August 3, 2010 – August 10, 2010
Tur 5th August We arrived at Bonito after an over night train and a 6 hour bus journey about which a slightly camp guy whom we met on the train said that 24hours on your bums isn't the best thing for you! We got to our hotel in the dark so we couldn't see much. The person who was showing us round said, "Look, the toucan is sleeping here instead of outside because it is the coldest day of the year." Mum and I just thought to ourselves, "Yer right! He is just pulling our leg. That is not a real toucan it's just a soft toy. But then it began to move and let out a rattling noise like someone shaking a wardrobe with loads of pencils in. Fri 6th August At breakfast we saw the toucan in the light. He was black with a white breast with a red bottom. His eye, in the middle was a deep black then a thin circle of blue then a bright orange flubbery ring on the outside of that. His beak looked so plastic it looked like someone had painted a piece of plastic and stuck it on and if someone had I think the toucan would've never forgiven him because he obviously did not like it because every so often he would hit it against a chair and then start madly trying to scratch it off. That day I only ate half of my breakfast because as soon as you get your breakfast and sit down next to the pool the monkeys have already joined forces with the rhea and they come and steal whatever they can before the cook comes out and shoos them away. Sat 7th August We left the hotel at 9am and went to a place that owned a part of a river. We pulled on our wet suits and snorkels and waddled along a board walk to a ledge and one after the other we dived in. The water was so clear that you could easily see the shapes and sizes of all the fishes that swim in and out of the weed and come so close to you that i touched some. At the end we found a zip wire and we zip wired off into the freezing cold water. Sun 8th August i staid at home while every body else went snorkelling again. Mon 9th August Today we went walking in a jungle and every so often we would dive into a flowing water fall then running back out again because "it was to cold" but as soon as we got back out we would warm up instantly. Before the end we climbed up 867 steps. D: On the way back we saw a giant-anteater and because the wind was blowing the opposite way i could go so close and then i noticed that there on its back was a baby! Tue 10th August We abseiled down a 80m cave where we met a lake at the bottom which went an other 80m down. When we were at the bottom we snorkelled around the lake which had stalagmites but they were made in the water so they were called con..y...eeon.. ok i have no idea what they were called but they were... AWESOME!!!!!!! On the way up you had to pull yourself up the rope so i went half way and collapsed so they had to pull me up. :( Wed 11th August Today we went down the streams in rubber rings and every so often we would come to a little waterfall and the first one was the biggest and every one fell of!
It's difficult writing this as I made the mistake of reading Lyn's and Lisa's account. It seems a little silly repeating much the same but to only add bits that they have not, would make it disjointed.But lets have ago. Brazil seems 4 times the price of Bolivia. We had opted for a standard 4 people room at the Hotel Cabanos and retrospectively we should have been doing this at every hotel/hostel a long the way. We seemed to only use the room for sleeping in. Breakfast see above . "Rio da Prata." They were constructing a road between two remote towns and the one and half hour journey on a corrugated dirt track seemed to parallel this for most of the time. This was real mans country and I could imagine Martin, Gary and Meg's Phill "Lets go and build a bridge today." Catapiler diggers, earth spreaders,crushers were all just getting on with it . I suppose this is modern day frontier land. Chop down trees, torch the rest,build a couple of roads and bring in a lot of beef cattle. The water in many rivers around Bonito is crystal clear. Something about filtering from ancient limestone then any organic mater is precipitated out by dissolved calcium carbonate. What ever the reason it is like snorkelling in a dentists aquarium. You float down these shallow crystal clear rivers with tropical forests above the waterline and colourful fish below it. I loved getting a view of half and half through my mask. The warm spring water would bubble up through the sand and gently float you down occasionally bumping you into a fallen tree.Sometimes we mimicked gravity free outer space by holding on to the ankle of the person in front and letting the current gently float us down. Then a "cowboys lunch" at the ranch that owned the nearby river and a sleep in one of the many hammocks. It was so lovely, the heat in the mid to the high thirties but dry as well. The view from the horizontal position in the shade with a can of passion fruit (oddly made by coca-cola) some how took me to a modern day Zimbabwe with a different history and this was still a cattle ranch up country in a colonial Rhodesia in 2010. Views of the heavy cast iron pots full of rice , beans, meaty stews, manioc(sticky potato)and fried banana all kept warm on this massive cooking range fed by flaming pieces of wood.