OK, here it goes -- the first two days!
We flew from Sao Paulo directly to Bonito. Bonito is a city in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. It's famous for eco-tourism. Most people fly into Campo Grande, but Bonito actually has its own tiny airport, and our travel agent was able to get us a direct flight (we spent the second half of our trip in Bonito).
After we got our bags and everything, we went to the agent holding up a sign with CVC written on it -- that was the name of the travel agency (probably the most common travel agency in the country; I've had great trips every time I've used them!). We thought we were going to get on a bus with everyone else, but we were apparently the only ones going out to the Pantanal proper! The agent introduced us to a driver who was waiting for us with a little sedan. "It's only about 3 and a half hours!" he informed us. I was so nice as to let Bianca go in the front seat to make the small talk. :P
Bonito itself is already a relatively small town, and we were going 3 and a half hours away from it! We drove through miles and miles of farmland and cerrado, and passed a couple of tiny towns, probably more like villages than official cities.
On the way, I saw black-hooded parakeets, turkey vultures, whistling herons, and chaco chachalacas, just to name a few. Oh, and we saw our first giant anteater (aka tamanduá), as I showed you in my first post. Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of great bird pictures, during this drive or during the trip. I quickly learned that --wouldn't you know it?-- taking pictures of wild animals is hard. They're not like the little birds at the local lake that are used to having humans around. I also saw many of the birds through the awesome fancy binoculars that Alexandre bought me for my birthday/Brazilian Valentine's Day (9 days apart, so I only ever get one present :P). But of course, I'll share the good pictures I did manage to get.
We got to our pousada at sunset. The word pousada sometimes translates to "inn" or "bed and breakfast", but in this case, this place was a family farm that the family also opened up to tourists. The grandmother of the family met us at the door and led us to our room. We were 75km away from the closest town, and it required a dirt road to get there for 40km of that trek! There were no stores, no restaurants, no stoplights, and best of all, no fireworks. :) We went to bed early and quickly got settled into the farm life schedule!
If you read the last post, you know just how wonderful the first morning was, with all of the birds that I saw at sunrise! Here are some of the pictures:
|chaco chachalaca, aka aracuã-do-pantanal|
|chalk-browed mockingbird, aka sabiá-do-campo|
|crested oropendola, aka japu|
|grayish saltator aka sabiá-gongá|
|grey-crested cacholote aka casaca-de-couro-do-pantanal|
|plumbeous ibis, aka maçarico-real|
|red-crested cardinal, aka cardeal (these ones are rare in the region!)|
|yellow-billed cardinal (aka cavalaria)|
|toco toucan aka tucano|
|turquoise-fronted amazon aka papagaio verdadeiro|
So many! Isn't that amazing?! The biodiversity!
Our first morning activity was a horseback ride around the property. Have you ever ridden a horse? I hadn't. Well, I think I did once for a few minutes when I was a kid. This was some serious stuff -- at least for my legs and back. But Bianca especially loved it.
|the view of the world from atop a horse|
|I wore the best horse-riding shirt I had! Pretty apt, I thought|
Let me take this moment to talk up the pousada. As you can see, the name is Fazenda Piqui, but they call the hotel part the Pousada Pequi. If you like the type of trip I'm describing in this post, then this pousada is the perfect place to go. I don't know the exact prices because we paid for a package, but the entire package for the week was accessible for me on a teacher's salary, and we went to Bonito, too. You pay a flat daily rate for your room, the activities (2 per day, and they're flexible about making it possible for you to do what you want to do) and all of your meals. The food was DELICIOUS. Fresh fish from the river (I even at the fish, it was that good!), fresh milk from the cow, fresh fruit from the trees. The family runs an organized, honest business. (For example, they keep some emergency products on hand, like batteries and repellent, and they don't overcharge you for them. They also let one of the guests use their computer to talk to her husband on Skype because he was sick.) Their schedules for visitors are also a nice balance of planned activities and open resting time. I felt so relaxed and rested, even though we did so much stuff.
If you want to make a reservation, you can call or email them, and they have the computer there at the farm (oh yeah, they have internet! It's slow, but much more than I expected to have, considering the location). You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them at (67) 9934-5781 / 3245-0949. (I'd write to them in Portuguese -- I don't think they speak much English.)
Also, here's their website: http://pousadapequi.com.br/
I told them I was going to rave about them in my blog, so you can mention me if you want (but I doubt they'll remember me). FYI, if you go only to Pousada Pequi and not to Bonito, it's better to fly into Campo Grande. You can pay them to arrange for a driver to pick you up from the airport and drive you to their farm. The closest town to the pousada is called Aquidauana. Try saying that out loud! But yes, that's my little promotional speech!
Anyway, back to the horse ride. The cowboys rode us out to where the cattle were. My super awesomely awesome bird book (Port and Eng) had informed me that hyacinth macaws (arara azul) like to stay close to herds of cattle, so I was keeping my eye out. (I had seen two that morning through the binoculars, but none up close so far.)
Luckily, just a few minutes after we got to the cows, there they were!!!
they totally saw me! They are so curious!
Even Bianca, who didn't care much about birds before this trip (but was a good sport and really got into the birdwatching with me during the vacation), couldn't help but be quietly in awe because of them:
They're so jolly and so graceful at the same time! Such great, happy birds.
The macaw sighting totally made my day (though the day had already been off to a great start, with the morning bird show and all). After the cowboys checked on the cows, we rode the horses back to the ranch. My back was killing me, but there was joy, there.