“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Home sweet home

I've returned home to a newly decorated bathroom, a newly painted front door and a cat who almost acted like she missed me (almost). Feeling a very lucky girl.
I filled the washing machine with my filthy clothes, scrubbed myself clean and then treated and redressed my feet before sleeping a few hours and am now on my cosy sofa awaiting my roast dinner and deciding whether or not to have a first look at my images on a big screen - a bit nervous (as always) but nothing I can do about it now. It was my first tour shooting in RAW too so with any luck any minor mistakes can be rectified. I kind of miss the days of film, where a weeks worth of waiting in anticipation for the developers to do their thing helped me practise patience. Images will be uploaded to my Flickr account when I feel brave enough to choose enough for an album and then find the time to sufficiently process them!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Day 13 - the unexpected day!

So I woke early again as was worried about how to get home, but managed to doze until 7am which seemed a more sensible time to have breakfast... trouble was, despite not eating anything since noon yesterday, I found I couldn't eat - I forced down some fresh fruit and half a ham and cheese roll before retiring to pack my room again. The hotel kindly drove me back to the airport for 10am and waited whilst I went in to investigate. BA office was still not open, but it seems the day staff are more knowledgeable than the evening lot as a passing official told me there was a BA office behind the Terminal 1 check-in desks in Wing A. So the driver, (who was a lovely guy, who spent 18 months in the UK learning English at a college in Guildford) drove me from T3 back to T1 and waited again whilst I went in to investigate. The BA guy was most helpful and told me not to panic, I was to come back about 12:30/1pm ish when the BA office opens and they will get me on the 16:15 flight. Tears of relief followed as I ran back out to the waiting shuttlebus where my new friend suggested I wait back at the hotel as they would not yet have cleaned my room and he would bring me back in a couple of hours - things were looking up.
my plane IS going to be here
As soon as I was back in the hotel room I unpacked the chargers and plugged everything in again, I'm not risking it this time! I emailed yesterdays boarding card to reception and asked them to print it as evidence and tried to get a quick cat nap in before noon.
By the time I arrived at Terminal 3 for the 4th time in 24 hours, the BA desk was open! and a very very nice man called Renato swiftly took my paperwork, called for one of his staff to sort me out a boarding pass and told me they were looking for me last night and knew I was somewhere airside - they had already been told about the lost gate situation too and he apologised for the problems I had had and said he would take me as far as he could before being airside again.  He got me to the front of the check-in queue, he then took my rucksack to the "fragile" counter to have it sent through immediately and then took me again to the front of the departures gate before explaining exactly where gate 32 is. Of course this kindness set the bottom lip quivering again, but I held it together long enough to shake his hand and disappear behind the departure screen. Once through, I didn't dare stop for shopping for fear of missing something; a gate change, terminal change or even cancellation etc. not that I feel like buying anything from this airport after spending so much time in it - least of all a plastic snow globe with I "Heart" Sao Paulo on it!
So now I am sat in a cafe overlooking gate 32, I can see there is no plane there and there is not expected to be one for another hour - but I will see it arrive and I will be on it when it leaves - inshallah!

