Bite Christmas

WATER, water everywhere and seemingly not a drop to wash away the mosquitoes.

Our final couple of days in Argentina and our opening week in Brazil have been dominated by water and insects which appear to have the ability to seek out any inch of your body not drenched in repellent, regardless of whether it is covered by clothing.

At least for those of us who appear as prime cuts on any buzzy a la carte menu.

Queue at the bar

Our Christmas retreat in the Pantanal has taken mosquitoes to a whole new level with even those who bragged about not being bitten falling victim, finally enduring what us mere mortals have to suffer on a regular basis.

All of whom are trumped spectacularly by those of us at the top of the mosquito food chain.

Hopefully, the mossies are sheltering from the Christmas afternoon downpour like those of us in the increasingly small area near the bar, surrounded by increasingly bedraggled statues of the local wildlife sporting our spare Santa hats.

Even the macaws appear to be dodging the sudden downpour which has broken up a few days of extreme heat that has seen us making the most of our rooms to enjoy the air conditioning and hide from the mossies. 

Not the only toucan spotted over Christmas

Apart from when we were out on safaris providing a festive feast for the insects. Or braving the bites at the bar.

It is the latest moment when water has taken centre stage in the last 10 days or so, be it more spectacular downpours, pools, waterfalls or rivers to be snorkelled or tubed down.

Probably while pursued by insects.

We could have done with some water as we rolled out of Buenos Aires with the temperature continuing to rise, a long drive day in the hands of our temporary second driver Nick ending on the banks of the Rio Uruguay with our first sight of Brazil across the water.

Slightly wet

More of the same followed the next day, which meant the discovery of a pool at our home for the night was met with a race to get in and the start of a torrential downpour which barely let up before we were finally out of Argentina.

A brief break in the rain enabled us to get out for one final spectacular steak and a couple of beers before crossing the border, but there was little option other than to get wet on our final day in the country.

In fairness, we would have got drenched regardless at Iguazu Falls and even donning all our wet weather gear failed to dampen spirits at one of those special places which pop up from tine to time.

Iguazu Falls – just part of the Argentinian spectacular

The falls which form a natural border between Argentina and Brazil are, put simply, stunning.

They have been named as one of the seven modern natural wonders and you will not get too many arguments from here – the top end of my best waterfalls chart has been rewritten. Sorry Victoria Falls.

Starting up close to the violence of the Devil’s Throat cascade, the Argentinian side of the falls is formed by trails which meander through the jungle and pop out at a series of viewpoints over selections of more than 270 waterfalls which form the natural wonder.

Being surrounded by coatis

And it comes with the added advantage of wildlife from toucan amid an array of bird life, cayman and the coatis which wander across the paths and carry warnings not to eat food near them.

Those warnings also cover the local monkeys and maybe a couple of us should have paid a bit more attention, although still refuse to accept one climbing Lisa’s poncho to get at her empanada was somehow my fault.

Was too busy hurriedly finishing mine to do anything about it.

With the rain relenting, we regrouped full of smiles for the brief border crossing and a sad farewell to the delights of Argentina but excitement at what lies ahead during our lengthy stay in Brazil – starting with getting to grips with caipirinhas at the hotel bar to settle in.

Back on solid ground

Which all aided the decision to stay behind and take it easy the next day rather than head to Paraguay in search of another passport stamp, cheap electronics and several hours in a traffic jam.

If we did nothing that day – bar an evening check on the quality of Brazilian steak – we made up for it the next morning as we headed for the other side of the falls.

While most of the group queued for ages to get in, a smaller selection took the direct route with a helicopter ride over the falls which was spectacular – although one look at some of the faces confirmed it was not just me screaming inside at some of the banking.

Iguazu Falls from above

Back on solid ground, we wandered around the neighbouring bird park and, the queues having subsided, headed to the falls and got some more astonishing views of what we had seen two days earlier from a different angle.

Our day to remember ended with an evening at the local shopping mall and a midnight screening of the new Star Wars film which ensured there was plenty of sleeping on the next day’s lengthy drive day after an early start.

Pretty good first impressions of Brazil (just before the first of many people walked in front of the camera)

We had been expecting a bush camp at the end of the drive, but not like the one we got – a family’s well-kept garden which they allow overlanders to use, complete with toilets in an annexe and covered area which was better furnished and equipped than many official places we have stayed.

Which acted as a handy launchpad to get us to Bonito, our home for three days during which we explored the town’s bars (including one where we served ourselves) and restaurants. Once we had dragged ourselves away from the pool.

Welcome to Brazil

But we also took the opportunity to get wet in more original ways.

Not my best look

First up was a trip to Rio do Prata and snorkelling down a clear river.

Managing to be rather more graceful without flippers, we basically floated down the river with the current, getting up close to huge numbers of fish and the springs which bubble up along the route.

Season’s greetings

Another one of those things which might have been avoided in the past, it would have been a shame to miss out on such an experience.

The same could be said the next day when we headed down another river close to town on tubes with the added obstacle of a few waterfalls to negotiate on the way down – although the biggest danger came from Danny – before relaxing in and around a lake.

There has been plenty more relaxing throughout our festive stay in the wildlife haven in the Pantanal, albeit interrupted by those pesky mosquitoes which even has the locals pointing out the marks on my legs.

Dangerous present

They have not seen my back.

Amid the bites, we have tried our hand at piranha fishing (most bites were on us), horse riding (well, others did) and walking and jeep safaris through the insects.

And we have celebrated Christmas with a massive spread on Christmas Eve and a relaxed big day itself, punctuated by various leftover cuts of meat and a Secret Santa delayed due to people needing their beds earlier than planned the night before.

Which has us all trying to work out who bought and wrapped up a dildo.

And why somebody else is so keen to swap it with the present she ended up with.

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