendly and we tried to communicate about each others trips. I asked them about maps of Brazil and he gave me his map as a present. They had three homes, one regular one in an apartment, another beach home, and of course their trailor. He is a retired military and she is a dance teacher. It is great to mix with the people and share our lives. This trip has been wonderful in that way. The only problem in Brazil is that portugues and spanish are different. This made it hard to communicate. Although, Spanish and Portugues have some similarities making it a bit easier to try to get what you want, or say what you mean...
2/28-Mon-Paudimar Hostel to Guaira(310 kms=192.6 miles)
We paid our bill after breakfast, and then visited the worlds largest hydro electric plant. Itapu. I had never heard of it but it is huge... and right now until china gets their three gorges dam running, is producing 10 Million megawatts of power for both Paraguay and Brazil. We took a 2 hour tour of the dam, spill way and some great views of this huge monstracity. It was completed in the early eighties. It destroyed at least one whole city, and covered of tanother of the world's magnificent waterfalls. It was called the Seven falls and was near the city of Guaira, more than 30 kms up river . So we are not the only ones suffering environmental destrucition for the comforts of electricity.
After the tour we drove through some very torrential rain through the savannh of southern Brazil. We took a couple of hours before the drive to shop for food. Wine($10 abottle) in brazil is expensive, so is gas at almost $7.00 a gallon. This is a good reason to try to camp for free as much as we can. The roads, towns and infrastructure seem to be quite well run. So Brazil is no doubt no longer a third world country.
Brazillians are trying their dangdest from being dependent on other economies for their fuel. So they have made an effort to produce ethonol, and add it to gasoline. They are also making biodeisel. They are energy independent, or close to it because of this effort. This day is also the day I was going to have to deal with alcohol mixed in the gas. I had been told that gasoline would be ok to run in my car, because it had an additive to improve the octane. I had the night before read a bit on what the effects of this kind of fuel would have on my motor and found that it would be mimimal. So I crossed my fingers and filled up the tank and drove. The engine ran cooler and had a tad bit less power, that was it. So all the worry of buying an additional computer to adjust the timing and all was not necessary. No if I was running on pure ethonol that would be a different story. Gasoline Comun is about twenty or thirty cents more a liter than ethonol. Diesel is about seventy five cents less a liter.
3/29-Tues-Guaira to Bonita(632 kms=392.7 miles)
Arrived in Bonito late afternoon and found out where the campground was and the hostel that we had planned to stay. At the hostel we were received with greetings in English... how nice. We got a space in the back for camping and a hookup for electricity. Our host also explained all the tours that were available and the cost. We decided to go on the all day trip to the Rio Plata, swim with a snorkle and mask to watch fish. The best part was no driving and a lunch afterwards. We had a nice dinner that night and slept with the fan on.
3/30-Wed- Bonito and River float with the fish(no driving)
We boarded the bus at 9 and it took a better part of 2 hours to get to the Fezanda to get set up. We were set up with snorkle mask, and a shorty wet suit. I had to rent a pair of booties. After we were given a thorough talk about what the activity was going to be like we put on our wet suits and loaded up in the open truck to the half mile trail that lead to the entry into the river. There are up to 50 different species of fish in this crystal clear river. From finger size to the big fish that were one to two feet long. It took about a half hour to get to the entry and with the wet suits on it was quite warm. And of course there were no restrooms, and we were told not to pee in our wet suits. So the women went left and the men went right into the jungle to do our business. Finally we were ready to take off. Karla and I had some experience with snorkeling off the coast of Catalina island, so we immediately started to look at all the fish. I counted 10 different kinds of fish just at the big spring that we started. There were at least 4 different kinds of placostomuse (a weird looking rock sucker) about 2-4 inches long. We could have rented a housing to put our camera in an take photos but it was too expensive for Karla, and I just wanted to float and enjoy being part of an aquarium. The big fish scared me, they had teeth and came rather close, they were beautifully marked with black, orange and gold. The Dorado was also a big one with a gold band from face to tail. There