The Pantanal – Pirahnas & Capirihnas.

15 Mar

Travelling with a partner for several months means you get to spend a lot of time together…. as with the places we’ve visited, we now know more about each other…. this morning’s discovery is that I have just found out that Kelly (former resident of Melbourne, the cultural and fashion capital of Australia) really, really likes her and I in matching outfits… hmm…

Sat next to each other on the minibus from Campo Grande to Buraco das Pirahna in a pair of crisp, white, ‘Pousada Santa Clara’ T-Shirts she can barely contain her excitement, she is thrilled, somewhat in contrast to my unimpressed demanour. Never really much of a fan of being told what to do; I am even less thrilled at being told what to wear, especially if it is matching apparel!

Changing to an open backed truck which will take us the final 25k’s to the ranch on the  outskirts of the Pantanal (a swamp like area in Brazil which is bigger than the UK) we are sat with Carrie & Sean a pair of Brits who may shortly be moving to Brighton plus Bailey & Steve, she’s a Canadian and he’s a fellow biker from Australia – there is plenty to talk about as we bump along the dusty road whilst frantically applying layer after layer of mossie repellant. Fellow travellers we’ve met have told us of mosquitos big enough to whisk away a small child, other fauna we hope to see (and our collective reason for heading out this way) includes Caiman, Pirahna and Capybara with the outside chance also of spotting a Jaguar.

Arriving at the Santa Clara lodge we quickly drop our bags amongst the assembled wild pigs, parakeets & macaws, it feels slightly like a stage-managed welcome commitee. We quickly decide to take a walk in the failing light to the pousada’s campground as we’ve heard that the drinks are cheaper, and that there are Caiman in the river – 2 Capirinhas later and we’re gamely stood on the banks counting the pairs of reflecting eyes looking back at us – ‘ there can’t be that many in there can there?’

Tip – yes there can…

Day 2 dawns and we’re up early, Pirahna fishing beckons; led by our enigmatic and softly spoken guide, Nicola, we quietly float downstream on the Rio Miranda (as the motor is broken) passing dozing Capybaras (the largest rodent on the planet and apparently not bad eating) until we come to our fishing spot.

We’re told that whatever we catch, we can eat for dinner; it seems that perhaps Kelly is still hungry from breakfast as she catches the first Pirahna, followed quickly by another 2, passing them in rapid succession to our guide to be removed from the hook or occassionally tossed to the resident caiman.

On our way back to the pousada the boat stops so we can cool off with a swim, yes in the same river the pirahna came from and caiman are resident – I can offer no explanation other than in such circumstances when getting mauled on the bank by mosquitos, swimming seems like a good idea – especially if as a gentleman, one insists on ‘ladies first’..

After lunch we’re taken for a nature walk by Nicola who by now is almost completely silent – it’s like watching a nature documentary with the sound turned off as we trek in the heat, spotting howler monkeys aloft in the branches and almost walking straight past a trio of Caiman sheltering from the sun under a tree.

Health and safety regs are a touch looser in the Pantanal as with no guidance from our guide, and paying no heed to her boyfriend, one of us edges closer and closer towards the largest specimen until with a gutteral growl she is sent bounding for cover. Now you see her…

…. and now you don’t…

The next morning we’re again up early, this time for horse-riding, we’re both excited at the prospect of another ride but it is perhaps predictably little more than an extended nose to tail walk with H & S directives dictating that we don Bob the Builder hats as protection.

We have the afternoon off – I decide to spend it constructively simulating Caiman attacks in the pool…

… before we head off for another nature walk – this time we get especially close to nature; our friend Sean gets stung by a bee and I get a-ticked by a determined tick which refuses to be singed off with a cigarette; Nicola has to resort to twisting it off, a hard bastard, the tick refuses to give up the ghost until stomped on 3 times. After dinner we head to the campsite drinking Caprihnas until we’re asked to leave – we stagger back for our last nights kip at the lodge.

Slightly dusty and perhaps a little blase we head out for our last activity at the ranch – Pirahna fishing from the banks of the river, this time though we are doing it in front of 2 hungry resident Caiman – whose instincts can’t help but follow the flapping fish towards and then onto the shore; it is great fun – a bit like playing with a predictable hound. Again somebody’s nerve holds for a while with our toothy friends… and then snaps, sending her bounding again for higher ground!

Before we know it our time in the Pantanal is over, we didn’t see any Jaguars nor any Anacondas – realistically you’d need to head further into the sticks to have a better chance, but we’re not disappointed – how could we be – we got to play with the Caiman this morning and of course got to wear matching T-Shirts. From here we’re trucked, bussed and then flown from Campo Grande over the border to Bolivia, landing bleary eyed at 2am with a new country to get explore.

Cheers for now

Matt x

Authors Note:- It seems that when packing to leave the Pantanal my Pousada Santa Clara T-Shirt accidentally got left behind.

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