We spent today doing various activities at Lontra Pantanal Hotel.
We awoke at 6am, had breakfast, and loaded the bus for our ‘ecological safari’ at 7am. Breakfast consisted of milk, fruit juice, multiple fruits, breads, cereals, some eggs (that were long gone by 6:15am) and some gross-looking meat and cheese. The lodge has bird feeders by the river and has workers throw seeds on the ground by the dining area, so there were plenty of birds to watch in the morning.
At 7:05am about 20 people loaded onto the painted bus along with a driver and two guides for an ‘jeep safari’. The safari consisted of us riding in the very loud and high-polluting school bus down the main park road. The guides pointed out various birds, a fox, and an emu (that forced its way through a barbed wire fence to escape from us). We sat in the front row as we figured that this would give us the best chance of seeing animals. Also we figured the guide would be in the front pointing out animals – which he wasn’t. But we did see some animals running across the road in the distance as well.
Katie was interested to see Pousada Santa Clara at KM22 on the park road, since this was another option we had strongly considered. As we drove by the entrance, our bus completely broke down and would not restart. JT thinks the transmission was completely gone. We awkwardly sat in the bus for a while, and then people slowly started getting out. We stood on the road for a while. After a while a Santa Clara open air jeep came out of the entrance (seemingly for an actual open-air safari) and stopped to help out. While both groups’ guides were working on the engine, one of their guests came over to say hi. He was staying in their dorms and said he was really enjoying it so far. Shortly after, they left and we stayed stranded on the road.
Eventually, in the first communication from the guides since the bus broke down 25? minutes ago (to be confirmed with GPS track), they said we would walk and eventually another vehicle would come get us from the other direction. We walked for 4? kilometers (to be confirmed with GPS track), until we reached a restaurant and “convenience store” – which really seemed like just a small ranch at the side of the road that had lots of dogs and chickens. JT picked up a lonely puppy and carried it around for a while. We stayed here for 45? minutes, again with no communication from the guides (who were now smoking and chatting with the shop’s owners). Eventually a 5-seat pickup truck came and picked up two people and drove off. It came back about 20 minutes later and picked up 10 of us and the guide – which meant that 7 people had to sit in the truck bed for the fast and bumpy ride to the hiking spot. The driver had clearly forgotten that people were in the back at multiple points – hitting dips and bumps well over the “speed limit” and drove through some low-hanging tree limbs at one point. The truck went way too fast to even hope to see any wildlife on this part of our ‘jeep safari’.
For the hike, we first had to climb through a fence. Then our talkative and not-stealthy group of 10 plus a guide attempted to spot wildlife. The first thing we saw were two monkeys. However, most of our group quickly realized that we were standing on ground crawling with ants, which were now crawling all over our shoes and pants. These were pretty fiercely biting ants too, so the group hurried away batting at our legs. Our walk continued pretty randomly through the forest where we saw mini frogs, some rodents, armadillo, and two really pretty blue toucans. Our guide also chopped off a piece of vine from which you could drink water and showed us the inside of some tree parts and nuts. We were wearing our permethrin treated clothing (long sleeve shirt, long pants, long socks, hat) that Katie had treated shortly before we left Austin, but found we were being bothered terribly by bugs until we put lotion on our small sections of exposed skin as well.
Around 11:30am we walked back to the road to go see some alligators that were sunning. The guide encouraged people to go very close to the alligators – one alligator went into the water to escape the group, but the other one stayed sunning and just suspiciously eyed the visitors. We watched safely from the bridge as Katie picked spiny thorns from her pants with tweezers.
The truck was waiting for us. Katie got to sit inside, but JT had to ride in the truck bed for the 26 km drive back to the hotel. The broken bus was sitting on the road farther away from the hotel than where it had broken down, but at least was no longer sitting in front of its competitor’s property! We got back to the hotel at 12:15pm, at which point lunch should have began 15 minutes prior. However, lunch was not ready until 12:30pm. The best food items seem to run out extremely quickly at each meal, so we found that it is important to be there when a meal is served. The cornbread served at lunch was the highlight of the meal for Katie.
