The Pantanal is home to what is thought to be the largest concentration of crocodilians in the world.
Day#11,062: Paul determined that our morning held in store a boat ride down the Rio Negro. Drifting lazily in the summer heat taking in the beauty of the Pantanal sounded pretty darn good.
Mr. M, our guide Sam, and I hiked down to the river… a farther hike than it would have been in months past, as we were visiting deep into the dry season, and the Rio Negro was shrinking down to a trickle. In fact, we only floated a few yards before running aground.
We were ready to hop out and push when Sam told us that even in a foot of water, this was a bad idea. The Rio Negro is home to a whole heap of piranha, biting dorados, and stingrays. Having risked becoming piranha bait once already on our trip, I sat idly and let Sam dig us out. And felt a teeny bit guilty about the previous night’s double helping of lemon meringue pie.
That little roadblock (or boatblock, I suppose) out of the way, Lazy Boat Drifting was on. Yacare Caiman can grow to be little dragons at around 8 feet long. Although it seemed a tad dodgy to be floating about with all these crocodilians around, caiman prefer to feast on fish, birds, and the occasional capybara. Compared with the plump, round capybara that seems ready-made for eatin’, I suppose humans look a bit gamey.
Like all other reptiles, caiman are cold-blooded and need to take measures to regulate their body temperature.
As the afternoon wore on, most caiman retreated to the shadowy pools along the riverbanks.
While we were out getting our caiman on, Paul radioed that he’d spotted a jaguar that looked to be headed our way! OHMYGOODNESS! Although we’d all hoped the jaguar would fancy cooling off with a mid-day dip in the river, she didn’t end up revealing herself. Perhaps some creatures’ magic is best maintained by a little mystery.
Even without a jaguar sighting that morning, we ended up seeing a brilliant creature on a drive later on that afternoon.
For our final evening in the Pantanal, Tina decided that we absolutely had to go for a sunset horseback ride. Now, I have no problem wrangling snakes or restraining feisty hawks… but horses? I do not like horses. Like a ninja, a horse can roundhouse kick in virtually every direction without warning. That ain’t right.
Mr. M has his own reasons for avoiding the equine. During a family trip to a dude ranch at the tender age of 8 (I know… an amazing picture exists of Mr. M twirling a lasso in red chaps, but I was forbidden- FORBIDDEN! cue thunder!- from posting it), Mr. M found himself snatching desperately at reins and tearing through bramble & brush when his horse broke formation and bolted into the desert in a Hail Mary horse jailbreak. The Head Cowboy had to rope his errant beast to save Mr. M from disappearing into the horizon, and he hasn’t trusted one since.
Horses smell our fear and act accordingly.
Tina pish-poshed our ninja/dude-ranch-gone-bad reasoning, promised to put us on her tamest old horses, and had Adolfo drive us all out to the stables.
In perhaps the most unsurprising twist, the horseback ride ended up being one of the best parts of our stay in the Pantanal. It was peaceful, serene, just absolutely perfect riding across this massive expanse of wilderness as the sun set.
And my horse Sabonette? He turned out to be a valiant steed. While fording one of the many swamps, my Pantanal Calm was punctuated by brief terror when a caiman tail lashed up under my feet. Visions of being bucked off into a caiman-infested swamp flashed before my eyes, but Sabonette took half a step back, did the horse equivalent of shrug, and marched on through the swamp.
Apparently you don’t need the knight on white horse to save you from a gator-filled moat, just the white horse.
Details of the Day:
Embiara Lodge: I couldn’t imagine a better place to stay than with Paul & Tina. The rooms were amazingly luxe for being in the middle of nowhere, and the air conditioners worked beautifully. Meals were diverse and overseen by Tina (who so thoughtfully made sure I had plenty of vegetarian fare), and very strong caipirinhas were churned out by Paul, presumably as kindling for the always riotous dinner conversations. It was like staying in the adventure lodge-home of dear old friends who just happen to be the most interesting people you’ve ever met.
**Lest you mistakenly think my life is all caiman safaris at the edge of the earth (and because I cannot justify this tale as its own ‘day’ post), here is a snippet from the Captain’s Log of my Regular Life. “…Day #11,244: Beautiful, sunny, 56-degree day! Light jacket only. Walked all over downtown running errands in order to enjoy balmy weather. Mailed package at post office; took Charlie for long walk; went to her vet for a routine check-up; Paper Source for Valentine-making supplies; afternoon coffee run. People seem happier- many smiles my direction! Must be weather. Good day. Day #11,245: Grab light jacket that I wore allll day yesterday off living room chair. Notice something lacy hanging from hood. Closer inspection. THONG UNDERWEAR dangles from jacket hood, apparently velcroed on by winter static cling. Immediate, sinking realization that I walked New York City flying a thong from my head like a pirate flag. Thank the Good Lord that in this comedy sketch of His, said thong was at least clean…” Adventuress, indeed.