Day 12 - Travelling, travelling and more travelling

Dawn at Santa Tereza again saw no visit from toco toucans which is a shame, Ricardo thinks they are possibly nesting somewhere and therefore busy building. Despite the 1am finish, I still couldn't sleep and was up at 5am to see the sun rise again and take a swim before breakfast at 6am.
Had a very tired, reflective and emotional truck journey home - 4 hours, in the front row this time, with my head phones on. Much as I love my life at home, and I detest the number of biting bugs and insects here, there's something truly magical about this part of the world.  Like something out of the just-so stories and I hate to leave it.
We checked in to Cuiaba airport at noon then went off for lunch, said our goodbyes and got on the plane. All was going well until about 2 hours into the flight we landed in what appeared to be nothing more than a field. The teenager next to me tried her best to translate what the captain was saying; there was atraffic jam at Sao Paulo, and we were flying too long without enough fuel on board,  so we had stopped at Ribeirao Preto instead of Sao Paulo to wait and refuel. We would be taking off again in an hour. Slight panic hit me. Cuiaba is an hour behind Sao Paulo so where I thought I had 3 hours, I actually only had 2 to transfer, now with this delay it was not looking like I would make my connection.
We eventually landed in Sao Paulo at 745pm (my connecting flight leaving at 8pm) - by the time I had got my luggage it was 8pm so I walked to a TAM desk and the guy said your flight has been delayed an hour - RUN!
so I ran, and I ran and I sweated, then I dripped. I had no time to recheck my bags onto the plane, so I was carrying/dragging everything I had. Queued through the immigration area and then my phone battery started bleeping meaning soon I would no longer have a boarding card (I was electronic since I had checked in online only!) thankfully I was able to take a photo of the boarding card with my second phone before the first one died - aaaaaargh!!
It was 830pm by the time I had made it airside and the screens showed "boarding" - so I ran some more, searching for gate 50 - I continued running, but the signs ran out, where the hell is gate 50!!????, a nice man from Air Italia took pity on the state of me and grabbed my biggest rucksack from me and started to run with me - he could not find gate 50 either. 20 minutes of frantically running round the airport, up and down escalators, no-one seemed to know where the gate was - by the time we found it, the flight was gone. The guy was very apologetic, he said he was embarrassed about their new terminal and the confusing signage (or lack thereof) and embarrassed that all the staff we had asked did not know either. So now I was airside without a ticket, without a boarding card and without a way back through immigration - the guy again took it upon himself to help me. He handed me over to another nice guy on one of the immigration booths who shut his booth down and took me back through the various channels to obtain a second landing card, which then had to be stamped again as I had legally already "left" Brazil. By the time I got landside in the main terminal the BA office was shut, the TAM office said they couldn't help me with a seat on one of their flights (even though it was their delay!!) but that they could give me a form for me to show BA tomorrow stating what the cause of the flight delay was - this letter will apparently force them to put me on the next available plane home. Who knows when that will be.
10pm - dripping, shattered and starving hungry I wandered outside the arrivals hall, met a hotel rep and negotiated a price and a transfer to the Hotel Domani - by the time the complimentary shuttle bus turned up a few minutes later I was fairly calm and alert again - night time, alone, in a big Brazilian city wasn't the way I really wanted to end my trip but I knew the risks. and hey, there's another day tomorrow un-touched.

Day 11 - Transfer back to Santa Tereza

I have lots of these shots! Can you guess which bird??
Actually had a lie in today - well if you call 6am a lie in!! I set out at sunrise to shoot some hyacinth macaws around the hotel grounds, but actually ended up watching their antics through my binoculars whilst sipping coffee by the pool. We packed everything up and left about 8am for the 2 hour drive back to Santa Tereza, by the time we arrived, I was clutching a sick bag and desperately trying to breathe deeply through my nose. This is absolutely the last time I sit in the back of that truck. 
We had a quick lesson on fill-in flash around the lodge shortly after settling in (and then a couple of hours "free time" after lunch which was very welcome). In the afternoon we went out on our final boat ride on the Pixiam River to try again at capturing birds of prey and kingfishers retrieving fish from the water. We also came across two Giant river otters - judging by the state of his teeth, I'd say the first of them was the same one we saw a few days ago. Not a great specimen but good to be able to see him up close again - he must have 6 feet from the boat at times. My camera was "playing up" again and in frustration I handed it to David who eventually sussed that my lens was not mounted quite correctly and so it had an intermittent connection to the auto-focus - marvellous. Still... at least it's not ALL my photographic skills or eyesight!
We returned at sunset, and showered for pre-dinner beers. Last night of rice and beans and have to say am somewhat disappointed in the lack of Piranha soup all trip - was really looking forward to it; maybe it's the wrong season this time.  The beers continued after dinner and long into our last night - hilarious bird call competition between David and Ricardo, and the beginnings of a podcast came together for a Pantanal radio station - comedy genius.
My final pee before bed at 1am was the pinnacle of absurdity when the toilet cistern fell off the wall onto my head and flooded the bathroom! I was sat, trousers round my ankles, with the continuously filling tank balanced on my shoulder, pipework sticking out into the room, frantically typing a WhatsApp to David for assistance. Gotta love the Brazilian approach to construction.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Day 10 - last day with jaguars in Porte Jofre

I was late for breakfast as woke at 3am and could not get back to sleep until 440am. Made it onto the boat in time though.... just! The heat yesterday and the sheer thrill of the Jaguar sighting, made for an emotionally draining day.
The cameras first came out shortly after leaving the jetty where there were a large flock of skimmers feeding and washing in the lovely low and warm early morning light. Gorgeous, but a bit quick for me at that time of day - I had not woken up at all!

