August 10, 2010 – August 11, 2010
Campo Grande was a big hot sweaty non descript town that had an airport. We tracked down a Japanise Soba noodle resterante ( large ammounts of Japanise emergrated to Brazil in the 1880s form Okinawa.) The 72 year old fat owner seemed very proud of his bowl of noodles which came with sherred meet,egg and spring onion, and spent most of the time we were there resting his hands on our table to give his knees a rest. Lifting his saggybrows and exclaming "goooood" with an expression wanting us to return the compliment. The dish was a change from the usual Brazilian rice and beans but it did not hit the spot and not enough to put Campo Grande on the map. We took the flight to Cuiba
Tur 12th August We left Bonito and went to Cuiaba for one night. When we arrived at our hotel we knocked on the door and a dog started barking so loudly so we expected a massive dog to come bounding round the corner. but instead a tiny little dog came shuffling with white fur and a pink pow in its hair.
Not being a superstitious family we did not realise it was the morning of Friday 13th when we arrived at Cuiaba airport on the morning flight from our overnight stay in Campo Grande. We were met by an extremely fat man with no front teeth. He spoke little English but told us his French was fluent. We have to take this on trust as he also told us Joel Souza (who had arranged our trip to the Pantanal) would arrive soon. This proved false. 3 hours later when Joel at last turned up we were unsure why we had waited as we barely said hello and then were packed off with the same fat man and an equally extraordinarily fat boy (who would have made a great Tweedledee if he had a brother) to drive for us. We were in a mini bus with a lovely Spanish couple and two very nice young German students who had also been waiting with us at the airport. Every 3 minutes of the first hour the fat man handed the fat boy a large boiled sweet and ate one himself. Now we knew what had happened to his teeth. They talked in Portugese the whole time and ignored us tourists in the back. Portugese, the language, has surprised me. In my ignorance I had expected that since geographically Portugal is next to Spain its language would sound something like Spanish. Instead, to me it seems like a sing-song mixture of Dutch and Indonesian, completely incomprehensible to my untrained ear. This was a shock from which I am only slowly recovering after a week in Brazil. Also the Brazilian men seem to lift their voices unnaturally high in conversation (which they don't do when speaking English). This with the frequent use of the "ngow" sound in a rising tone gives a whiney, petulant feeling of discontent to any overheard conversation. An hour down the road when we switched drivers we met Tweedledum. "This is his brother" said the fat man slowly in explanation. He was equally fat and with an even higher voice and he drove at nearly twice the speed though we had now reached the dirt road, the Transpantaneria. Joel had told us we would meet two guides at the first Pousada (lodge) and then be taken on as two smaller parties of 4 and 4. At the lodge, 2 hours down the Transpantaneria, there was Alex, but only Alex, so we would have to continue as a large group. Also the minibus (new 6 days ago) broke down. It was another 5 hours and the sun had set before a car arrived to collect us from the Puma lodge a further 50 km down the same dirt road. The car was only partially enclosed and designed for daytime safaris, not night time transport on one of the coldest nights of the year. There was a little jostling for position about who should have the indoor seats. All the others would have been happy for me to sit inside with the children, but Harry and Lisa had seen the opportunity of some excitement and possible danger in the dark so insisted that we should sit out on top. It was freezing cold, very dusty and bumpy. We sat backwards with our legs dangling close to the exhaust pipes watching the road disappear into the distance behind us and whooping each time we crossed a rickety rackety wooden bridge. For the first hour it was OK and we sang loud songs with feeling, but then the cold got through to our bones and all that was possible for the next 2 hours was silent endurance. Just before we arrived we managed to squeeze Lisa into the back seat of the cab with the Spanish couple, Elisa and Elias as we were worried about her becoming hypothermic. Our bad luck continued into the following day with the cold weather as no jaguars came to keep cool at the water's edge during our 3 hour boat trip up the river Cuiaba. Instead we sat on our plastic chairs and got colder and colder whilst the sun was setting behind the forest.