were at least 3 different sizes of bottom feeding carp, all rather bland looking, gold or brown, one with reddish spots. We floated for about two hours all togeather, with a small diversion around a rapid. Other attractions were the many different butterflies, especially the two kind of blue morphos. The bottom was sandy and shallow and we were told not to stand up or walk on the bottom. Some of our group had a difficullt time dealing with that when there mask or snorkel filled with water. I saw a couple of species of birds also-a green kingfisher, and a rufus tailed Jacamar. The final big fish was a kind of Pacu, that had a round body and a flat face, they looked like a giant parana. Oh, in fact there were no parana in this river, I checked. Then our little clear river dumped into a larger river. They had an electric motor boat waiting there for those that were done swimming. The rest swam another twenty or thirty minutes. We all changed into our clothes that they had brought down to us, loaded into the truck and were taken back to the ranch house for a grand lunch. These Brazilians know how to feed you. It was an all you can eat help yourself banquet. It was like a high class church buffet. Three kind of meat, a whole table of salad fixings, and bean, corn and chicken soups. And of course rice, plain and with beef. There is no way that we were loosing weight today... MMMM good. It was nice to visit while we gorged ourselves. In our group there were two brits, one other american, a Brazilian, that spoke english and a Basque couple that only spoke spanish. Our guide spoke all three languages and did agreat job of keeping us all informed of what we were seeing and going to do.
After lunch, we were allowed to just walk around the garden, which was filled with flowers and humming birds, parrots, parakeets, and other perching type birds.. There I saw some new species of humming bird. A beautifull swallow tail. Altogeather I saw about 20 species of birds here in the garden. I also found that chiggers were a real problem for me. If you don't know what these little things are you are lucky. They live in the grass and crawl up your legs and find nice war places to dig into your skin. For me they are worst than mosquitoe bites and drive me crazy. I had them all around my ankels and waist. So what you have to do to avoid them is not walk in the grass, where your sock over the cuffs of your long legged pants. So no shorts in this hot weather... The final thing that you do to prevent them from getting on you is to spray repellent on your socks, and around your waste where you've tucked in you shirt and pants. To boot let me tell you that that didn't always work... All through the Pantanal I was chigger bait. Oh, Karla got a couple of bites but not the numbers that I had.
We returned on a very wet muddy road to the hostel, that was an experience I am glad I didn't have to drive Paco through. We slide a number of times but the driver was quite good at saving us from either ditch on the sides of the road. We made it back and had a light supper, needless to say.
3/31-Thurs-A day at the Balenario Municipalidad(20 km
There were two campgrounds in the local area so we were going to go the public swimming hole on the river (Balanerio) swim and keep cool. The temperatures were in the low 90's and the humitiy was 90-100%. So we were not that comfortable. We were drinkng large quantities of water to keep us hydrated, it seemed like you took one step and you were ringing wet from your own sweat. Not fun. But like I said we were adjusting. The mornings were cooler and the only time that it was umbarable was in the mid to late afternoon. The eveings were in the 70s and if you found a nice place without mosquitoes, no grass, then you could take off your shirt and enjoy the cool night breeze if there was one.
So we found the Balanario and paid the entry fee, parked in the shade and headed for the GRASS to lay out under the beautiful shade of a tree. Yes, I got chiggers but didn't know it until late that evening as the heat made the bites fester. We swam, ate lunch and read our books through the hottest time of the day. Then two beautiful Red and green McCaws flew into a tree next to us.. I got a couple of good shots, what a magnificent creature.. Later when we went and bought a couple of beers and french fries, the waiter feed the same bird a handful of sunflower seeds. Karla got some more great shots.
Now we had to go find those campgrounds that we were told about. Packed up and drove out of town and followed the signs to Gordo's camp. We drove almost 6 miles out through the savannah, and when we got there they wanted almost $30. to camp with no internet, we said no and headed back to the municipal campground. We were the only ones there, and found a nice site with electricity for the fridg and in an area with no grass. We set up the bug smoke ring and had a great night.
