We arrived in Bonito from Pantanal late on Tuesday afternoon to be greeted by a rather great hostel with a lovely pool and hammock to relax on. We were given a talk on what can be done here activities wise, and they insist on people having a guide at all attractions. Which is a good way to hike up the prices somewhat. Pretty much all the activities involved some form of swimming and well as I can just about manage to not drown for somewhere between 5 and 10m that was somewhat of a concern to me! Everyone booked onto a snorkling tour down a really clear river, so I just kinda followed suit after being assured if you can’t swim much you’ll be fine with a life vest.
Bonito itself is quite a small town with one main street with all the shops and restaurants on but generally not a great deal going on. We headed out to down for dinner on Wednesday evening headed for a place called the Pantanal which had a bunch of animals on offer that are mainly exclusive to the area, but unfortunately the place was closed, so we ended up somewhere else with the standard Brazilian affair of a meat plus rice which is starting to grate on me a little, as that’s all they seem to have every meal.
Wednesday we headed down to this snorkling trip. It was a good 40 minute drive or so from the hostel and along the way we saw a pretty random Aardvark which was running rather bizarrely and then sprinted across the road infront of the truck! The place which runs the snorkling was really nice with hammocks and a good lunch put on. Then we all had to squeeze into the wet suits before taking a truck close to the start of the river, but to reach the entry point required a further 20 minute walk. They had a little training area for people to orientate themselves before you head on down the river, and after getting sorted I had to figure out the breathing through the snorkel. Breathing is the thing I struggle with most while swimming. With a life jacket it was really easy to float along, and after a little while I managed to get the breathing sorted, although it really dried out my throat mind! After going round the little lake in the training area the life jacket was causing my lower left rib quite a bit of pain, I’ve been having problems with it for the past 2 weeks. Anyway a larger life jacket and loosing my wet suit a bit seemed to give it enough space to be okay. Once we started floating down the river it was pretty amazing. The water was crystal clear and we could see absolutely loads of fish! The first section was pretty easy going until the end. We had to stop due to an impending waterfall and the water at the end really sped up a lot. I went in wrong and ended up scraping my legs all over the rocks, and then once I got out of the water I had really bad cramp in both my feet.
The second part started at the other side of the waterfall and the initial part was almost like a little rapid and there isn’t much you can do other than just let the water carry you through and try to avoid any rocks in the water! It was pretty cool but I was just more concerned about getting through it okay to be honest! The trouble with wearing a life jacket is that it’s actually really hard to properly swim. You just end up spinning round in circles instead of trying to deviate off the current of the river. There was one section where a pretty big log blocked the path and we had to dive under the log and out the other side. It was only about 3ft below the water, but then the water was only about 5ft deep so to get under wasn’t all that easy! After a while longer I took the last 500m by boat as the river we were on joined a bigger and deeper river which had much less of a current making swimming hard work and really slow. All in all we must have been in the water for about 2 hours or so, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kristian on the trip hired an underwater camera and Elissa’s camera is suitable for scuba diving, so big thanks to those guys for the pictures which appear from this here!
After sorting ourselves out we headed to this bird sinkhole which was nearby. Here there were loads of Macaws which are like a parrot. When we arrived we were greeted by one in a tree in the car park. As everyone started crowding around taking pictures it decided to start showing off and then flew down to a car next to everyone and started posing as people took pictures! When we went inside the place we were split into two groups and started a walk around this big hole in the ground. Literally about a 150m deep hole in the ground with a 800m circumference with the cliff sides being as red as at the Grand Canyon. There were maybe 30 or 40 Mccalls around along with a few other birds, and to add to that the lighting as it was nearing dusk was absolutely superb.
With everyone in a really upbeat mood we headed back with a quite superb sunset going on and I managed to take some superb pictures. But then as we were on a dirt road on the way back (not all roads are paved in this area of brazil), the fan belt on the truck came off. At first they thought it had just come off and could be quickly be replaced, but it quickly became apparent that it was snapped, and they didn’t have a backup, as the original had only been replaced when the truck was driven over from Santiago a week earlier. After attempts at a makeshift replacement failed they realised that they couldn’t fix it and phoned a mini bus to pick us all up. The leaders had to drive the truck for a short time and then stop once the engine temperature rised too much and wait for it to cool down before trying again. We got back to the hostel about 2 hours later than planned and then swiftly ordered 12 burgers from the kitchen at nearly 10pm! That said Tony and Ruddy didn’t get back until 2am!
After the exploits of Wednesday I decided to just make Thursday a chill out by the pool day, and as such there really isn’t much to talk about. However in the evening we did finally make it to the Pantanal restaurant where we tried a selection of “exotic” foods which are fairly unique to the area. Five of us clubbed together and got 3 or so big dishes and had a bit of all of them. We tried Caymen (A small Alligator), Dourado (Fish) and Capivura (A very large rodent!). The fish was covered in a white sauce masking the taste quite a lot, and the Caymen was rather salty, but it was interesting to taste them all and I quite liked them all too.