That evening I also got to know better the staff from the lodge. They pleased us to come into the kitchen and they offered some beer and freshly baked bread.
We talked in English and Portuguese about my roundtrip in Brazil and our daily lives. I learned that one of the guides has a daughter. He hardly sees her, because he works more than half a year here, in the Pantanal. Another one was married for the first time at the age of 18, to a 17 year older woman. And some employees have never visited a school. One woman even told me that she wants a better life for her four year old daughter. Therefore, she works almost around the clock, here, far away from home.
Saturated and very thoughtful, I left the dining room and went to my room. The cockroaches were dancing samba on the terrace again. It didn’t even excited me any longer. I just wanted to take a shower and go to bed. A big mistake. Because the next morning I woke up with red spots all over my whole body. As it turned out later, it was a bed bug family which had found a new home in my mattress and massacred me nightly. Sleep-drugged I didn’t even notice that. Whatever, I thought. The show must go on. And so I started my fourth day in the lodge. That day, there were two exciting trips waiting for me: a jungle walk and a riding tour.
By Jeep, we went to the parched wetlands. The dry season had left its marks everywhere. At a horse ranch, we were dropped – and went on by feet. About half an hour, we traversed the briar savannah until we finally found a shelter in one of the tropical forests. The piúva tree offered us a protection against the merciless sun. Many animal species such as the hyacinth macaw and the guariba monkeys also appreciated the shady spots. They stepped in front of our cameras more or less voluntarily. Shockingly, there lingered some crocodiles in the jungle, too. They usually the muddy soil for the egg deposition. On our tour we also met a rare guest, the toucan. His colourful plumage beamed from afar.
One and a half hours we walked through the hinterland of Brazil looking for each animal which came across. But then there was the real highlight. A small river crossed our way and we had to go to the other side. Of course, we had neither a raft nor an available boat. So we rolled up our trouser legs, took off the shoes and carried the bags over our heads. The water was waist-high. The bottom of the river was covered by silt and algae. Our guide explained that anacondas come to these waters at dusk. I had never meet any, but the Indians say that even small children were eaten by these giant snakes. No surprise. The have a length of up to nine meters.
From the jungle we went to a remote ranch – with hammocks and a typical Brazilian lunch. After a one-hour siesta our tour continued. Or rather, my tour. Because I went alone to the horse farm with the guide. The other tourists had already done horse-riding. And here, at the farm, I had to accept – as so often in Brazil – that you should have much patience. The gaúchos took ages to saddle the horses. They sooner talked, smoked one more cigarette or opened another beer bottle from the farm shop. Sometime my guide called me – and finally everything was ready. We mounted our horses and the trip could begin. The horses in the Pantanal are called “cavalo pantaneiro” (Pantanal horse), because it is an unique breed. Originally they live in larger herds in the briar savannah. But some gaúchos had begun to domesticate and breed them hundreds of years ago. To distinguish the domestic ones from the wild horses, their flowing manes are trimmed into a Mohawk haircut.
We were riding further afar from the civilization – and closer to the Bolivian border. On our riding tour we met swamp deer, peccaries and capybaras. A flock of cavalos pantaneiros also came across our way. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any jaguar or ocelot. The big cats had become extremely rare in that area that there are even just a very few spotted on special tours. The guide and I rode through the wet swamplands, those places where the anacondas go for hunting nocturnal. But everything was quiet. After a too short time we returned to the horse ranch. The Pantanal had cast a spell over me completely. And I slowly got used to a life in harmony with nature.
On our return to the lodge, we made a great discovery: a jaguar track. The paws were recognisably printed in the dusty sand. We even heard that that day a tour group had spotted a jaguar. A real rarity. When we arrived the lodge, my heart was filled up with longing. Because I knew that the adventure Pantanal will be over tomorrow and I’ll return to the civilization. So I lay down in my bed bug infested bed and tried to get some sleep. The next morning I woke up early – and prepared myself mentally for my returning. Because after the breakfast I should be ready to go.