When we were researching our next border crossing we discovered that the border bisected a town with one half in Brazil and one half in Paraguay. There was no border crossing as such and people just freely crossed between the two. As a foreigner to both countries though we had to be stamped out of Paraguay and into Brazil. We also discovered that the Brazilian side was only open Monday to Friday. Having originally planned on entering Brazil on a Saturday we decided to bring our plans forward slightly so we did not have to spend all weekend in a border town. It was relatively easy finding the relevant control points to have our passports stamped. It was even easier bringing the truck into Brazil as it is not necessary to get any paperwork or the usual temporary import permit. We also crossed back and forward over the border a few times just like the locals. As we could not find a money changer on the Brazilian side we just crossed back over to Paraguay and filled the truck up with diesel to use up our remaining Paraguayan currency. Our first destination in Brazil was to be the Pantanal. This was over 1,500kms away. However there was not much to see between where we had crossed the border and the Pantanal. With Lucy's birthday in just a few days we decided we would drive hard to get settled in the Pantanal for her birthday. The road North was good but full of trucks. There must have been about 10 trucks on the road for every car. There was not a lot to see as the rich red soil was been intensively farmed and there were large farms as far as the eye could see.
One good thing with all the trucks is that the filling stations are all set up for trucks to park up for the night with a whole bunch of services from free internet to showers. So as we were covering large distances for two nights we just did what the truckers did and parked up. The days on the road were long. It gets light here around 5am and dark by 6pm so I was itching to go first thing. However the rest of the family are not known for their early starts so it was usually about 6.30 when we got going. It was also really hot in the high 30s.
After 2 nights in truck stations we arrived in the large modern town of Cuiaba. Little did we know it was Election Day in Brazil and everyone was meant to be voting. We saw the odd polling station but other than this it just seemed like any other Sunday. We stocked up at the supermarket as we were hoping to spend some time in the Pantanal.
The Pantanal is the largest sub tropical wetland in the world and is probably the best place in South America to see wildlife. We had all been here 4 years ago on holiday and had loved it. There is only really one road into the Pantanal and this stretches 145km into the heart of it where it ends at a big river. The road is a pretty good dirt road but there are about 125 rickety wooden bridges along the way. Some you can drive around and some you have to cross. Most are well maintained but a few have holes in them. We were told they were rated for 10 tonnes and our truck weighs somewhere between 9.5 and 11 tonnes. We made sure we were not carrying surplus fuel or water and hoped we would be able to make it all the way in.
As soon as we started along the road we started seeing wildlife.
That night we camped in a sandy area under some trees just off the road. It was a lovely spot.
We were on our way at 5am the next morning hoping to see the animals before it got too hot. Along the way we saw Caiman, Capybara, Deer and lot of birds. We also safely made it across each of the bridges.
At the end of the road is the Porto Jofre Pantanal Norte hotel which is set on the banks of the river. We had heard it was possible to camp here and that they let you use all their facilities ie internet and swimming pool for free. It was expected that you booked one of their riverboat tours while you were staying which is what we were planning to do. This area is know as one of the best places to see Jaguars in the wild and not having seen them on our previous trip we were keen to see them.
On arrival we were met by a wonderful host, Nelson who could not have been more helpful in showing us around and settling us in. He also said they were seeing a lot of Jaguars at the moment and so we were all very excited that we would see one on our trip the next day, Lucy's birthday. The hotel grounds are in a lovely setting with a lagoon nearby with giant water lilies and some wonderful birds including the largest parrots in the world the Hyacinth Macaw.
We were up early the next day and just after we were up Nelson arrived singing happy birthday and bringing Lucy a little cake with a candle on.
We set off up river in a small boat just as the sun was rising. It was lovely been on the river in the morning. It was already pretty warm but the breeze as you cruised along was lovely. Along the way we saw lots of animals.
Some eating their breakfast.
And also lots more birds.
We were also really lucky to see River Otters but the Jaguar remained elusive.
Back at camp it was time for Lucy to open her birthday presents. She had been very good in waiting, although throughout the boat trip she had kept asking how long it was until we got back.
Alisha and Lucy then spent the afternoon cooling off in the pool before we went for a short drive to see if we could find any big cats. Alas no so we will have to hope we are luckier another day.