Throughout the day we were lucky enough to see two jaguar, but both were in such poor photographic situations, that we spent most of the day trawling up and down other smaller tributaries for hours and hours looking for a better one instead; how spoilt are we! (well actually, it's probably more accurate to say that I was mucking about on the back of the boat with Leanne and Ricardo for most of the day), but thankfully the constant movement and lower temperature made for a much more comfortable day.

Our last night at Porte Jofre, the most luxurious lodge (actually it's a Hotel this one) on the Pantanal and so Leanne and I decided it was time to empty her bottle of vodka, that is until she knocked it off the bench and smashed it on the floor - thankfully though a good volume had already been consumed by then and so the pool beckoned us for a spot of moonlit swimming - now I'm not one to condone water sports being mixed with alcohol - but swimming in that pool, which must have been 25-30 degrees, lit only by the moon after a long and exhausting day on the river was another memory I will never forget - thanks guys. Going to be really hard to leave this place.

Day 9 - 12 hours in a boat!!!!!

Another 5am start to maximise our time on the river in search of Jaguar - can't say I'm getting used to it at all, but it's certainly interesting to see how little sleep I can survive on when I really need to. I am however getting used to drinking Brazilian coffee in the mornings - it's incredibly strong, very bitter and comes in tiny shots, but by having it in a larger cup filled with hot sweetened milk it's actually quite bearable. Not yet missing my earl grey as haven't touched the emergency supply I brought with me.

The boat started out with the sun cover down and the wind in our hair which was absolute magic, but by 8am we were begging JD to put the cover up. However, as soon as we stopped to shoot a cat, the rules of the river dictate covers come down to ensure everyone gets a reasonable view, so within minutes of arriving at a Jaguar sighting, we were all drenched in sweat again. By lunchtime the temperature had reached 42 degrees and in full sun with extremely high humidity we became a floating sauna. Thankfully, we were rewarded for our suffering every 30 minutes or so when the Jaguar also decided he was too hot and came out of the bushes, down the bank and into the river for a quick swim and a drink - awesome - the size and power of these beautiful cats is immense. Lunch was a simple affair, rice and catfish, washed down with yet more water whilst remaining on the boat of course. After lunch, for a good hour, the Jaguar had not moved much other than the odd flick of a tail or turn of the head. The cooler was emptying fast, rounds of water being called for every few minutes. We were filling our hats with the melted ice water which pretty much evaporated as soon as it was placed back on our heads. Never known heat like it. In light of my history of feinting in strong heat, I was getting concerned and struggling to breathe properly. We had been stationary, in full direct sun for a good few hours before we decided it was best to move ourselves.
This prompted a high-speed trip downstream for another "bio break" - quite unnerving waiting for David and Ricardo to check the chosen riverbank for any signs of Jaguar before disembarking for the fastest pee on record. We got off the boat and stepped over Jaguar prints to get to the nearest cover (of which there wasn't much - but to be honest we didn't really care) Kim had remembered to bring her she-wee so would be first back to the boat if sprinting were needed. This meant I only really had to be quicker than Leanne who was, like me, going for the traditional squat, in tick-infested grasses! Strangely though there is something quite liberating about peeing in broad daylight, on open ground, facing a massive river, whilst keenly looking out for cats that have been recorded at over 170kgs!

