Note: The map function on my website does not reflect the route I took from Asuncion to Campo Grande. Be sure to check the Asuncion entry for my trip up the Rio Paraguay.
I experienced a startling revelation when I crossed the Paraguay/Brazilian border and realized, my God, they don~t speak Spanish in Brazil! The ease of blissful travel in Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay was quickly diminished as I realized, um, I can~t even ask where the bathroom is here. The reality of not knowing the language makes it much more difficult to find your way back to the hostel when you get lost and everyone, including the motorcycle taxi driver, looks at you dumbfounded when trying to explain where you want to go. I was frustrated at first but soon remembered that not knowing what you~re ordering off the dinner menu is another sort of adventure.
I was quickly attacked by tour guides offering me
I took around 5 minutes to choose my tour guide (a real scrutinizing consumer here) and the next day was off on a five hour 4x4 romp to our base camp. Sporadic, violent rainfall, crocodiles, toucans, and capybarras on the ride in got me thinking the Pantanal was going to be an even better place than Disneyworld~s Animal Kingdom for wildlife spotting (and that is saying something).
Despite the fact that the Pantanal hosts the largest concentration of wildlife in the New World, the elusive buggers are still difficult to come across (I expected dancing jaguars and talking parrots) and much of the time was spent swatting mosquitoes while they slowly turned me into a walking chicken pock. That said, I saw more species of wildlife in three days than ever before: Toucans, macaws, capybaras, quatis, deer, crocodiles, snakes, parrots (i actually did see a talking parrot), and even the elusive anteater.
I enjoyed my group members company so much I graciously gifted them healthy portions of cow heart around the waist region while piranha fishing in crocodile and sting ray infested waters. Oooops, dropped another one, careful there!
Despite the psychosis induced by thrice daily Deet showers, I came away relatively unscathed from close encounters with stepping on poisonous snakes, petting crocodiles, riding rabid horses, navigating blinding rain storms and standing in waste deep, piranha infested water with cow meat in my front pocket (wow, that was dumb).