After the stunning beauty of Iguaçu Falls we headed inland towards the Pantanal, one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands, an area rich in wildlife in the southeast of Brazil.
We stayed for 3 nights at a farm/eco tourism lodge, Santa Clara, with macaws and toucans in the trees and caiman and piranha in the river. We trekked through the jungle and rode horses across green fields. In such a beautiful setting it was easy to forget how hot we were and how many mosquitoes were biting us.
A highlight of our stay here was a boat trip up the river, where we saw so many beautiful birds as well as capybaras, the largest rodent in the world. We watched them munch grass on the banks of the river, and then completely disappear under the dark water.
We also spent an afternoon fishing for piranhas’, a pastime in which I was not very successful but Luke of course excelled at. He managed to catch 9 which along with a few caught by some others were then cooked up for our dinner.
Competing with us for space along the river bank were caiman, a smaller relative of the crocodile who supposedly only eat fish. Some of them got very close, and some of us got close to them. We did swim in the same river with the piranha and caiman, although I didn’t stay in long after I felt things bumping my legs.
Our next stop in the Pantanal was in Bonito, where we had come to see one of the clearest rivers in the world, the Rio Prata. There is a section of the river where people are allowed to take guided snorkelling tips, and it is very worth doing. The water is crystal clear and teaming with big fish and underwater plants.
While we were in Bonito Luke and I also went on a river tubing trip. I imagined something similar to floating down the river where I grew up on an old tire, but this was quite different. After being made to put on helmets and life jackets I guessed it would be a little more intense. It was a fun hour of going over little waterfalls and rapids down a lovely jungle river.
Paraty is a beautiful little colonial beach town between Sao Paulo and Rio. We stopped here for a few days before reaching the end of our trip. The sea here was almost too warm to swim in, but it was nice to spend a few days soaking up the sun and relaxing before hitting Rio in the full swing of Carnaval!
Rio is an absolutely mental place, and I imagine it would be on a regular day as well as during the biggest party week of the year. Throughout the city there are street parties at all times of day and night. These basically consist of a float or band slowly making their way through a neighbourhood followed by a large crowd of dancing, dressed up people. It is a crazy sight to behold, but a fun thing to be a part of.
On one of our days in Rio we did a city tour, which was actually a great way to see all the major sights without waiting in long line ups. Our first stop was up one of the mountains surrounding the city to see the Christ the Redeemer statue. This iconic spot is packed with people all trying to get the perfect selfie, but as we got there pretty early it was not as bad as it could have been (or so we were told!). It was an impressive statue, but the views of the city made going up there worthwhile.
We also took the cable car up Sugar Loaf mountain for more great views of Rio.
There is a lot of cool graffiti dotted throughout the city. We spent an afternoon wandering the streets in Santa Teresa checking out the street art and also visited Selaron’s Staircase, where one man spent years creating a masterpiece of tiles. People from all over the world have sent tiles to help the artist along in his work. Sadly the steps only became an official tourist attraction a couple of years ago after Selaron’s body was found burned on the steps.
We did of course visit Copacabana beach. It was nice, but very busy and the sea is quite rough for swimming.
On our last night in Rio we all had tickets to go to the Sambadrome to watch the Carnaval parade. It is not mandatory to cover your body in glitter or dress up, but we all did our very best (even Luke embraced it!). The floats and dancers start around 8pm and finish at 7am the next day. We didn’t last quite that long, but it was amazing to be apart of and a good way to say goodbye to the friends that we have made on the truck over the last 4 months.
Looking back over our travels through South America it is incredible to think of all the things that we have seen and done in four months. It was a bit of a whirlwind, and at times we wished we had had more time to go off and do things on our own, but overall we enjoyed life on the big yellow truck and all the amazing things we have been lucky enough to experience. Our next adventures are just around the corner, so stay tuned…