I arrived in Campo Grande after a very quiet and peaceful fourteen hour bus ride and upon arriving in the bus station was met by a whole load of tour guides offering tours to the pantanal. So within an hour of arriving I have a tour booked to leave that day, have had a shower and a delicious freshly squeezd orange juice and cappucino to boot. It was another six hours journey into the pantanal to our camp, a series of palm thatched huts containing lines of hammocks, a few toilets and showers, no electricity and no hot water but there were palm trees, flocks of broght green parrots with black heads in the trees and a few friendly dogs sniffing around. That evening the group currently staying there had brought sugar cane alcohol and mixed upon two huge watering cans of incredibly strong caiparinhas to drink around the camp fire that evening…after which I slept pretty well in my gently swaying hammock, despite the ongoing scuffling and flapping of mice and bats in the roof!
Over the next three days we would be woken up at dawn (6am, luckily I took off my watch for the whole trip so the time was less of an issue!) by the bell for a breakfast of jam, bread, coffee and huge slices of pineapple and watermelon. We went on early morning walks through the palm forests, wading through thigh deep water (apparently the dry season it´s fairly uncommon to get anacondas, all very well but still deep water that you can´t see into still quickens the pulse) and spotting beautiful blue and green & red macaws, toucans, howler monkeys, coatis peering down at us from between the palm leaves, storks, cormorants, herons, egrets, hawks, vultures, red deer and capybaras or water pigs; these are like giant guinea pigs that make the funniest hiccuping noise when you spot them and literally bounce back into the water. We went swimming in the refreshing river next to the camp which is full of caiman and aligators but our guides assured us that it was safe. Then in the evenings we would have dinner and sit drinking beer and chatting around the fire until one by one everyone would drift off exhausted to sleep in the hammocks.
The second day we went piranha fishing, well I say fishing, piranha feeding would be a more accurate description. You get your bamboo rod, lace some tender red meat onto the hook at the end and then flick it out into the river. Thankfully this is not a sport that requires much patience. Within seconds you feel the line beginning to pull and one of two things then happen. Usually you pull it out to discover that the fish have cleaned the hook completely of meat and you are totally empty handed or as happened to me you get a huge tug and eagerly whip out the line to find a particularly large piranha has bitten off the whole hook! But sometimes you get lucky as out pops the line with a round, sharp toothed angry looking fish squirming away on the end. I caught a far number but all but two were too small to eat so I had to grasp the fish firmly and placing my fingers perilously close to the biting mouth pull out the hook and toss back the fish. A risky process and the frech guy Remhi´s hand attested to by the end of the morning! We deep fried the piranhas and had them for lunch on a farm, they were delicious, all the more so for the fact that we´d caught all of them ourselves! After an afternoon siesta in hammocks slung between the palms we went horse riding through the meadows. We waded through rivers, watched flocks of birds startle up from the pink blossomed trees and even spotted a giant black ant eater nosing his way through the dust. A huge improbable looking animal with a huge fan like tail swishing from side to side and a long nose searching out lines of marching ants. On the way home four of us decided to put the horses to the test, despite the collective lack of experience between us, and went galloping across the fields, my crazy cowgirl hat bouncing up and down on my head, it was brilliant. The horses knew they were on the way home and once we´d got them going would only finally slow to a trot when we reached their pen!
After four days in the wild it is somewhat of a shock to suddenly be in Sao Paulo, I´ve gone from a forest of palms and open stretches of wetlands to a forest of skyscrapers and people. Actually though I quite like Sao Paulo, it is such a racial melting pot, every colour and variation right along the dulex colour chart with the added benefit that everyone thinks I´m Brazilian, which is cool. Unfortunately as soon as I open my mouth and a stumbling mixture of portuguese and spanish comes tumbling out it is rather apparent that, despite appearances, I´m not from round here! Looking forward to bed tonight though as I´ve been in Brazil for five days and so far I´ve slept in buses and in hammocks but not in a bed!