(I would like to buy one of these for Andy Spooner's Birthday) Turning my head I could see dried grass fields into the horizon scatted with Indian style white cows with humps,red tall pyramidal shaped termite mounds which had the same shape of the piles of cheese on the moon in that Wallace and Grommet film that we see at Christmas from the sofa. Woods on sides of stony hills where the ground is not good enough to bother clearing the elegant tropical trees. Out on the plain, they have left individual tall pink trumpet trees as shade for the cattle , the flowers food for troops of monkeys that pass through. Each of these "ranches" would have a Corral of wooden planks for bringing in the cattle for branding or anything else they wanted to do to them. One had a large rusting sign with "Currell" over its entrance. Some cowboys took off on their horses all dressed up with those leather trouser things followed by a Toyota Landcruser pickup as my eyes closed again in the afternoon heat. On the way home as the sun dipped and the red termite mounds got redder still, the van would suddenly come to a skid in the dust. "Giant ant eater", and we would all bail out and run after this lumbering animal who had been peacefully doing his evening rounds of his territory's termite hills.That evening we ate Paccu fish ribs and chips. The big black fish that we has seen flaoting past that day was so bigg that you could eat "spare ribs". "Boca de Onca" was another gobsmacking day through forrest and rivers. The calcium in the water produced "showcave" formations on the waterfalls and rivers. Leaves caught on the edge of little dams got all glued up by the calcium carbonate and quickly produced stalactite formations but formed in years and not tens of centuries. We came to a river flowing out of a low ceiling cave. Our guide said that we could swim through the cave to beyond. We were dripping with sweat so changed into our trunks and slid into the cold water. There must have only been a foot clearance between the roof of the cave and the water. A rope floated on the suface and we puled ourselves along and to my joy entered a second cave that opened up to reveal a large waterfall tumbling into deep pool. I have always wanted this after seeing a black and white film when I was really small of the 2 main characters swimming into a cave. Another waterfall was 240 feet tall with the water never really reaching the pool at bottom but instead turning into a fine spray. All a bit "Indiana Jones and the temple of doom" as hundreds of turkey vultures circled above, attracted by the thermals and smalls caves. The surface of the waterfall was this cascading calcium deposit making it look like it should be Cheddar Caves and not out side in the deep blue Brazilian sky. Half way up the rock formed what looked like a Jaguars face with a cave as its mouth Only 18 people at day go into the "Abismo de Anhumas". Its a 240 foot absail into deep cave then a long way up on a single rope. The night before we trained to do the absail and more importantly learn the technique to climb the rope out of the cave. It was like a modern day "Prusuc knot" mechanism. You were connected to it by a rope and were able to sit in a harness to have a rest. One hand would pull the mechanism up the rope which was connected to a sling for your feet, You then stood up on the sling, the mechanism not slipping down the rope. This was repeated and you "climbed up the rope". Lyn decided not to do this after all. The thought of absailling through a small cave opening up into a large cavern, then climbing up a rope freaked her a bit ,but the kids were up for it. The next day we all whizzed into the cavern through a tiny hole in the top. Like a lot of enjoyable things it all happened a bit to quickly. It seemed a long way down, a hot metal bit on your hands and then you were at the bottom. I found myself standing on a wooden platform floating in a dark lake. Above was this huge limestone cavern illuminated by rays of sunlight entering a small cave mouth high above. Stalagmite formations cascaded down the sides in cathedral organ pipes and waterfalls with the suns beams making odd shadows hiding behind. Eary stalagmite columns lumed up from the darkness below, the water continued another 200 feet as we were told that we were only half way down the cave. We squeezed into the full length wetsuits provided and jumped in. There was just enough light from above to illuminate the cave formations below. Harry wheeled the flashlight into the darkness like a star wars light sabre to fight off the bad guys that had turned to stone. The water was still incredibly clear so strangely evan though the light was not strong you had visibility of 30 meters(they told us). There was a wait now as others climbed up the rope and out into the heat above. We were last out. Absailing in was fun but climbing out was evan better. The rope was long enough too be stretchy so on the way up you sort of bounced with each "step". Every 20 steps or pulls it was good to have a rest. You had time now to really appreciate that you were a .... of a long way up. The feeling of bouncing up and down on a single thin rope made it feel all the more precarious as the wooden platform below got smaller and smaller. I felt tiny like a small money spider climbing up a single strand of silk as the vast expanse of the cavern disappeared below.