By 4pm the water situation had become a concern for Leanne, so Ricardo obtained 4 more bottles from a passing tourist boat giving us at least another hour on the water.
Thankfully we had all remembered to grab beers from the fridges in our rooms when leaving and so we were able to enjoy a cold one as the sun set during our high speed journey back to the hotel. There's nothing else on earth better - and the moment will forever bring a smile to my face. Who needs more than one wild large male Jaguar happily cooling off in front of you in a day.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Day 8 - Transfer to Porte Jofre

The drive along the final section of the Transpantaneira to Porte Jofre ... long, hot and very very bumpy. It was mine and Leanne's turn in the back of the truck too which made for a horribly queasy journey for me and a pee stop half way which resulted in me being trouserless in the back of the truck trying to remove a biting critter from my thighs. Not comfortable at all.
Arrived mid morning and settled in, gorgeous place - middle of nowhere. Had a lovely lunch before setting off in our boat at 130pm with our boat driver, JD - within an hour we were shooting a Jaguar on the river bank as a result of a radio call from one of the other guides - awesome!!!
By the end of the afternoon we had seen 3 different jaguars; the last one having "words" with two giant river otters before frightening the Capybara half to death.. and in their haste to get away one of them unfortunately clonked its head on the underside of our boat in a panic resurfacing! Funny but not funny at the same time. I happened to be sitting in the belly of the tin boat at the time and felt the force that the poor rodent hit it with. And when I say rodent, we are talking rodent the size of a large dog or small pig, not a rat-sized mammal at all. Capybaras are a Jaguar's staple prey. Really difficult conditions to shoot though - I really struggled - not only was the boat moving up and down with the passengers moving and the waves in the water, but it was drifting with the current too - image stabilisation can no way compensate for these aspects as well as camera shake, low light level blurring and my hideously bad focusing ability! Still is was an awesome experience and with any luck I will improve with practise over the next couple of days.

Amazing sunset too, immediately followed by a spectacular full moon rise - but since we were still a long way from home at this point, (and ended up returning at high speed in the dark on the boat) I was not able to film it. Such a shame as it really was stunning; because the sun had only just set, the full moon was a vivid golden colour and reflected in the water for miles.

Day 7 - Transfer to Santa Tereza

So last night I went to bed immediately after dinner at 830pm - in preparation for a hide session needing a 4am start. David has never shot Toucans at the nest before and so it was an opportunity not to be missed. High discipline throughout a 3 hour session, in high heat, wouldn't be most people's idea of a holiday, but it was fantastic. I learnt all about approach, behaviour, recognising a Toucan alarm call as well as what constitutes skittish bird behaviour. But above all, patience. We had to refrain from shooting for a good while to get the birds used to us being sat in our canvas hide watching them first, then using single-shot firing before progressing to high-speed motor drive once they were ok with it. Thoroughly enjoyed it, despite being in such close proximity to at least 5 mosquitoes and not being able to do a thing about it. Still haven't mastered coughing silently though - much to David's annoyance!
Ricardo came to collect us at 730am in the truck to return us to the lodge for breakfast and a lesson in exposure - which didn't actually go so well - not sure how many people have ever used "manual" before, but in such stupidly sticky heat and severely sleep-deprived, no-one really got to grips with what was being explained, so David reverted to a simpler task and eventually got everyone on the same page (I think!?!).
We then got to practise our new found knowledge shooting Jacare (Caimen) out the front of the lodge as the staff threw chunks of dead fish at them... hectic, a little unnerving and very difficult given the speed these creatures move. But I think we got there in the end.
We arrived at Santa Tereza in time for lunch and a talk about boat photography and preparation for our river search for Jaguars - starting to panic a little as apparently it's common for tempers to fray on the water as boats jostle for the best position. As the "Delta Squad" we are duty bound to behave with pure decorum, patience and professionalism under all circumstances. Hmmn, we shall see.
A quick swim to cool off before setting off on a magical boat trip at 3pm to see the Giant River Otters.
Bit of a meltdown with the auto-focus on my lens right at the point of the river otter turning up, but sussed it may well be due to condensation --- stupidly had my camera in my air conditioned room with me and so as soon as I left the room it must have steamed up somewhere inside and decided it wasnt going to play ball when I needed it too. Most frustrating when you have a Giant River Otter eating fish only feet from the boat! Better luck tomorrow. Shattered.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Day 6 - Monday - Paso Da Ema (Araras Lodge) - a tad grumpy!

