A surprise

Driving through town we see a small airplane over us and Julinho’s eyes start to shine… Lilito…he starts fumbling with his phone then looks at me and asks me ‘would you like to fly?’ That was unexpected but of course yes!! I had no camera with me (it must be a curse…it already happened to me more than 10 years ago flying out of Marajo island in Parà on a small plane, my brother had a camera and took a lot of pictures, sick and scared to death…and the camera broke…I’ve never seen him so desperate again) but there we were. Forgotten the supermarket, the provisions we drove straight to the local landing strip and got on Lilito’s plane. I knew Julinho had a pilot license…but I wouldn’t have dared to dream of flying with him over the Pantanal!!! It was a great experience, we landed with a storm arriving and he mastered the difficult task perfectly. The storm caught us in the supermarket, were we finally bought food to take on our trip.

At night we went to eat ‘espetinho’ with Alessandra and her family and she expressed what I had been feeling: it was as if we had been knowing each other for a long time and not just met a few hours ago!! …that doesn’t happen so often. Nobu, her husband told us that he had been on the river for one week at Carmindo’s (without Julinho) and hadn’t seen the glimpse of a jaguar. So he just got the fame of ‘pè frio’, that means bad luck bringer. We asked him to come along, he is very nice and funny and would have been a great travel companion.
During the night he changes his mind…must have gotten afraid of his bad fame…and the bad luck he could have brought upon us.

Jam Session

After a while we hear the noise of a jeep stopping in front of the house. Julinho has arrived with Marion and John from the US. They are enthusiastic about their trip to the Pantanal, first time here and first time in Brazil…20 days, wow…John gives me some funny tips about the camping at Carmindo’s and Maria’s place. They stayed the first part of their trip in pousadas and lodges along the Transpantaneira and the last days they camped. They assure it was the best part of their trip, where the
y really got the feeling of what this place is all about. They want to buy some stamps before leaving and Jon wants a pantaneiro-knife like Julinho’s who invites me to come with them, so we have the chance to get to know each other some more before the trip. Afterwards they leave with Selmis for Cuiabà and Alessandra laughing takes me by the hand saying the time had come for me to meet Sandy…Sandy is Julinho’s beloved guitar , his inseparable companion. I get a little taste of him playing and singing along with his sister…great! But we still have to go and buy provisions for our trip next day or else we’ll have to eat leaves.

On the road to Poconé

At 12 I’m landing at Cuiabà airport where Celmis, Julinho’s sister is already
waiting for me. We get into the car and drive out of Cuiabà, in reality of Vàrzea Grande, the sister city on the other side of the rio Cuiabà where the airport is located. Direction Poconè! Celmis is very communicative, she is happy that I speak Portuguese and tells me a lot about the surroundings, about herself and her family.
The paved road to Poconè is straight and runs through stunning green scenery and some smaller towns. You alrea
dy get the taste of the vastity of this land, endless green fields, sprinkled with trees, palms and some forest. White cattle dazes at the side of the road.
Our talk get’s so lively that I forget completely to take photos…
After 2 hours we arrive in Poconè; we are going to meet Julinho and the couple that is going back to Cuiabà with Celmis at Alessandra’s home, a half-sister of Julinho’s.
Poconè is a small sleepy town, with a frontier feel, it’s the gateway to the Pantanal. Alessandra receives us at her beautiful house, and engages a very lively conversation with Celmis. She is married to a Japanese man, Nobu and has a little daughter, Raquel, that looks like a beautiful Japanese doll. They live in Poconè and work as tourist guides, she also teaches English to locals involved with tourism. That’s a family with a talent for languages, Julinho speaks a lot of languages himself.


6 o’clock in the morning I’m heading to Santos Dumont air
port in Rio de Janeiro under a heavy storm. It’s been raining since my arrival in Rio one week ago. Shivering I look up to the gloomy sky hoping in Mato Grosso’s proverbial heat. Trip flight takes me to Cuiabà, the capital of Mato Grosso, with stop-over in Belo Horizonte and Goiania.
Dozing over the clouds I wonder if Julinho from Pantanal Trackers(www.pantanaltrackers.com.br), the guide I hired on the internet, received my e-mail confirming his change in plans. His sister was supposed to pick me up at the airport and bring me to a guest-house in Cuiabà, where he would have met me at night after having brought to the airport the people he was on tour before me. That would have meant driving the whole 245 km road from Porto Jofre over Poconè to Cuiabà on one day and all the same on the next early morning. I had expressed my concern about him being tired in one of our earlier e-mails….well…never dare to say to a Pantaneiro that he is tired…it’s a rough land of proud hard-working man. Being myself a proud hard-working woman I hadn’t insisted any longer.
In fact a few days before my departure he had written to me proposing to meet him directly in Poconè, fantastic I had answered but I wasn’t sure he had had the chance to check his e-mails on the road. I wasn’t worried, Poconè is a small town 2 hours from Cuiabà at the beginning of the Transpantaneira, if I missed him or his sister at the airport I would have jumped on a bus to Poconè and was confident I would have found him there….
I didn’t know the guy, but from his e-mails I got the feeling that he was a nice person. And so it was.
I had contacted him some months ago, after an extensive research on the web, and by e-mail we had set up a plan for my five days in the Pantanal. I wanted to see Jaguars and of course all the wildlife, I wasn’t really interested in all the ordinary adventure stuff offered by conventional jungle-tours. I wanted also to get the feeling of what it was like to live in a place like that, not only the gorgeous nature but the people that are living part of this environment.
Our plans were to leave Cuiabà early in the morning of the 24th, drive to Poconè and slowly down the 145 km of the Transpantaneira, admiring the wildlife and landscape, arrive in Porto Jofre, pick up his boat and drive 2 and a half hours to the home of a local couple on rio Piriguara where we will be camping during our tour, deep in the area were we would have the chance to see the onça pintada, the jaguar - the largest American feline.