Sunday, April 13, 2008

We did not sleep through our alarm, thankfully. We went to check out, and the person at the front desk said not to pay them, as our room was covered. Instead, we had to pay Anibal. We got our "bill" from him, and it was for more than we were quoted the day before. There was a minute or two of grave concern, as it appeared Anibal was worried there was nowhere to get any cash, and we'd have to miss our flight. This was where worst came to worst, so we dipped into our tip money and paid everything, grudgingly.

This got us to the airport, which is all we wanted at this point - out of Iguazu. To put a bow on it, the guy at the airport said our carry-on weighed to much and checked it. The flight to Sao Paulo was fine, and Sao Paulo for all we heard about it actually looked incredible (from the air). There were buildings everywhere, but interspersed among them were green hills covered in trees, lakes and lagoons, and other natural beauty. The traffic is probably horrific, but the city from the air looks nicer than any we had ever seen.


Our transfer to Campo Grande was a little hectic, as we had to guess at when they were discussing our flight since the PA was poor and so was our Portuguese. In the air, we were flying over a bunch of ranchland and fields - not much rainforest to be seen. We were also concerned about our luggage, since we could see them loading all the bags onto the plane and we never saw ours. Since they had checked our carry-on, we really didn't have much (besides electronics) with us.


When we landed, we waited and waited for our bags, but fortunately they were on the plane somewhere - they were near the last off. We met the people from Caiman Lodge, and they told us it would be about a 3 hour drive to the lodge from the airport. There was one good piece of news - the airport had a functional ATM, and we were able to get a bunch of Brazilian money, which was dispensed in both large and small bills. The drive was nice - certainly not crowded on the roads - but again it was a lot of cattle ranches and not much indicating we were surrounded by animals. The only animals we saw were roadkill - exotic roadkill, but roadkill nonetheless.


After a couple of hours we turned off of the paved road onto a dirt road, which was a bright red because of all the aluminum in the soil. At this point we seemed to be entering some sort of untouched land, as there were far more trees. After about 40 minutes, we got to the Caiman Lodge, which all of a sudden looked very much more "Amazon-ish." The main lodge was near a huge lake, but also near a large cattle farm. We found out we were not staying at the main lodge, but at the Baiazinha Lodge. This was another 15 minutes down the road, right on a different lake. There were trees everywhere, and we could see all sorts of birds (including parrots) flying around like crazy. Our room was air-conditioned, but had an outdoor patio with a hammock as well.

We got ready for our 3:30 excursion, but then 3:30 came and went and we were confused. No one else was around, and our guide Barbara was just doing some chores. Justin was checking out some of the maps on the walls, and noticed that we may have gained an hour flying from Sao Paulo to Campo Grande. Sure enough we did, and it was only 2:45, not 3:45 Crystal went and read, and Justin tried to take some bird photos for practice for later.

We left at the actual 3:30, with one other couple, for a sort of half-safari half-hike. We drove around the ground slowly, stopping for animals and birds, probably 95% birds, but we did see one monkey. There was a tree full of parrots, who hung out for awhile before taking off en masse. We got out at one point and walked, encountering more birds, plus some howler monkeys. We saw some Jaguar tracks, but no Jaguars. We also dealt with a ton of mosquitoes, which we decided are pretty much our favorite animals.

Because of the time change, the sun went down before 6pm, and we got back to the hotel around 6 with dinner scheduled for 7:30. We had been up since basically 3:30 in the morning, with no breakfast or lunch, so we were starving. Dinner was very good, with eggplant lasagna, some beef, some chicken, some fish, and basically anything else you could think of. After dinner there was a slide show on the Pantanal, and Justin could not stay awake but Crystal watched. It was about what we would see and do, the history of the reserve, the Pantanal in general, and the Lodge.