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To the Pantanal, BR


August 3rd, 2019

We were up and at ‘em early today in San Matias, Bolivia; border crossing days are often hectic and we knew this one had five places to check into, not the usual one (or two buildings) like Chile/Argentina crossings.

First: the Aduana (customs) to cancel our Temporary Import Permit (TIP).  We arrived at 8:25 to be told by the security guard, that since it was Saturday, they don’t open until 9 but someone “may” show up earlier.  Doug decided to go for a walk and that made them show up by 8:30 and Fran texted him to return as he had the passports and TIP.  The cancellation part took about ten minutes, and we were given a stamped copy.

Next over to Bolivian immigration at the police station on the other side of town to get exit stamps – that took less than five minutes

Stop number three was a “sanitary checkpoint” just across the border in Brazil.  You are not allowed to bring into the country several food items: fruit/veggies, meat, dairy, seeds and the like.  We had hidden several items but declared two potatoes, a star fruit and a few lemons we’d been given but not used.

500 m further up the road, was the Brazilian Aduana which upon approaching the gate on foot, we were told it was closed on weekends and we had to drive 100 km / 60 m to the first city, Cáceres to take care of both the entry stamp and the TIP.  As we said, roads here are paved so that took about an hour give or take, to get to the Federal Police Office where entry and exit stamps are done in this country.

As we drove up to the Police Station, it all looked locked up but we parked in front, walked to a locked door in the fencing, and there was a buzzer to push.  An officer came out, found out what we wanted, made us wait outside while he took our passports and the visas we’d gotten online inside to get it handled.  He was back out in less than ten minutes with our stamped passports.  So we have 90 days in Brazil which we confirmed we could renew once for a total of 180 days in a year. We will need at least that much time as Brazil is BIG!

Next and finally, was the Brazilian Aduana office.  Doug skillfully, managed to parallel park Tigger out front and went inside; only a security guard was there despite the hours on the door saying they were open until 12:30 – it was just past 11:30.  He called someone and Doug spoke to her (she spoke some English as our Portuguese is non-existent!) and she said she’d be there in a few minutes.  She was true to her word and within 35 minutes total, we had our TIP and were legally in Brazil.  Phew!

Now on the subject of the language:  Portuguese.  So many people told us it is very similiar to Spanish -but WTH?  It does not sound much like Spanish and often it sounds like the people are speaking with marbles in their mouths!  We can get more than the odd word and the written Portuguese is way easier to decipher but for now other than “thank you”, “I don’t speak Portuguese” and “good day”, we’re not making a big effort to learn much as we’ll be here, max two weeks.  We will return to do the main part of the country in January.

As usual when entering a new country, we need money, a cell phone chip, groceries and a place to stay.

Fran found the banks in this city (all on the same street downtown) and a large grocery store.  We got cash easily and then groceries.  The cell phone chip, was not a success – the Claro shop looked shut down and it was now Saturday afternoon and things were closing up.

There are no campgrounds in this city, just a few boon docking spots and hotels so we picked the Shell Station as it had showers, Wi-Fi and we could fill out water tank.  We pulled up to the pumps, filled up, asked where to park and we were directed to a huge parking area out back.

Doug decided he needed to walk some more and went to find a cell chip.  Fran stayed back, did dishes, put hidden stuff back and took care of a few other matters, like putting a new country flag on Tigger’s coach door:

We have been looking forward to this little adventure for ages since we learned that it has more possibility to see more animals than the Amazon Basin!  The best time to visit is in the dry season: June to September so we planned our route accordingly.

The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetlands. It is located mostly within the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul in western Brazil and extends into portions of Bolivia and Paraguay.  It sprawls over an area estimated at between 140,000 and 195,000 square kilometres (54,000 and 75,000 sq mi) and is TWENTY times larger than Florida’s Everglades.  Roughly 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are submerged during the rainy seasons, nurturing a biologically diverse collection of aquatic plants and helping to support a dense array of animal species.

The name “Pantanal” comes from the Portuguese word “pantano”, meaning wetland, bog, swamp, quagmire or marsh. By comparison, the highlands of Brazil are locally referred to as the planalto, plateau or, literally, high plain.

The Pantanal’s ecosystem is thought to be home to 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammals, 480 reptile species and over 9000 subspecies of invertebrates. Among the rarest animals to inhabit the wetland of the Pantanal are the marsh deer and the giant river otter. Parts of the Pantanal are also home to the following endangered or threatened species: the hyacinth macaw, the crowned solitary eagle, the maned wolf, the bush dog, the South American tapir and the giant anteater. Common species in the Pantanal include the capybara, the ocelot, and the yacare caiman. According to 1996 data, there were 10 million caimans in the Pantanal, making it the highest concentration of crocodilians in the world. The Pantanal is home to one of the largest and healthiest jaguar populations on Earth.

We drove through the sleepy village of Poconé (it was Sunday and NOTHING was open) entering the Transpanteira by early afternoon.

We began to see wildlife almost immediately: (these are just a few – check the gallery for more:

A giant anteater in the bushes
a coati
Giant heron
crab eating racoon – but they don’t eat crabs!
Monk Parrots
a sunning Capybara

We stopped at a large grassy area beside the road (a wild camp on iOverlander) mid afternoon and each went for a walk to stretch our legs.

Upon returning, a large unimog was parked near us and we had a chat with Franz from Austria and his wife, Meggie.  They had attempted to go down to Porto Jofre (the end of the road and where you do boat safaris) but their vehicle weighs 14 tons and about 65 km / 42 miles before the end, they came upon a bridge that they did not think they could cross safely.  (Tigger weighs just over 5 tons.)

Stayed tuned for the next day’s adventures!