4/4-Mon- Bandeirantes truck stop to a truck stop just outside of Cuiaba,(645 km=387 miles) Woke early and drove all day through fields and fields of Soy and corn. The land was rich and level for the most part, and the forest had been cleared years ago. As the day began to close in on us, the closer you get to the equator the more equal the day/night hours are. The road at this point seemed to be very good, with few pot holes. The large number of huge trucks on the highway were impressive, as were there size, much longer and seemed to carry a lot of wieght as well. This we did find was the main reason for the wear on the single lane highways. We decided to spend the night at a truck stop, if we could find one just outside of Cuiaba. So, to determine this I used the GPS,which had this highway on it. We found a nice stop with a good restaruant and hot showers, and clean restrooms... We had a nice early evening beer, showered and then had a great dinner.
4/5-Tues-Cuiaba back to the truck stop. Drove into town to contact our Guide, Braulio. I found an internet, and got his phone number and also wrote him an email, telling us of our arrival. I also tried to make arrangements for a meeting place to discuss all the options that we had. We decided that a phone call would also be a good idea, and found a Hotel that let us use their wifi connetion and we called Braulio by skype. He was expecting us and spoke wonderful english. We made arrangements to meet him that afternoon to finallize plans for the Pantanal. We had a couple of hours to kill before our meeting at the hotel we were using the wifi at, and they let us park there and suggested a nice restaruant for lunch just across the street. Again, a buffet, and a wonderful meal.
At 2 Braulio turned up and we had a great visit to get aquainted. He was a terrific find for us, and very adjustable. He had quite a resumee and we were impressed with his command of the english. So we planned a trip, two days in the pantanal, and one day in the area of the Harpy eagle's nest. We would drive and take him along, we agreed on the price and made arrangements for a meeting the next morning.
4/6-Wed-Cuiaba to the Pantanal Km 32 and back to Fezenda Puvial (drove about 100km ) Meet Braulio at the hotel and followed him to his house. We loaded up all his geer into the car and he asked us if we wanted our clothes washed, his wife offered to do that for us, how nice. That day was a wonderful drive to the Transpantanal highway. We stopped a number of times, and birded along the side of the road, into the forest. Braulio, had tapes of all the birds and this was truly a professional guide working hard at bringing in as many different species as he could to show us. I don't think I have ever been so impressed with a guide as I have with Braulio. We then drove out onto the Transpantanal, which is a highway that was about 100km into the Pantanal, the largest wetland in the world. We only drove to about km 32 , and had been able to bird and see as many of the species expected as we could. The biggest excitement was to finally find a Jabiru., a large stork with a jet black head and neck, with a bright red ring around its neck, all on a white body. We watched it for about a half hour, while it fished in the thigh deep water. Braulio had found a fezanda that would allow us to camp and we drove there toward the end of the afternoon. We found an ok camp spot under a tree in the bull pen.
So we went owling back into an island that was part of the ranch. The problem was that the place where Braulio knew that the Mottle owl was, was being excavated for palms. So we didn't see the owl, but did see a number of Paraques on the road duing the walk out.
4/7-Thurs-Fezenda Puvial We woke early walked into another island by road , this had some great looks at more specialties of the Pantanal, wow can Braulio bring in the birds. Antwrens, Jacamars, and a Zizag heron(the most difficult heron to find in South America) We broke for lunch and a siesta, then in the late afternoon we took a boat ride to another island to try again for owls, and to see some other possible mammals that were stranded in the flood. No luck with the mammals, but did see a Great horned owl, good looks at the Brown Casachote, and a beautiful orial.
4/8-Fri-Fezenda Puvial to Harpy Eagle site to Cuiaba then to Chapada de losGuimes . Left the ranch earlly and drove the pot holed road to a lodge that had the Harpy eagle nest. We knew that it was going to be about a 30% chance if that much to see the juvinal but to see the nest was at least a treat. There were some other new species possible as well in this transition forest. We birded in the mid morning and then had lunch. After lunch we took a hike to the nest, it was so dang humid that my clothes were ringing wet, we took full canteens of water and finished them halfway through the trip in.