Gonzalez bringing our horses over
With only 4 rooms it was suggested yesterday that Ricardo and David either sleep outside at Paso da Ema, or travel back to Araras - leaving us with no Portuguese speaker on site - not something I was particularly comfortable with, especially as beers flow, people get brave and Caimen are VERY close. So I opted to move in with Leanne and give them my room last night, which she happily accepted. So this morning when I got up I was conscious of letting Leanne get ready in her room on her own - however, as it turns out my phone had not updated its time zone automatically on arriving in Cuiaba and was still on Sao Paulo time, which meant I had gotten up at 4am instead of 5am and after the 1am finish last night I wasn't feeling too clever. I knew this trip would mean enduring sleep deprivation, but I hadn't banked on it being quite so hot and sticky as well - seriously draining. I think everyone was suffering today.
Capybara at Araras Lodge
The waterside hide I was in was not a great success for me either; pretty much facing into the rising sun when the horses got in the water to drink so I have a few backlit images and not a lot else. No natural perches in my line of sight and the floating water hyacinth had floating off overnight since the hide was placed! oh well, what's a little backache and a few more mossie bites eh?!?
After sweating profusely for a couple of hours crouched on a dust-bank by the water's edge in a canvas bag, we had some breakfast and headed straight out into the burning heat for a horse ride with Gonzalez - one of the most famous and impressive Brazilian "Pantaneiros" (cowboys) - award winning in his field and on the cover of a book about the area. Although there was little breeze and more flies, it was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours - we saw Redbrock deer, and a couple of Great Rheas, one with a broken wing.
Today's lesson when we returned, covered composition, backgrounds and shooting sunsets - which was great except we haven't actually had any sunsets yet - endless cloud cover - fingers crossed for the next few nights.
After lunch I attempted a siesta (3 hours sleep a night is really not working for me), but the temperature is ridiculously hot - as soon as you step out of a cold shower, you are drenched in sweat again and the mosquitoes are relentless. I've had to buy another bottle of the local repellent as mine appeared to be doing very little. I'm massively tired, bitten, swollen and quite uncomfortable, so despite loving this place, I'm actually really looking forward to moving on to Santa Tereza tomorrow and their small swimming pool - and AIRCON!!! YAY.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Day 5 - Sunday

Set off stupidly early (515am) to get inside the hides and ready for dawn - unfortunately though, the storm had collapsed two and destroyed the third. So we went back to the field of termite mounds to look for Anteater again... this time it was David who spotted her - and lord only knows how - 800m out, underneath a tree on the horizon - the chase began again - the grass plain had fewer tussocks than the previous stalk and made for much nicer shots too - and this time of course, my focussing was a little more accurate after fine adjustments made in camera. Still not perfect, but as David says, I will need to "tweak" somehow. She also didn't move quite so fast or so often so we got to observe a bit more behaviour, although she was much more skittish than the last one. I now need to work on my positioning and speed when we stop walking and get down ready to shoot, because on a number of occasions I found my view blocked by the others and as a result I have a number of images of the backs of their heads! - quite frustrating. Still... third time lucky and all that.
After breakfast we packed up our rooms and set off for our transfer to Paso da Ema - the remotest stop on our tour.  Not a long transfer, 20kms or so, (depending on what you see on the way), I guess it took us about an hour or more, so lunch was pretty much waiting when we got there. It's exactly how I remember it, with the jetty into the water, the basic rooms (no air con!!!!) and a lot of fairly habituated birds flitting about. 230pm set off for the parent lodge, Araras, 6kms back to the Transpantaneira where tea and cake was waiting for us under a mango tree which happened to have a Great Horned Owl in it that half the guests didn't know was there until David and Ricardo pointed it out to them! Then we walked the boardwalk up to the monkey tower - which unfortunately had no monkey's on it (or even close to it), just a shed load of mosquitoes - Kim suffers worse than me if that's possible and was done up like an arctic climber on the way back with hood up and gloves on etc. poor thing, but I do know how she feels.
Back to shower and change... back to Araras for dinner....back to Paso Da Ema for beers on the jetty.... non-stop, no time to blog, no time to review images and no time for siesta, so with a planned 430am start tomorrow (to get in the hides again) staying on the jetty til almost 1am was a really bright idea Joanne... well done - right good giggle though - nice to have a group that know how to have a laugh :-)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Giant Anteater just before dawn!