We had free time until 3pm, and everyone leaving today (including all of our roommates) left at 2:30pm. At 3pm our group went to take a boat 2km up the river and float back in the river water to the hotel. We decided not to go on this trip for multiple reasons: likely poor water quality, wildlife in the river like piranhas, alligators, and snakes, debris in the river, and Katie’s sensitive ears. During our free time we sat outside the dorm and watched the birds. During this time we noticed housekeeping cleaning other rooms, and throwing empty water bottles away in the trash bins instead of the very-nearby plastic recycling canisters. We put ours in the recycle bin (and JT removed some from the trash and put them in the recycle bin), but our suspicion is that all the items from the recycle bins actually go into the trash. The housekeepers pulled the sheets from our roommates’ beds but did no actual cleaning in our room.
The next activity was piranha fishing from the stairs at the hotel around 4:15pm. As we were learning how to put bait (chopped cow heart) on the hook, the broken bus was heard coming back long before it was seen. We wonder how many times it has broken down, and whether they actually plan to properly repair it. Our guide – fishing without a pole – caught lots of piranhas for dinner, but a few people in our group also caught fish. JT even caught one! Katie was glad not to have caught anything, as she does not plan on eating any fish tonight and thought it was rather sad to see how long it took the fish to die as they suffocated to death on the grass.
As the sun was setting, it was time for our third and final activity of the day – ‘sunset hike’. The sunset hike consisted of the 10 tourists in the group walking on our own (no guide) through the small nearby community by the bridge and to the top of the bridge to watch the sunset. The sunset was indeed pretty, but the fact that walking on our own to the bridge to watch it was listed as an official activity is despicable.
When we returned from our walk, we were pleased to see that no new roommates had arrived! We were excited about the prospect of having the dorm to ourselves for a night! Of course, the dorm has still not been cleaned or swept since we arrived so there is dirt on the floor, especially in the bathroom.
We had an hour and a half to kill before dinner, so we chilled in the dorm on unused beds.
In mentioning the dorm (room 13), we should note its issues. There are many stains on the walls from where people have killed bugs. The window has shutters to close when the AC is on, but has no glass panes in the sliding windows. So, it remains open-air. The front door is also impossible to latch closed without slamming it – sometimes multiple times. There are also not enough power outlets for 6 people (only 5 outlets counting one in the bathroom and one splitter on the refrigerator outlet). There is also no trashcan (except for the one near the toilet in the bathroom). On the positive side, it has AC, comfortable beds, 1 comfortable pillow (Katie lucked into it – the other pillows were all terribly thin), and a refrigerator.
There is not much to do around the hotel in your free time. There are chairs outside the rooms, as well as in and near the screened in dining area – so you can sit and watch the birds or talk. There are two R$1.50 pool tables, as well as a small sand soccer field. But wifi, hammocks, some board games or videos, and/or a pool would help a lot, especially when it gets dark so early (5:30pm) and there are such large gaps between activities.
Dinner was supposed to start at 7:30pm, but the food was not actually served until 7:45pm. Similar to the previous night, Katie thought the rice and coconut flan dessert were the best parts of the meal. Not eating meat can make dining here really sparse! JT had the head of one of the piranhas our group caught today. We were both fascinated by the TV shows shown during dinner (in Portuguese), especially a segment on a Brazilian city that have set on and off times for water (as it seems that they are running out of clean water) and research on venomous snakes on a Brazilian island.
We lounged in our dorm after dinner, showered, and then went to sleep. No roommates had arrived by the time we went to sleep, so we were optimistic that none would arrive in the middle of the night.
Birds by the dining area
A bird by the dining area
Parrots by the dining area
The view out of the front of the bus on our ‘jeep safari’
A bird in its nest during the ‘jeep safari’
A fox in the road during the ‘jeep safari’
Pousada Santa Clara, where our bus broke down during the ‘jeep safari’
Our guides attempting to work on the broken-down bus
Our group walking down the road away from the broken-down bus
JT with a puppy at the ‘convenience store’
Our group weathering the bumps in the back of the truck
This poor emu squeezed through the fence to escape our fast-moving truck
A big black vulture-like bird that our guide tried to scare from its nest
A blue macaw!
A small capybara
Our group stupidly approaching an alligator with the guide
Look at the teeth on this piranha!
JT caught a piranha
Sunset from the bridge by the hotel