Brazil: Shakira the Horse & Fishing for Piranhas
Brazil, Brazil I’m in bloody Brazil, hosts of this year’s World Cup. Oh and what day did I land, yes that’s right the day after Brazil got a history making thrashing from the Germans. 7:1. Oh what a joyous day to land in a country famed for their big smiles. What’s that… riots, a country in mourning, misery filled streets as the proud hosts of 2014s World Cup got an utter pasting on the field of dreams.
Luckily my first stop in Brazil wasn’t Rio, Sao Paulo or even a city at all I was heading straight for the Pantanal. I wrongly described this as a jungle before I got there, more accurately it’s the wetlands. I don’t like to make a big drama out of long journeys when I travel, I kind of enjoy them and I’m a big believer that it’s all part of the experience but the journey From Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Brazil was something else. 18 hours on a sleeper train, without beds. Who ever decided a sleeper train without beds is a good idea needs to rethink their life. Slightly reclining seats in a musty damp carriage and an ants nest to boot. Next a taxi to the border, two hours getting past Bolivia’s customs, followed by another hour getting into Brazil past their officials. Followed by a 4 hour bus journey to the Pantanal, then an open truck for a final hour to a hostel with hammocks instead of beds. Lights out, bang I was gone. Even managing to ignore the circling bats above me who did a great job of bombing my friends in their hammock cocoons below.
I woke up to the sound of birds, the heat on my bones, hot coffee, watermelon and scrambled eggs on toast. Nice! I also got to do some early morning caiman spotting as these alligator type creatures lurked around the hostel. Then it was time to select a horse to take me through the wetlands. I sound like I knew what I was doing hey. Nope, I’m no horse rider or even a fan of horses. I’m not sure what my beef is with them (ha) but I think they’re suspect animals that often seem to go wrong and stand on people. Then to my rescue came beautiful Shakira, a chestnut horse with a brain, sturdy hips, and power.
I found it tricky not to shout ‘Shakira, Shakira’ as we galloped through the countryside. In fact I didn’t even try and stop myself. She knew the two hour journey off by heart and danced through the woodland area, over branches with ease. She wasn’t a massive fan of water, which was a shame as the wetlands are unsurprisingly full of water. I’m not sure I’m s much of a fan of running through Caiman filled water either so I’ll let Shakira off. She was also fiercely competitive. Try and overtake her at your peril. Good girl. Unlike some of the other horses, Shakira looked at a situation and worked out the quickest route. I could almost hear her brain ticking, we think the same. This was much more fun than my first horse ride a few months back in Australia and maybe I do like some horses after all.
Then an afternoon of piranha fishing. Bamboo poles, with a long line, a tiny hook and a chunk of meat as bait. We stood on a bridge and let the lines sink deep, ready to catch our angry dinner. After seconds their massive teeth were tearing chunks off the meaty bait. Everyone got bite after bite but getting them out of the water was so hard. They went through quite a bit of cow flesh before two of my fellow fisher ladies hauled up a couple of the more stupid piranha. Then the boys jumped into the piranha filled river of skanky brown water just to show who the men were around here. Piranha tastes good if you’re wondering, a bit boney but good.
The wildlife in the Pantanal is colourful, exceptional and plentiful. Sadly I didn’t see any big cats (Jaguars, Ocelots and Pumas roam here) but there were bucket loads of Macaws, flamingos, Caiman, ant-eaters, Toucans, Howler Monkeys, Tarantulas, bats and multi-coloured birds that I can’t name.