Wow - dream come true this morning and well worth the 430am start!!!! we stalked this Giant Anteater for almost an hour just before dawn today - incredible, all the time on the move trying to keep downwind of him at the same time as battling against low light levels, tussocks of grass in the way and barbed-wire fences, which of course he made light work of, but was much harder for us and our cameras. Got, soaked, muddy, bitten and sweaty... but loved absolutely every second of it. Bring on the armadillos! (Ps: you can't really tell from the photo, but this guy is a whopping 8ft long!!)

Day 4 - Piuval

4:30am start in search of a Giant Anteater which has been sighted recently - Ricardo spotted it from about 500 yards out in near darkness - David then checked the wind direction and explained the route we needed to take on foot to get into position - it was a wide arc, across open tussocky grassland, but few fences and few ditches, so we set off - travelling light (camera and beanbag only) and within a few minutes were within shooting range. Soggy bum, sodden trousers and a lot of sweat made me a perfect mosquito target, but nothing could have dampened my spirits stalking that gentle giant (although David tells us they can be quite vicious too if provoked) - it was magical. We got very close, for a very long time, lots of moving and I really need to reduce the time it takes me to get from stalking to crouched and shooting as it was a constant battle to stay downwind - I really didn't realise they move so much or so quickly! Awesome creature.
The stalk ended after an hour when the group found ourselves separated by a wire fencing, three on one side and 3 on the other - we think the "Ant bear" heard the fence twanging and trotted off into the undergrowth. Totally amazing experience.
sunset on a Samsung S4!
We returned for some breakfast and dry clothes and then ventured out again to some water pools with a wooden bridge where we found a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (or was it a "Little Owl"?) which just wouldn't play ball and a very pretty woodpecker. Then back to the lodge for a lesson in auto-focusing - even more confused!!! and very frustrated as every single one of my little owls is slightly soft - Grrrrrrrr.
Lunch gave me some time to calm down and practise around the lodge on the fence posts whilst David and Ricardo returned to the pools to set up/build bird hides for us all to spend tomorrow morning in. When they returned, we took a frustrating drive down the Transpantaneira to the gate where all bird life seemed to be on the left hand side of the van - when I was sat on the right - Black collared hawks, Rufescent Tiger Heron, Kingfishers etc.
floating water hyacinth
We pulled up at another bridge over water pools and spent the dusk hour shooting water hyacinths in bloom
and playing abouth with auto HDR function in my K-5, that was until a massive storm arrived - impressive fork lightning and a mass of dark clouds rolled in towards us - then came the wind... with surprising speed too... it took David's camera and tripod down with such force it broke the lens away from the body - and then whipped up enough road dust to fill the void ten times over. The camera was wounded, possibly fatally. Not a good situation to be in - needless to say the drive back was a little tense. We were worried too about the hides and whether or not they would still be there in the morning. Rain lashed the windscreen as we drove back in silence, no-one really knowing what to say.
When we arrived back at the lodge, thankfully the staff were waiting to dash out from reception with umbrellas to get us and our gear back into the dry.
Dinner was a similar affair to last night except now we had something to celebrate... David had managed to repair his camera - all was working again. Phew. This led to a number of beers, and then a few more. Time to get to know the group a bit better and have a good laugh along the way.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Day 3 - and we're off!