The nest was impressive, it sat in the center of a huge Cieba tree, about 100 feet up. It had been dismantled, by the parents, to get the juvinal to leave. This nest will be used again, possibly this next Nov, or Dec. We did get good views of other raptors in the area, as well as parrots, and Jacamars. Braulio spent a good two hours trying to tape in the Juvinal, that we knew may be around. I will have commend him for his persistance. After the long walk back to the car in tall grass, we drove the long 100+ kms back to Cuiaba to drop off Braulio. This proved to be a challenging trip because of the horrible pot holes in the road, in the dark. We stopped along the way and adjusted the headlights with cardboard to get the maximum light on the highway. Arrived in Cuiaba after 8 pm and dropped off Braulio, got our clean wash, and said our good byes, and left for the mountains of the Chapada,about 60km from Cuaiaba, found a campground in Chapada do Guiemes, it was a cooler temp and got a good rest that night.
4/9-Sat=Chapada de los Guimes drove to Rio Claro and back to camp , we drove around town and found the road to the tower that I had read about, and looked for birds. Earlier we drove down to the Rio Claro and Karla took a swim in the river. The Chapada is like a high plateau at around 2000 feet that extends to Brazilia, the capital of Brazil.
4/10-Sun -Chapada do Guimes out to the towers,had lunch with a very generous Cuiaban family at their family home overlooking the vast Pantanal.
This is another one of those wonderful stories that make this trip so much fun. While I was walking on the nicely forested road, birding. A young man with his father stopped and warned me that thee men had just walked by and in the direction of Karla (drinking coffee in the sunlight). I told them that she would be fine because I had talked to the men and they were just going to work. In our broken comunication I told them that we were from California and had driven all the way to here. They were impressed and the father invited me and my wife to his house up the road for coffee. I told him we would be there in about an hour. When I got finished birding, I told Karla of the invitation and she goes, cool. So we drove up the road to a huge hacienda and there Marcos was directing us into his beuatiful yard. There were plenty of people around,also. The view from his yard was wonderful-it was a clear day and the entire city of Cuiaba, the Pantanal and a view of the edge of the Chapada as it rose over 1500 ft above. Marcos then tried to introduce his entire family to us, he was so enthusiastic and proud of all 20+ of them. He showed us the 6 bedroom /6 bath place with the 5 stall horse barn.
Then to the City of rock and back to another Campground in the town fo Guimes.
4/11-Mon- Drove around town,shopping,visited a waterfal and back to camp Refugio. On our way to the waterfalls, a man waved to us from his passing car to pull over. He indicated he wanted to talk, so we did. He was so excited to see that we had traveled to his beloved Brazil from the US. He wanted to know where we were going next. When we told him back down to enter Bolivia from the Campo Grande highway, he frowned and suggested that we not go to Bolivia, because people are being killed and robbed on the highway. He offered an alternative that would be exciting and beautiful, you must travel to Peru on the new highway through Porto Velho to Rio Blanco. The roads are good and it is safe. We were stunned. He told us that he had lived in the US and again was so glad for us to visit this part of Brazil. We told him thank you (for the scare of our lives), and would consider this new option.
Of course this was not a new option, because Braulio, our bird guide out of Cuiaba had suggested the same option. Braulio also remined me that the famed parrot clay licks were out of Puerto Maldonado, and we should not miss that. So as we drove to the water fall and had a beer in the sweltering heat we considered all the options. We had gotten good reports of road conditoins in Bolivia, but only to Santa Cruz. Into the high country was not so clear. Karla was not in favor of risking travel in Bolivia. And it would get her to Cusco again. I was on the fence, people all over the world who have not traveled into the country next to them listen to those horror stories and believe them. I am skeptical, our travels in Mexico have never been as bad as some have thought they would be. It is just like not coming to Los Angeles because 30 murders had occurred the previous year. Sure be cautious, but good grief. Well, Karla had a point and was really apprehensive, and it would save us time driving all the way back south to cross into Bolivia. It would get us to Cusco, and me to the Parrot lick... MMMMMM It would be a four or more day drive into the Amazon basin, which ment hot, humid nights. Could we tolerate that?