Day 18 – Bolivia Bound

I was not sad to say goodbye to Pantanal. In fact, I was the first person packed, dressed, fed and ready to leave. I had had a better night sleep thankfully and my bites were looking marginally better. I had managed to gain some more at the bonfire on my hands but I wasn’t bothered by this….We were leaving TODAY! And we were heading to Bolivia – no more mosquitos! I almost danced in celebration.

We had to head back the way we came. An hour’s ride in the safari jeep and then a two hour ride in the nightmare bus *inward groan* (yes it was as bad as you imagine) to get to the Bolivian border.

The nightmare bus dropped us and our bags off just before the Brazilian border. From here we had to take our backpacks and walk. We had been to the shop for food for the night journey so not only did I have my 55l main bag, my 13l backpack and my tote bag of entertainment, I now also had a plastic bag of snacks to carry in the 33° heat across the Brazilian border and then walk to the Bolivian border. I almost sat down in rebellion then and there.

With an outward groan I donned my bags and began my sweaty trudge to the Brazilian border officials. Thankfully there wasn’t really a wait and it was a simple process of show your passport and customs document, get your stamp (yes!) and head out the exit door heading to the Bolivian border.

The walk to the Bolivian border was probably not even five minutes but it felt like I was walking through a desert and I was slowly evaporating. It was so damn hot! At the door of the Bolivian border we were told to wait outside and fill out our documentation. I could have cried, they had aircon inside!

After about a 10 minute wait I was seen by a very nice official who happily gave me my stamp and entrance document and sent me on my way before I was a puddle at her desk. Outside our guide took us to see someone to change up our Real into Bolivar ready for our trip. We then hopped into taxis heading for the train station.

At the train station we confirmed it would be a train we would be catching and that it would leave at 6pm. A 4 hour wait….Luckily our guide had a local contact where we could go for a reasonable price and use the pool, sbower, toilets, WiFi etc so we hopped back in the taxis. I was practically salivating at the word ‘shower’!

At the hotel, naturally the WiFi wasn’t working! I didn’t really care, that wasn’t what I was there for. I almost took the poor woman’s hand off when she offered out the towels and I basically sprinted to the shower whilst everyone else hit the pool.

The hotel owners were such lovely and helpful people. When they saw how bad my bites were they got me some alcohol to apply to stop them getting infected and offered a load of advice and some ice to help give me some relief. I was so grateful I would probably have moved into their service then and there. I even got a lollipop!

Before we knew it, it was time to get in the taxi and head to the train station. Feeling much fresher I felt ready for anything. 

At the train station we were told to get rid of our bags (I got to keep mine – Woop for 55l!) And then we were ushered to get onto the train. I was expecting this swish, modern looking train taking hundreds of people at speed to chosen destinations. Well clearly I was living in a fantasy! It was a two carriage train, looking very much like a UK train just with more spacious seats and it trundles along at a steady pace. It is however, miles better than the nightmare bus!!!! Not sure how well I will sleep tonight but I’ll give it my best shot.

Day 17 – Living in the Pantanal

So it turns out I would not survive living in the Pantanal. Apparently six months a year are like living in hell – I feel like I am there already and desperate to escape.

Yesterday evening we created a little cinema with our hammocks and watched a film on the laptop together which was nice, but soon after the itching began. It was just an odd twitch here and there to start with, but by 2am I felt like I had been dipped in chilli itching powder. It was awful.

The night in the hammock itself I don’t think would have been too bad. I had the knack of how to lay and although I had to get up in the night to change as it was FREEZING, I think I would have been alright. The itching however was a different kind of hell and I think I was lucky to get 2 hours sleep between the itching and the burning. 

I woke up looking like I had got hives overnight. They were everywhere, even covering my face. I’ve had an allergic reaction too (of course!) so everything is swollen which is awful. I think my ears are the most painful, there are times where I could cry with the pain.

Antihistamine, ibuprofen, paracetamol, more bug repellent and bite cream later I felt marginally better and got myself ready for our morning horse ride. I was taking no chances….I wore jeans, a long top, a hoody and my buff. Safe to say I was roasting alive.

The ride was peaceful from what I remember but I’ll be honest, I don’t remember too much. I felt very light headed and out of it when we got back. I think the heat and my layers had got to me. I went straight to my hammock, drunk some water and slept until lunch.

At 3pm our guide came and got us. We were heading out to a large lake nearby to do some fishing for dinner. Layered up again (eesh I don’t think I’ve ever been this hot in my entire life!), I grabbed my rod made of bamboo and joined the troops. 

At the lake we were given our bait of beef and told to go and catch piranha for our dinner! 
This seemed an interesting challenge, especially with the number of caiman around but after about 10 minutes you got used to being so close to them and watching when they were trying to steal your catch!

I caught 4 trout….No piranha’s from me, but luckily other people in the group did, so trout and piranha for dinner!

I skipped the night walk tonight as I have had more than my fair share of mosquito bites and I’m feeling pretty rough. I did however make an appearance at the bonfire this evening and had a few drinks and a few songs. A perfect end to a not so perfect day.

Day 16 – Welcome to Pantanal

A 5 hour bus journey later and we finally got to say goodbye to the nightmare bus!

We reached the transfer point and we were greeted by toucans singing in the trees (not sure if it can really be called singing….They sound like throaty crows) and our safari vehicle. We hopped in, met our guide and set off on our 45 minute journey. Our guide is fantastic, very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He pointed various animals out on the way and even stopped to show us jaguar tracks.

Pulling up to the farm was pretty magical. It felt like it should be a scene from a cowboy film….Horses, guinea fowl, vast rolling green plains and blue skies. We arrived at the hottest point in the day so everyone was resting. 

We were shown our rooms and given time to test our hammocks – it is surprisingly comfortable and I managed a nap! I will reserve full judgment until I have spent a whole night in it.

At 4 o’clock the group got together with our guide for a walk around the farm and forest. In theory this sounds exactly my kind of activity. In reality I was in complete misery. The mosquitos were like a plague. There were clouds of them every which way you turned and despite repellant and long trousers, I was being eaten alive.

Plus sides; we saw loads of caiman, macaws both blue and red, different woodpeckers, an armadillo and monkeys. The sunset when we came back to the farm was pretty show stopping. The amount of walking and water I’m drinking, I must be getting healthier!!!!

The mosquitos and heat are going to be a challenge to take here but a good test of my patience. Tomorrow we have an activity filled day (except between 11am and 4pm where everyone has a siesta because of the heat)….Bring on the challenges!