If you go down to the swamp today you're sure of a big surprise

Campo Grande Travel Blog

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Campo Grande and the Pantanal, home to cowboys amongst many things.

Campo Grande (pronounced Campo Granje), a town on first observations I found so underwhelming that I begrudged spending 24 hours in the place, clearly the Brazilians who told me Curitiba was unattractive had never been here!

After a wander though I found it had a few quirks that meant I softened my intial, perhaps overly harsh, first impression. Snap judgments after long plane/ train/ bus journeys should be avoided.

First anecdoctal point: just in case you forget while the hell you've come to this rag-tag dusty little city, there are novelty bins and phone booths shaped like various animals you'd expect to see in the Pantanal, it's like some Disneyfication gone wrong, not that they're scary just really tacky!

On the plus side I found this great Acai joint and I had a room all to myself with an ensuite with a super hot shower and I basked in the thought of lapping up the double bed and good sleep while I could as 3 nights in a hammock awaited.

The closest I got to a jaguar in Brazil

After the British guys in Igacu had put the fear of God into me about my tour company for the Pantanal as their new LP South America guide gave a slightly negative but vague review it all turned out just peachy. Admittedly they didn't get off to the best of starts as they forgot to pick me up at the airport but eventually turned up when another guide from another company called them and we left a hour late for our tour but after that it was just brilliant, having a really great group of people definitely helped (we had a nice international mix of Belgian, French, English, Danish & Israeli).

The camp consisted of 4 huts, the kitchen and dining areas, the guides hut and two huts for the groups as well as a campsite with tents etc already provided.

Random phone box
We were in one of the huts sleeping in hammocks, which after the first freezing cold night I got used to and actually slept pretty well. Thankfully as well there were reasonably clean hot water showers (better than the bucket showers we had trekking in Thailand that's for sure) as well as power points in the tent to charge camera batteries and in our case set up our little music venue.The whole set up and dirt tracks kind of reminded me of Frazier island in OZ, though this was a much better trip. We got introduced to our guide Sandro ( he was really knowledgeable and great fun too), who after dinner told us we were going walking through the bush first thing and to be prepared for a nice early start of 6.30am - nice! despite LP's comments from my Brazil book about the food and accommodation the company provide were supposed to ¨hover around orphanage level¨I really thought both were pretty good.
The train station?!?!
I'm certainly going to be writing to them disagreeing with their comments, the latest LP for South America is particularly unfair as it doesn't explain the problems the firm had in 2008 with the government. I asked both the owner and guides what the deal was and they said it was only an issue with obtaining new permits and not that they were providing a bad service.

Everyone at camp was really sociable and there was a real mix of nationalities not just within our group, it didn't take long for the beer and cachaca to start flowing, needless to say my cachaca liquer didn't make it out of the Pantanal, so much for it being a potential present - oops!

After minimal sleep the 6am wake up call was like a bucket of cold water over my head, all that was soon forgotten on the walk though as we got lucky with the wildlife; we saw Caimans (a small alligator - not as impressive as the huge crocs in Darwin) in fairly big groups and pretty damn close up too - thankfully not too close.

Caiman litter bin
Our first real find was a lesser anteater, which is usually nocturnal but we caught it foraging for insects in a tree. It's a smaller version of a normal anteater which is bigger and black. we then got to see a type of Armadillo and got so close given it was a wild animal. We also saw toucans, Howler monkeys and so many birds whose names I forget. In the afternoon we took a boat trip and saw kingfishers, woodpeckers, a Tiger Heron (so called because of the strips the birds have when they are young), more Caimans and yet more weird and wonderful birds who I lost track of, I should have been taking more notes! Sandro tried to persuade us all to go swimming at the end but only he and Gwen were game, I tried a tentative toe in the water and to quote Sandro's impersenation of Alex "It was f"!#$*g freezing!" Back to base camp for cocktails (via the lime tree).
....guess what I saw next... a jaguar litter bin *groan*

The last event of the day was a night safari which unfortuntaley was the most dissappointing thing we did on the entire trip as it was so umeventfull, we only saw more Caimans and this type of flower which only open at night and the indeginous people use the heart of the flower for insect repellant, the rest of the time we ended up making jokes about how the animals were off hiding behing the trees playing poker. the safari ended up turning into a bit of a beer and cachaca safari (we loaded up with 3 litres of cachaca on the way back), I also introduced my non-English speaking friends to the concept of 'beer o'clock' time became divided into portions of beer o'clock, half past beer, quarter to beer and quarter past beer for the rest of the evening - now that's cultural exchange! The rest of the night was a fun party with lots of drinking (Ithink I may have conveyed this already?), the caipiranhas I have to say were a bit grim without any ice but we survived, there was also some dancing and chatting around the camp fire to be had with both the guides and backpackers providing the tunes.

A lesser anteater
The guides even gave out a few 'fogo' lessons ( a type of Brazilain dance similar to Samba I think).

