Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 335-337 – Brazil – Bonito

After breakfast we Skyped a hostel in Bonito and booked in for the night then checked out and caught a taxi to the bus station. Arriving at 10:30 we were initially dismayed at the first available bus being 15:00 but when we found out they had free Wi-Fi and a relatively comfortable area to settle into for a few hours we cheered up and I caught up with all the writing I’d been trying to do. I Skyped my Mum and Dad then caught the 15:00 bus for a 5 hour journey of no event. The bus station in Bonito was deserted but for a single taxi that took us where we wanted to go within the same price range we were used to by now. On arrival we met the owner Tim who offered us advice on the available tours and recommended we pop back in the morning to sign up for whatever we wanted to do. We ordered takeaway food and a few beers as the remoteness of our gaff left us with little other options. We thankfully had a lovely room with working A/C and private en suite. Post-food I was out like a light.

We took an early breakfast after a good nights’ sleep then wandered over to book ourselves in for 3 of the more common sights. The whole she-bang there was pretty outrageously expensive as transport is always additional so if any of the sights fell short of our high expectations they were assured of a roasting here on the blog. Still, it was all supposed to be beautiful so we decided to see what happened.

We took a late morning wander into the township – supposedly a kilometre away but more like 3 – with a laundry load and a list of things to do. All but our laundry got done and by the time we were trotting back at 2ish loaded with supplies and still carrying our dirty clothes the 36 degree heat combined with all the too-ing and fro-ing was taking its toll. Immediately on reaching our room I was stripped off and running to the mini-pool. Little was done with the rest of the day other than attempts to once again resurrect my guitar after another airline beating and organising everything else for moving on. We ate in, worked into the evening and crashed.

Our next day started with another early breakfast, this time to ensure we were ready for our 8am pickup to drive the 56km out to Rio da Prata & Buraco das Araras. In English these basically translate to Silver River (the main pulling point being the extreme clarity of the water) and Cave of the Macaws (South America’s largest sinkhole and a haven for Macaws). We were first in the coach along with another Brazilian couple from our Pousada and we tootled around town for the next hour picking up other people. The plan as we’d had it explained to us was to do the river followed by a late afternoon visit to the cave which is supposed to be the time when the Macaws were around. Naturally this meant visiting the cave first and given the almost complete lack of English speakers (apart from our saviour, Melissa, another tourist) we had no idea why this change around had occurred.

As a traveller I’ve no real expectation under most circumstances that any given person I meet will speak English; I’m in another country and I don’t speak their language so it’s therefore my problem not theirs. I confess however that I feel somewhat naturally uncomfortable having the pay for an expensive tour with an obligatory guide that instantly washes their hands of any attempt at roughly explaining what’s going on but I guess that’s part of going off the beaten track to less visited areas. I have experienced the somewhat ironic reversal of the classic arrogant Brit abroad where I had someone bark their local language at me at increasing volumes, fully believing that I’ll eventually understand it, and that’s never a good thing so I’ve never applied the same approach. It’s just a little tougher to take paying a lot of money for a significantly degraded experience but I’ll be the first to wish I was a languages expert and accept that I suffer for my own lack of knowledge. Thankfully for the most part I’m only interested in taking pictures anyway; a little background knowledge is enlightening but far from essential.

As it turned out there were plenty of Macaws about anyway and the sinkhole was a nice environment to see them flying about and hanging around. We even got up close to a few who seemed to have no problem posing for as long as we wanted. It only took an hour or so to get round and we were then back in the van and on our way round to the Rio Da Prata. This is a more established tour and while a couple of people around the place could speak English it was only natural that they didn’t take our tour. We’d been told before booking the tour that there’d be lockers for us to place our valuables in so obviously that meant no lockers and being informed just to leave it all in the unlocked van with no-one around. This frankly pissed me off and did nothing for my general mood during the day. We stood around while everything was explained in Portuguese and then watched what everyone else was doing so as to copy them. Before long we were wrapped in a 5mm wetsuit, rinsed of any sun lotion or bug spray (because we don’t want to pollute the river, which is fair enough) and after a short ride in the back of a jeep under the midday sun we set off on a 2km(ish) walk…dressed in black neoprene…in 38C… We just got on with it.

When we reached our entry point the wonderful Melissa did her best to drop us as much translated information as possible and in we got. In truth it is indeed an exceptionally clear river. There are loads of fairly large fish about too who share the Macaws lack of concern for human company. We drifted along, met a metre and a half Alligator at one point, saw some underground springs causing the sand to swirl as they pushed up from the riverbed, loads of fish, enjoyed a brief foray through a rapids section, spotted a few high monkeys and generally enjoyed the few hours in the water.

Was it worth the money? Tough call; depends on what you’re into. As we were in Bonito it probably was the thing to do but it was definitely undermined by the issues we faced during the day. We returned around 2pm for a late and very good buffet lunch at the ranch we started at and then inexplicably left for somewhere in the region of 2-3 hours to our own devices where after a bit of bird photography there wasn’t much else to do other than wait. We eventually reached our Pousada just after 6pm where we tied up a few loose ends in terms of our bill, ordered a pizza and spent the evening clearing memory cards and relaxing.