|Bidding the Atlantic coast goodbye, but not farewell, we headed inland towards the huge mass of Amazonian bush that seems to take up the whole of the middle of South America. We went to the Pantanal, a huge open swampland about the size of France, roughly 200,000 square km. It was the rainy season, although it didn’t actually rain when we were there, at least on us. I say not on us because often you could hear thunder and see lighting dancing in evil black clouds on the horizon, but it never reached us. It did mean, however, that there were mosquitoes everywhere, since there was so much flooding. Up until this point on the trip, we’ve established that mozzies and other biting brethren like Georgie a lot but don’t like me. Georgie seems to get bitten by things about thirty seconds after walking outside, but my general stench and filthy hygiene has made me undesirable to the bug community. Until now. I didn’t get bitten until one day when we went hunting for anacondas in a swamp up to our knees, and the air was black with the winged fiends and I did sustain some bites, but nothing too severe. Gutting, and akin to how Superman feels in Superman 2 when he loses his powers and is suddenly very human and susceptible to the multitude of human mishap.
Anyway, the Pantanal is a real ecological niche and has things that you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a wildlife haven, a bit like going on safari in Africa, although with swamps and flooded rivers galore. We did numerous walking treks into the bush, a boat trip down the river; we went horse riding through bush/swamps/lakes – wet and fun! We also went tubing down a river, where we’d seen crocs ten minutes earlier, and I spent most of my time in the river as I got bored of sitting in the tube so tried to surf it, but it’s hard to stand up on. Got within a few feet of lots of caiman, which was cool. Went piranha fishing, but didn’t catch anything. Saw loads of birds – the place is a bird haven – including parrots, toucans (the most well endowed beaks of any feathered fiend), Kingfishers, Giant red necked storks – (known locally as Jabaru and are the symbol of the Pantanal) and dozens of other bright and exotic birds that I (shamefully – Dad, I’m sorry!) had no idea what they are but looked jolly nice. We saw lots of monkeys, wild pigs, lots of Capybaras, the world’s largest rodents and quite a bit more. The only thing we didn’t see, that I was very annoyed about, is anacondas, and this place is a haven for them. Some of these slippery assailants grow up to 10 metres long and have bodies the thickness of a tree. Even using myself as bait in the deadly rivers, not one of them showed up. Crushing! However, I did manage to find a slightly smaller snake to get attached to...
Anyway, it was a good experience and afterwards we moved down to a place on the outskirts of the Pantanal, called Bonito. The town is basically like many middle of nowhere towns, sprawling in its empty ubiquitous poo. However, it’s a base to go swimming in some of the clearest fish filled rivers in the world. Sadly, we got there and were rained upon for several days with the sort of vengeance that is only seen between Australian truck drivers and Cane Toads. When it finally stopped, the rivers had all flooded with mud and so were closed – closed because it’s in a national park and it’s very ecological so you can’t even where sunscreen in the river. Luckily there are lots of cool waterfalls nearby so we went swimming in quite a few of those and even got to do a bit of cliff jumping which was nice.
By the time we’d finished we felt warmed up for the main event in this area, a waterfall to end all waterfalls. It was time to confront Iguacu and see if we were worthy, assuming Georgie didn’t die of excitement first...