4/1-Fri-Bonito to Miranda at Posauda do Mondovi(130 kms=82 miles)
We had talked to the Pantanal expert at the Hostel/Danial. He suggested that we should connect with Marcello at Explore Pantanal. I had written them a quick little letter explaining what we wanted to do (camp, bird, and explore) Mirjiam, Marcellos wife wrote back and gave us some great suggestions of what to do and had a nice space to camp on their newly purchased little farm)Fezanda or Posauda. I had told them that we wanted to spend about three days in the area. So they had found a great place to bird with a guide for us. So after we checked out of the Hostel and thanked Danial for the great suggestion, we did some errands in town before we left for Miranda. Gas, Money, and the Internet. Told Mirjiam on the net that we would be arriving in Miranda in the early afternoon if the road was not to bad.
Started out on the paved road from Bonito and thought this is going to be great, about that time the pavement ended, and construction workers stopped our lane of traffic. This road was mostly dirt, and had many sections under construction with delays. About 20 miles from Miranda the pavement began. Found the Mondovi Fezanda along the road east of town. Met Mirjiam and had a great little visit, set up camp and Karla made lunch(a bit late but ????) Marcelo was out and came in later and introduced himself. He is a great and enthusiastic guy. That evening he took us for a short bird walk outside of town, we saw McCaws, Jays, and spinetails. We also were taken to a special Marcelo place to see about 30 Toco Tucans roost for the night. They invited us to dinner with a bbq and we shared some of our good Chilian wine. What a great eveing.
After dinner we talked about the plan for the next couple of days and the prices for all the options available. I really enjoyed this couple, they were excited to share their little part of the world with us. We planned to bird the next day at this ranch(Fezanda). With a guide, and Marcelo was going to come along with us because the guide didn't speak english...
4/2-Sat- Birding at the Fezanda do 23rd do Marco.(50kms
Woke up early to get to the ranch by 6 am. Saw some great birds with our guide from the Ranch. We stopped birding about mid morning after a sighting of white woodpeckers, and some red shouldered parakeets. We stopped because a rain storm was coming and we took shelter. Karla of course was enamored by all the Capibaras in the pond behind the ranch house. The storm lasted for about an hour, so we ended up eating an early lunch, rested. Then started to bird again in the early afternoon. Marcello spent quite a bit of time taking photos of all the birds we saw. We saw about 50 species of birds that day and the capibara, camin. On the drive back to the Moldavia fezanda we saw more macaws fly over, green/red, Hyacinth, and finally a blue and Yellow. These are such magnificent animals.
Marcello and Mirjiam both suggested that the road in Bolivia from the boarder to Santa Cruz was all
newly pave and in good shape. But they didn't know the road conditions further up into the Andes. Karla has been concerned about the road conditions and is an issue to be concerned about. We planned our trip to Cuiaba, and had made contact with a professional birder that we were going to meet.
4/3-Sun-Birding at Mondovi(Mirnda) to truck stop at Bandeirantes(263 kms=164 miles) I birded the Moldavia for a couple of hours and saw some new species, but little access because of water was a problem. This little farm or Posada, was out of Miranda about 25 miles or so out of the flooded part of the Pantanal. This area was also about 200 or 300 feet above the lowest point of the Pantanal. They had told us that the road into the southern portion was under water with the worst flooding since 1990's. The new dam above near Cuiaba had certainly prevented worst flooding.
While getting ready to leave for Cuiaba, Marcello and Mirjiam drove back from town and reported that there was a rodeo happening now in town and this is something that we shouldn't miss. There was a bbq, all you can eat buffet there also. So, we packed up the car and followed them into the Pantaladero roadeo grounds. It was a bussel of activity, the rain had really slowed down the roping because of the pool of water it had formed on the ground. So they were all quite muddy. This was a roping contest, and the horsemen was to lassou the young steer only around the horns. Only about %50 of the time they made it. They all got three trials, and then 3 regular tries. Boy could these men ride and rope. It was exciting to watch. After about an hour of this we all went over to the buffet, I bought food for everyone, because they had been so nice and helpful to us. Rice, beans, salad, and all the meat you could eat, for $6.00 a person.
We finished our meal and said our goodbyes, and thank yous. We drove until just before dark, and stopped at a truck stop for the night.