Well after all of the interesting turns last night getting into Campo Grande we woke this morning and started to make our way to the shining new 24 terminal bus station in Campo Grande - just 200 m from our hotel. On the way Vanessa told me that it took 15 years to build.We booked a bus that was to leave at 11am and was told that the journey should take 5 hours with a stop for lunch. Unfortunately the bus journey was pretty awful. We had no A/c and for the most part not allowed to open windows. With it reaching 32 outside and perhaps 40 inside it made for a very stuffy journey. The lunch stop was another bus station with just Crisps, and fried food on offer. It was not all bad though. As we left Campo Grande the scenary began to change. You see this whole area is pretty rural. Hills, forests and farms as far as the eye can see.
We made it to Bonito bus station at about 4.30pm and were told it was only 2 blocks to our hotel. It took us only 5 minutes to fall in love with Bonito. A tiny 1 street town in the middle of the wilderness but really the perfection of the ecotourism model. The people who work here are friendly, kind and very trusting. We passed several shops with the doors wide open but no one inside. Our hotel was fantastic for the price with a/c and a swimming pool and right in the centre of the small strip of shops and restaurants. We checked in and then started to book our activities.In the evening we went to a presentation by Henrique of Projet Jiboa all about the Jiboa (or Boa Constrictor as we know it) which involved a talk about them and then having a hold of one!
As I mentioned Bontio is an ecotown with several wonderful nautural highlights in almost every direction. What makes Bonito stand out however is how well managed the natural attractions are. You are not allowed to wear sunscreen if you are visiting the rivers. Numbers of visitors are strictly regimented per attraction per day, recycling bins are everywhere and there is no rubbish left on the roadside. This is the part of Brazil which I think sets the bar for the rest.
Well our first day we did a river safari on the Rio Da Prato. The Rivers around bonito are pretty unique. They begin from underground sources and as such contain a lot of dissolved minerals. Calcium Cabonate in particular is important. It bonds with any impurities in the water to form solid subrate that sinks to the river bed. The result is cristal clear water that creates a natural environment for the HUGE numbers of freshwater fish.
Our group is quite small - cconsisting of a Canadian, 3 Brazilians (one of whom lives in Florida) and a English couple who lived for 8 years in Brazil as teachers before deciding to travel the world and publish a book about it. This is their second trip/book about traveling just Brazil. The Safari starts with a 50 min hike through the Cillary forests (completely protected so even if branches break they are not allowed to be removed). We got to see a red headed woodpecker (the same animal that the cartoon charactor Woody the Woodpecker is based on), a Capuchan monkey and literally thousands of butterflies. They were everywhere. When we reached the river we got into wetsuits, life vest and snorkel and mask and we then taught how we would be floating gently down the river observing the fish. As soon as I got in these viscious tiny fish came up and bit my lip much to everyones amusement! One quick look at the river bed to see where the water filters up from the ground and we set off. It was an amazing experience. There were fish everywhere - Pacu, Pintada, Dorado - and if you left your ears above the water you could hear bird and monkey calls in the forest. We floated for 2km enjoying every moment. The water was slow clear it was like swimming in a natural aquarium. After we got out and headed back to the base (which is a farm) and had a buffet style lunch. Again terrific home grown food. It was here we discovered that the couple in our group were published travel writers and really great people. They showed us their book (a huge coffee table piece printed in Portuguese with excellent imagery). This trip they have been sponsored by Landrover who volunteered them a Kitted out Discovery which is their home as they travel around Brazil. Quite the life!
The next day we visited a cave called - 'Gruto de Lago Azul' or Cave of blue lake. Again the groups were small to protect the environment. The tour books described it as a luminous underground lake with wondrous Stalatight and stalamight formations at the bottom of 292 sculptured steps. They were telling the truth - it was otherworldy how blue the lake was. The only negative point was that the steps werent exactly sculpture and some parts you had to traverse slippery, wet uneven rocks on a path maybe 60cm wide with nothing to stop you if you slip and fall. Ie. a sheer drop on your other side. Vanessa of course had no problem leaping with all the natural balance of a mountain goat and complete lack of fear one could only compare to as that of a lemming. Me on the other hand freaked out and was clinging to rocks praying with every step. Still we both made it OK and it was well worth it.
Our final day we visited a River beach and just enjoyed a relaxing day. The river was refreshing and cool and absolutely heaving with fish and we were delighted by the visit of a troup of Monkeys and later a Maccaw. Vanessa and I also played our first Volleyball match that I am sorry to say we lost - thought I think we were actuaclly quite good for beginners.
Tomorrow we wake up at 4.30 am to travel into the Pantanal (Savanna like area in the south of Brazil) for 2 days to do some animal Safaris. If all goes to plan we should return with Pics of Jaguars, Giant Otters, Snakes and birds. If it doesnt go to plan we're stuffed as there is w*** all else to see there - so Cross your fingers if you got them!