Saturday 7th August We arrived in the evening on Thursday 5th August to Bonito in Mato Grosso de Sul. It was the coldest day of their year. We have the hotel virtually to ourselves. They have large grounds of jungle criss-crossed with board walks on which to explore. The border is marked by a river on each side and there are a number of swinming holes, some by waterfalls. Yesterday was like an English summer day but today is hotter and more tropical and they say it will warm up from now on. Hotel Cabanas has many animal guests who are free to come and go as they please but generally come to take our breakfast. The Toucan and the Rhea are generally very polite, the Rhea tiptoes over coyly while the Toucan (called Freddy) hops from perch to perch, peeping out his massive beak from behind parasols or the backs of chairs. Then they each wait patiently for us to choose what they may have but the Rhea likes hunks of papaya while the Toucan prefers cake, though he has to clean his bill in the swimming pool afterwards. There are also two great macaws, one red and blue and the other blue and yellow. They have a white roll each and then turn the garden tap on for a drink as they don't like the taste of swimming pool water. But the capuchin monkeys are rude. They scurry over to us, watch for the right moment and then snatch at anything they can reach, not caring if the crockery gets broken or the drinks spilt. Then they swing back up into the trees with their booty and stare down resentfully at us as they bite into our breakfast, guarding it jealously from further attack. Later in the day we can meet an armadillo who comes for the dog food left out for the Rhea. He is much less like a tortoise than I had expected and more like a cross between a small brown badger and a Norman soldier i chain mail. He eats noisily, smacking his lips with his paws tipping the bowl up over his snout. When disturbed he makes a disgruntled burbling sound like a submerged town mayor trying to sing. The garden birds are glorious here too, especially the kiskadee, a yellow chested fly catcher with a striped head and a raucous call too loud for its size. Today we went for a flotation, snorkelling in a clear natural spring and down a river amongst massive fish, unafraid of us as no-one is allowed to catch them. Then we swam in a cooler pool under waterfalls while Harry, Lisa and Will took turns on a zip wire that drops you into the centre of the pool. It was a lovely day, and it seems unreal to be in the middle of all this lush green vegetation in the heat. Have we really left the beautiful, freezing , barren mountain plains behind at last? Tuesday 10th August The area around Bonito is a paradise. Each of our last 2 days has been extraordinarily beautiful. On Sunday we went to the Rio Prato and snorkelled from the source where warm, clear water bubbled up through pale sand down to the cooler, deeper, slower part of the river where huge fish, the size of a suitcase hid under the roots of trees on the banks and generally ignored us. The little fish were more interested and whenever I stopped moving in the water they would nibble my mosquito bites. We had been assured that the pirrhanas in this stream were tiny and purely nocturnal, but nevertheless this was clear evidence of a taste for human blood. More unnerving still was the story we heard when back at the Fazenda, enjoying our buffet lunch. Two groups after us, when standing chest-deep in the river at the start, the people had seen a 2 metre+ long Anaconda swim amongst them and around their legs. Also 4 groups behind us the guide had pointed out 2 jacare=caimen=small crocodiles lying in the water like logs as the group floated past at some speed. Yesterday, if possible, was even more beautiful; billed as a walk with waterfalls, it was so much more extraordinary. The surrounding farmland was stunning and broad with spreading coarse grassland peopled with white, humped indian cattle (imported from Goa by the Portugese to withstand the heat?). There was great variety in the tries, lots of palms but also different types of tall hardwood, some deciduous and some flowering, all unfamiliar and exotically interesting. The bare branches of the deciduous trees reminded us that although it was hotter than our summer at home this was their winter! The walk took us down into a ravine in thick forest but on a network of paths kept clear of debris for ease of walking and to eliminate underfoot hazards like sleeping snakes. We were told that 3 months ago a jaguar had been spotted in the forest. We stepped downwards on wooden stairs and over streams on boardwalks. The rock had been created by the water, a mixture of organic matter such as dead leaves and calcium carbonate, and it formed great canopies from which the water fell as from an umbrella. Then there were pools to swim in, a blissful rest from the tropical heat. In one clear pool we could swim through a cave entrance to find the inside open to the sky high above with a tall waterfall splashing into the centre of the pool. There was also swimming in a wide green lake and then lastly under the Boca de Onca waterfall (mouth of the Puma). This was a waterfall from an impossibly high cliff with a rock formation suggestive of a big cat's face and a hundred circling vultures so high above us they looked tiny as they nested in the cliff face. We then climbed the 837 wooden steps to finish. By the time I reached the top my hair that had been soaked by my swim was completely dry again. Each evening on the way home in the minibus we have stopped to see giant anteaters sucking up ants from the red termite mounds that be-pimple the fields. Each alone unless a mother with a baby on her back, they look comical with their long snouts and massive feather duster curtain of a tail as they lollop away from us. Today I'm enjoying the hotel facilities as last night at the training session I discovered that I would be completely unable to go with my family today. They are abseiling 80 metres down into a cave and then snorkelling around stalagmites in an underground lake there, a further 80 metres deep!