To the Pantanal

Posted: February 15, 2012 by Ben Weber in English, The Journey
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The first leg of our journey is to leave from São Paulo to Corumbá, travelling the 1,400km or so route by bike. We should hopefully be in good shape as after all, we will have been spending the good part of two years preparing for this, so something would be very wrong if we are not!

The main highlight of this journey is arriving at the Pantanal – a massive tropical wetland largely located in Mato Grosso state, Brazil, thought also extends into Bolivia and Paraguay, covering around 160,000 square kilometres. The area is a massive flood plain, and the rains, which occur largely between November and March, can make the water levels rise by up to around five meters in the season. Fortunately, the flooding is quite slow as the regions is pretty flat, and also we will be going at the beginning of the dry season when the waters start to recede.

I have lived in Brazil for five years and wanted to go to the Pantanal for at least ten years, but still haven’t been there, so am quite looking forward to reaching it (the photos on this page, whilst taken by me, were taken of these animals in different parts of Brazil, though these are some of what we can expect to see).

Aside from the massive scale of the land, you can see all sorts of bird life, marine and land animal life. You get caiman alligators,  anteaters, jaguars, macaws, eagles and… unfortunately from my point of view… mosquitos (love-hate relationship; they love me…) and snakes. Anacondas (have you seen the film…? Stupid, isn’t it…?! Still terrifies me to death, though. That’s not even touching on Snakes on a Plane…. I know, I know… pathetic!). But I suppose even them being around won’t put me off too much and I will have to get over it somehow! Wikipedia says that the place is thought to be home to 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species, 480 reptile species and over 9000 different subspecies of invertebrates – quite an amazing thought. Though at the same time sad with the human threats of commercial fishing, cattle ranching, hunting, deforestation and pollution. Always very sad to see this happening to such incredible places.

I would love to go a non-straight-forward route through the Pantanal – going off the main roads/tracks, to actually hike and bike, through the undergrowth. Not sure how much this is possible though, considering the time of year with the waters still high and I have a vague suspicion that we won’t be able to carry a boat around with us. That might be slightly impractical. I see on Google Maps that there is a road which goes through it, from Aquidauana north of the main road, and goes for about 400 kilometers or so. The images from parts of it on street view make it look like a bit of a track… so hopefully this would be a good way to go about it, making it a bit more exciting than just a plain road, and hopefully allowing us to see more of the amazing animals that inhabit the area. Then if you zoom further in on the maps, you see lots of minor roads which go through it… how accurate are these..? Are they passable when the terrain is flooded..? If passable, they must be a lot of fun!

Have you cycled or travelled through the Pantanal without going with tour guides? Or done the journey from one side to another (going north to south or vice-versa would also be interesting to know about!)? We would be really interested in hearing your thoughts about this part of the journey and the ways it can be done.


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