Back on the Transpantaneira

Back on the road, this time Julinho is at the wheel. Lost in thoughts and overwhelmed by all the beauty that surrounds us we drive on in silence. After a while he asks me if I mind him putting on some music, not at all! He takes out an I-pod with a transmitter that is connected
to the jeep's radio and to a sound-box that shares the back-seat with Sandy (the guitar). And there we go, with a nice soundtrack....we had already discussed some likes and dislikes regarding music before... A guy full of resources....I can't get tired of saying this.. We make a stop at Jaguar Ecological Reserve, where we have slept the first night, for coffee and Milton gives us some cake for the trip. At the abandoned Ibama post under the big mango-trees we stop and this time the great horned owls are there! Two of them. Julinho imitates it's sound and they answer... I confess my irrational love for mango's and soon a bunch of ripe fruits appear in my hands. The sweetest mango's I've ever eaten...we drive on while I relish on my fruits out of the window, trying hard not to stain myself and the jeep with mango juice, not an easy task. Poor Julinho has to stop after a while and 'wash' me like a small child. We see an extraordinary amount of birds and some small mammals cross the road, but they are too far away to attempt taking photos. Suddenly a sad scene on the road: a bird that must have been hit by a car lies in the middle of the road and his companion sits beside the lifeless body, he doesn't move even when our jeep drives around them. After death life: a jabuti is corageously slowly crossing the road. We have a stop and put him on the other side, not all drivers are careful as Julinho when driving on the Transpantaneira. There are lots of animals crossing the road and sadly a lot of them get hit by cars and trucks driving at high speed. The sun is slowly going down at our back, a lobinho, crab-eating fox, rushes through the grass on our left side. We are still far away from Pousada Piuval where we will spend the night, as soon as we get to an area where telephones start working Julinho calls them telling our estimated time of arrival. The problem is the kitchen, the same people that prepare dinner get up at dawn to prepare breakfast for early guests and we don't want to steal them precious sleeping hours. Being at km 10 of the Transpantaneira they stand to summer time, not sun time, that makes us lose one more hour. In the twilight we see too more gorgeous marsh-deers. A quick stop at Bararas where Julinho leaves part of the camping gear he will use on his next tour, and while he calls again Piuval to give them our exact coordinates I take a quick walk to the dark forest on the other side of the road....and there it is again, the noise, the 'jungle symphony'... Julinho calls me back from delirium, we have to hurry up and this is the worst part of the Transpantaneira. We arrive at Pousada Piuval around 9 pm and head straight to dining room, dirty and sticky as we are. After a quick dinner we finally relax, get the keys to our rooms and manage to get ourselves civilized again. Pousada Piuval is at the beginning of Transpantaneira, it is very comfortable, with air-con and pool and caters a lot to brazilian tourists who are not to keen to stay in basic places. It was quite strange to sleep in a place like that...and I almost missed my tent under the stars. After a short chat with other guides we had met along our trip we go to bed, quite late for our standard!

A slow way home

The night before we had talked about another change in our tour-plans. Originally we were supposed to sleep one more night at Carmindo's, leave at dawn, make the whole boat trip to Porto Jofre and drive through to CuiabĂ  all in the same day and in a hurry. It would have meant driving through the Transpantan
eira on a run never stopping.
The weather is changing, menacing clouds are again building up at the horizon, so we decide together to take the slower way, leaving already this morning and spending the last night at one of the pousadas on the Transpantaneira.
Carmindo has gone to Poconè early in the morning and we have the task to take Maria to a neig
hbouring farm where she is supposed to stay with friends.
After breakfast with Maria and some chatting we dismantle our camp and pack our stuff. While Julinho cooks our meal I disassemble the ten
t, deflate the matresses and pack all the gear in one big bag.
Maria is already there on the wooden bench...waiting for us, with her things in a big
plastic bag and a black bucket with the half watermelon...she wouldn't leave that behind!!
Heavy heartedly we leave the house with the white chapel behind, the dogs barking like crazy because we are 'kidnapping' their mama..
Maria sits in front, she doesn't speak much, her
look lost on the horizon. What must these eyes have seen in all those years...I would have loved to have the privilege of staying longer just to listen to the endless stories of this land's people.
But there's no time for sad thoughts, Julinho joking tells Maria that she is the tourist today and has to decide what she wants to do! She only grins....
We leave her at a fishing lodge where relatives work as housekeepers. Two little girls come to greet her shyly and we have to say farewell to this infinitely sweet tiny woman.
Back on the boat we give it another try in search of getting a glimpse of a jaguar. We are in no hurry and enjoy the last drive on the small rivers. When we pass again in front of Carmindo's and Maria's
place the big brown dog is still standing at the pier and looks puzzled at us, he doesn't know his owners will be back at night..
We don't see jaguars but on a small river arm covered with
lilypads we meet a family of giant otters on swimming-lesson! There are at least 8 of them all paddling like crazy after an adult one. And what a noise they make!!! Trying to follow them at respectful distance we get in quite shallow waters and have to do some complicated manouvres to get our motor out of the intricated lily-pad carpet...the only moment I wish I was a man, it is impossible for me to pull the motor out of the water while Julinho gives gas to free our boat. It ends up with me at the steering wheel and giving gas while he pulls up the motor....
Gliding on the golden water I silently say farewell to this lush and peaceful nature, so powerful but so fragile when it comes to
resist to aggression by man. I have mixed feelings as always when I'm confronted with these rare natural treasures, on one hand istinctively I feel I have to keep the secret to protect it, on the other I know that it's survival depends on spreading knowledge of the importance of mantaining every single part of it, in order to keep this wonderful environment alive.
Around mid-day we arrive at Porto Jofre Hotel, at the pier we meet Carmindo's son and Julinho s
houts some colorful phrases at him. With a big bounce Julinho drives his boat onto the trailer and it is taken out of the water by a truck.
This is the last boat tour of 2009, I'm very honoured to have
'closed' this years season;the boat will be staying dry until march 2010.
This time, as I proved to be of some value as a helping hand, I'm allowed to help unpacking the boat, loading the 4x4 and getting t
he boat ready for storage. While we cover up the boat with a big tarpaulin a group of Hyacinth Macaws brawls in a tree over our heads.
I notice how every person we have met throughout the trip has a friendly word for Julinho, and the same I can say of him towards others, always ready to give a helping hand. It's a pleasure to hang around with him!
And there we are on the road again...