On Tuesday morning, we left our hotel in Rio, and were transported to the airport that handles domestic flights. From there we took LATAM Airlines: first to Sao Paulo, then a 45 minute layover, and on to Cuiaba, a few hundred miles inland, and the gateway to the Pantanal. This is the largest wetland area in the world, so there are lots of varieties of bird life and unusual plants. And it is very hot and humid, though (in my opinion), not as hot as Bangkok. There are mosquitoes too, which are about as prevalent as those we get in northern Michigan in late June. None of this was a surprise to us, but it doesn't make us any more comfortable with it.
We were met at the airport, where an English speaking guide explained that we'd have a 2.5 hour drive to Araras Eco-Lodge. The driver knew a minimal amount of English, which was helpful when we stopped for lunch. The lodge is small (10 rooms) and all-inclusive. Right now there are only 4 guests here: us and two other guys who live in Florida and NY. The food is very good – fresh and good variety. We have a guide, Roberto, who has now taken us on two walks around the property, on boardwalks which lead to observation towers. They are a bit like fire towers we have climbed in the States.
Our room is adequate – tile floors, a decent bed, small table and bench, nightstands with reading lamps and lots of shelves to store our stuff. The hot water is heated with solar power, and we were warned that we will want to adjust the shower water before we hop underneath. They were right - the hot water is really hot! We have control of the air conditioner, and there is also a ceiling fan. But we have to keep the bathroom door closed since the windows there are permanently open – there are screens to keep out bugs, with slats to keep out rain. There are small gaps at the top and bottom of front door, and it was noted in the guest info book that we may find some very small frogs or geckos inside the room. They like to hide out during the heat of the day, and hunt for insects at night. They are not poisonous, so when one dropped onto the bed when I turned on the light this morning, I screamed a little bit, but then picked it up with a small towel and moved it outside. They are only about ¾ inch long, and they are harmless. The info book says this: "You may also name them, but if you kiss them, beware as you might meet your prince or princess!"
In front of the reception area we can get internet easily (not in the bedrooms), and we also have some resident wildlife. There is a large colorful macaw that is so tame that it will sit of the back of a bench about a foot away from a person. And a family of capybara comes around to check out the new guests, and eat the droppings from the mango tree. A capybara is a very large rodent, with webbed feet so they can swim easily. This group is so tame and cuddly-looking that I have to remind myself that they are not pet dogs!