We left Sao Jorge and passed through Brasilía on our way west, to Cuiabá. Bus time:20 hours. Thus leaving me lots of time to think.
Should I do the Peace Corps? (I have been getting emails about an eminent invitation possibility in Africa).
Should I keep traveling until the end of May? (I love traveling, but Brazil is a bit more expensive than I expected, and I am actually finding myself longing a bit more structure, some new challenges, a bit of brain exercise, and a desire that my travel friends have identified as the American crisis: to be constantly productive).
If not the Peace Corps, then what? Work for a presidential campaign? Do, hopefully oudoorsy, science research? Find an NGO that would actually PAY me… and where should I move?
All these thoughts and concerns were weighing on me greatly (and the decision time is still coming so I´ll be thinking about them more), but they got stuffed to the back of my mind because I was so overwhelmed by all the amazing naturaleza that I saw in the Pantanal.
When we finally got to Cuiabá (or group had increased in size, Dave, Becky´s boyfriend, met up with us in Sao Jorge) we rented a car because everyone we met had been telling us that the best way to experience the Pantanal was to drive the road that enters the wetlands (the biggest wetlands in the world!) from the north, the Transpantaneira. So, we hopped in our VW Gol, bought some food, and set our sights on some camping!
We headed to Poconé first, where we stayed at Joao´s place (this time Joao was a older guy, but he seemed to think we were strange, funny, and harmless) and Joao let us pitch our newly purchased tents under a tree next to his small hotel. Since fishing season doesn´t start until March, there were not very many tourists passing through Poconé. After heavy rains drove us out of our non-waterproof tents, we woke up in our trusty Gol and started a sleepy day drive on the Transpantaneira.
It was phenomenal. We drove along a bumpy dirt road, only to stop every 5 minutes and jump out of the car to check out different wildlife! We mostly saw exotic birds and lots of birds of prey; including Crested Caracaras, Juibus (world´s biggest stork), Rheas (tall flightless birds that remind me of ostriches), Blue Macaws, Parakeets, Toucans, Egrets and Kingfishers of all kinds, Vultures, Ducks, it was so interesting. We also saw Capivaras (world´s largest rodent), marsh deer, black caimens, and lots of insects (but way too many mosquitoes). The best part was that we were just driving along a public road; I was in ecological heaven.
We camped at another spot the second night, and walked on some trails that an eco-tour company maintained, so we got to see some great views from an observation tower. We were a little disappointed not to see a giant anteater (though we saw Anteater Crossing signs on the road), but we did get stopped along the road several times to allow teams of up to 1000 cattle get herded by us with their Gaucho (Brazilian cowboy) tenders.
After a few days of driving along, we could not make it to the southern end of the road because it because too muddy and our VW was not quite hardcore enough. We turned around and stopped in Poconé before driving back to Cuiabá to start the long process that would be cleaning the car, ourselves, and all our clothes.
Check out all my photos of the biodiversity!