The last few days have been absolutely amazing! We arrived at the Pantanal after yet another journey in the cramped mini-bus, really uncomfortable on the bumpy roads! As we were entering the Pantanal we saw loads of wildlife miles before we even got anywhere near to the fazenda (ranch/farm) we were staying at. From wild boars drinking water near the road, to deer hiding in the trees, kingfishers, loads of birds (mostly storks and parrots), and caiman in pretty much every expanse of water (though they never got boring to see!). We also saw giant otters, which are supposedly quite rare and were really playful when they spotted us, jumping up in the water and making the most bizarre squeaking noise! We also got stuck on the road in traffic several times, but not your ordinary traffic, instead it was a herd of 1200 cows! Even they look different, they have a hump on their backs and almost all of them are a greyish white. Accompanied of course by proper brazilian cowboys! The place we stayed at was called Fazenda do Sao Joao, and was a specially adapted farm to cater for ecotourism (ie provides a place for tourists to stay whilst preserving the wildlife) aswell as being a working farm. So early morning wake-up calls by the cockerel. The first afternoon when we arrived, we left our things next to our chosen hammock and went for a walk to a kind of pond area where you could go swimming. Only about four or five of us went into the water, and it was only then that we realised there was a caiman sitting quietly in the reeds! We got told it was quite safe as they dont attack humans for no reason - but me and Adinde were taking no chances and got out, only to then be told that the jumping fish in the water were pirainhas!!!! It gets dark really early here anyway (about 5), but the electric only comes on for so many hours a day (they run off a generator out there) so we went to bed at about 10! But not before being swarmed by bugs and mosquitoes (although I managed not to get bitten the whole time we were there) and fireflies. We looked for caiman hiding in the water nearby - you could see them only by their eyes! - and caught these massive toads that kept hopping around us, gross! The next day we got up at half 5!!!!!!!! The plan was to go for a trek through the Pantanal hunting for anaconda, which we unfortunately didnt find (apparently after eating they stay in the same place for approx. 4 weeks while it digests, but the one we were looking for had moved on already :o( ). To get there though we had to wade through water up to our waists (well in most peoples cases above their knees). It was quite difficult to walk through, the ground was really soft and reeds would get tangled round your legs, especially later though when we walked through a section of pure mud and your feet started to sink into the ground so you got stuck and nearly fell in the water!! fun though. We went through parts of higher ground aswell (where the water doesnt reach in the wet season), this is where there are clusters of palm trees and all the animals hide. We saw monkeys in one and later an armadillo! It was slightly eerie though as you could hear the birds and animals, then you would get close and they would go quiet until you had passed and you could hear them behind you! During the day there you just relax in the hammocks as it gets too hot, later four of us went back to the swimming part and went out onto the water in a little rowing boat in search of caiman, but didnt find any as it was getting colder. Later we took a jeep out and saw more animals, including the biggest rodents (cabiwara or something) and more birds, then had a bonfire after tea and a few of us stayed up so that one of the lads could phone England to get his a level results (using a really old mobile attached to an aerial!!!) We had to go trekking across the field in the dark to get more battery when it ran out - madness! The next day people went horseriding - but I wasnt too bothered to go so just relaxed, then in the afternoon we went pirainha fishing. It was so fun! We had pieces of meat on fishing rods made of bamboo and they bit really quick - I managed to catch 2 (one through the eye!) and then some other random fish. Four of us waded into the water and stood in the water lilies which were filled with tiny fish that nibbled your knees! at one point there was a caiman swimming less than two metres away from us. One of the guys didnt manage to catch any pirainha, but instead caught a bird with his line when it swooped down to the water - oops. Then our guide tried to catch the caiman, first with a pirainha he'd caught then with his flip flop (slightly worrying that they attract them!), but couldnt get him close enough. We went back to the fazenda and had another bonfire then travelled back to Rio via a mini bus and two plane journeys.