I managed to be suprisingly hangover free the next morning and we even got a lie-in until 7.30am - ooooh! After going on a blanket raid after one of the groups had left the previous day we all managed to sleep a hell of a lot better as well which I think helped the cause. We started day three of our Pantanal adventure with a jeep safari with Jonny's group(Jonny turned out to be something of a Doctor Dolittle) and once more we seemed to hit the jackot with wildflife spotting; we saw a family of Giant Otters (take one English Otter and times it in size by about ten), who wanted to swim over and say hi, it also helped that Jonny was 'talking' to them which drew them even closer.

"An Armadillo!"
They make a terrible screamming noise to be honest but looked so adorable, even though Jonny told us that can attack and kill a person, but apprarently they prefer Caimans - phew! We also saw a group of Capibara's (huge rodents that look like oversized Hamsters) and got even luckier still when we saw the larger black anteater running across the plains, I think Jonnny told us they can weigh around 60kgs!!!! At lunch we then got a Caracara (a bird of prey similar in size to an Eagle) in the camp, I was starting to feel the animals were turning up on cue :-D

The day was capped off with Piranha fishing in the afternoon, now I'm not usually a fan of fishing mostle because its a concept I associate with long, cold, rainy days bored out of your head at home but I actually really enjoyed it (sunshine helps I feel).

On board the fun bus
the first spot we picked was pretty terrible and no one caught a thing, even Sandro. The second spot reaped rewards and we ended up with six Pirnahas altogether,  it would have been seven if my first one hadn't have come off the hook and feel through the cracks on the bridge back into the lake! Sandro caught two, Ida got two, Kenneth got one and I got one, poor Bram didn't catch a thing and Amits contribution was to keep us entertained with games, get us all drinks and moan about how bored she was (she's already done Pirnaha fishing in Manuaus). It was a reall buzz to actually catch something but I'm sure my outlook on the day would have been very different if I hadn't caught anything. the best part was eating them later - tasty little suckers they are too. Also when we were fishing we had several Hacres (storks) get really close in an attempt to get an easy meal, good jon we didn't have to fight them off they're huge!

Despite statements that we weren't drinking again that night Kenneth & Bram bought more canchaca - damn them! It was an even more bozzy night that the night before, testiment to this were several DRI's, I clashed heads with Sandro after some mental dancing and them fell out of my hammock, lying on the floor laughing to myself, bless everyone else was more concerned if I was ok while I was just laughing my ass off.

A Tiger Heron
We had even more entertainedment when one of the Belgian's 'guests' proceeded to spew all over the floor of our hut - nice! At that point though I was still in a frame of mind where everythig was funny, needless to say he didn't get anymore kisses that night!

Next morning I didn't have the same luck as the previous day and felt rough as a badgers arse (serves me right I know) but a nice mornings tubing down the river soon sorted me right out - bliss!

After lunch it was time to leave (thank you Ecological Expeditons for an amazing Pantanal experience!) and we all said our goodbyes at the entrance to the park, the others were all headed back to Campo Grande whereas I was heading on to Corumba ready to cross the border the next day.

One of the younger staff members
Corumba was pretty uneventful and although smaller than Campo Grande seemed much nicer based on the little that I saw, as it sits on the River Paraguia and has some beautiful mountains for a backdrop. The hostel was really nice there too and I had a room all to myself, (oh I was so happy to see a bed again) the staff were really friendly and gave great advice on buses to the border.

So the next morning with a heavy heart (and a much lighter bank account) I said a sad farewell to Brazil, an amazingly diverse and vast country with fantastic people, in the words of Arnie "I'll be Back!"

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Campo Grande and the Pantanal, hom…
Campo Grande and the Pantanal, ho…
The closest I got to a jaguar in B…
The closest I got to a jaguar in …
Random phone box
Random phone box
The train station?!?!
The train station?!?!
Caiman litter bin
Caiman litter bin
....guess what I saw next... a jag…
....guess what I saw next... a ja…
A lesser anteater
A lesser anteater
An Armadillo!
"An Armadillo!"
On board the fun bus
On board the fun bus
A Tiger Heron
A Tiger Heron
One of the younger staff members
One of the younger staff members
Another Armadillo
Another Armadillo
Giant otters - man these guys were…
Giant otters - man these guys wer…
Our Jeep mascot, erherm!
Our Jeep mascot, erherm!
Our delightful transport
Our delightful transport
A Capybara
A Capybara
A Jabaru (emblem of the Pantanal)
A Jabaru (emblem of the Pantanal)
Pete the piranha bit the dust
Pete the piranha bit the dust
Sunset over the Pantanal
Sunset over the Pantanal
A visitor to camp
A visitor to camp
Me and my guide Sandro and two of …
Me and my guide Sandro and two of…
Me and another one of the guides, …
Me and another one of the guides,…
My last sunset in Brazil :-(
My last sunset in Brazil :-(
Campo Grande
photo by: jthreasher