Café da Manhã - 02

Wow what a first day - so many things I had forgotten about this place, and am so so pleased I decided to return. We set off after breakfast in search of an electrical store as most peoples power adapters did not work (Brazil have recently changed all of theirs to standardise on a new recessed kind which makes life a lot harder for everyone). Found some and moved on to a dead-rat-infested supermarket for supplies (gin, wine and corn to fill beanbags) - we were all done by 8am and set off on the Transpantaneira heading south into the wetlands. The temperature very quickly reached sweaty heights and water was coming out of us quicker than we could replenish it, but we saw plenty of birds and the landscape fell away as we left the high pantanal and dropped into the lowlands. We had reached our first lodge, Pousada Piuval, by half eleven in time for a quick unpack before lunch. Rice, beans and Paco fish with salad - gorgeous - the food is even better than I remember - if that's possible.
The view from the "classroom" at Pousada Piuval
David gave our first theory lesson (2 hours) during which I managed to get completely confused about auto-focusing, but thankfully my "standard" settings are the ones I should be sticking with anyway, so no need to panic just yet - it may become an issue when tracking birds flying overhead, but until then all will stay as is. Some free time afforded me a quick swim in the pool before meeting up for a local vehicle safari at 330pm. This turned into our first real attempt at shooting from beanbags on the trip and also a major feast for the mozzies. I racked up 17 bites in an hour, with DEET on and one of them was even through my trousers! (although I was on my stomach crawling through the dirt, near water, stalking a gorgeous Bittern at the time).  Got some good shots I think, not only of the Bittern, but a pair of very rare hyacinth macaws at their nest, a perched Savannah hawk, a Cocoi Heron and even a half decent redbrock deer. Saw my first Coati and had a thoroughly enjoyable, but quite painful, afternoon, my right arm is already starting to swell up quite badly. 430am start tomorrow so need to clean down cards and charge everything ready for hunting a giant anteater which has been seen not far from here with a baby on board... fingers crossed! 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Day 2 - Cuiaba

Woke at 4am when some new arrivals decided it considerate to drag their suitcases along a dimpled marble corridor outside everyone's rooms...Grrrrr. Woke again at 6am as the sun did and decided it wasn't worth trying to sleep anymore - way too excited. The hotel is massive, clean and very friendly indeed - breakfast also wasn't bad, basic, but not bad at all - plenty of fruit and cakes etc, and I forgot how breads were always sweet and never savoury here - which was a shock when I loaded a roll up with cheese and ham! the day was pretty leisurely actually - met the group, all seem my kind of people and we get along ok. Everyone has been on at least one of David's tours before, so we all have a fair idea of what to expect. Leanne myself and David nipped out for beers whilst the others settled in and got cleaned up from their journey. Ricardo turned up just before dinner having literally driven out of the Pantanal from another tour with a hideous group apparently - but so nice to see him again. Dinner was an outside affair which was lovely - still 25 degrees at night and the mossies were bearable all evening. Bed by 10pm ready for breakfast at 630am! The tour starts tomorrow.

Long journey - but made it :-)

It's days like today (facing 11h35 on a single flight) that I'm so glad I don't watch movies or go to the cinema as I was able to enjoy all the new releases back to back - "BA Wednesday" whilst being fed and watered and plied with Red wine - can't be bad. The second "how to train your dragon" was a gem though - made me remember the very poor (and painful) attempt I made to fly as a kid many years ago - the episode involved only the one wing (on account of the time it took to make the first and my severe lack of patience), a substantial hay barn and 100% pure belief - thank heavens for fathers is all I can say.
"Tammy" made me laugh... and cry...embarassingly, but "Rio" and "Rio 2" easily killed the last 4 hours before hitting the heat of Sao Paulo airport. The first queue was to get my passport stamped and although it took almost an hour to get through it was actually remarkably bearable. Of course by the time I eventually passed through, my luggage was pretty lonely chugging it's way around the baggage belt. Then I hiked from terminal 3 to terminal 1 to check-in again for the domestic flight which was also relatively painless (just very very hot and sticky). No phone signal anywhere, but plenty of wifi, so I was able to get WhatsApps and realised David was still awake and intending to meet me at Cuiaba airport to be sure I made it to my hotel ok - perfect. All was fine - the next flight was only 2h20mins and I slept most of it - woken only when my seat started vibrating and I realised it was the bloke next to me farting! nice. Landed on time, with all luggage and David to greet me - made friends with the hotel shuttlebus driver who got me checked in and carried my things to my room - shattered. A long journey, but the adventure starts here.

Half way through journey...

At Sao Paulo airport waiting for next flight to board. Feels like midnight to me but only 8pm here... still a long way to go, but thankfully me and my luggage are still together.