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Porto Jofre - Araras

An exciting transfer


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After the early starts over the last few days, we are delighted to be able to have a lie-in this morning, with the alarm set for 05:30! David's eyes were stuck shut when he woke up, and he feels so rotten, he wishes he was back home! Poor thing.

After breakfast we try and find reception to settle our bill – we are moving on to a new playground today.

On the way, we have a mini-safari in the hotel grounds.

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Jabiru

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Buff Necked Ibis

Southern River Otter
This is the same little otter than was chased into the restaurant by a jaguar on our first evening here. Although not a pet or tame as such, she has become habituated and is unafraid of humans.

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The staff has named her Belinha, which means “little beautiful”.

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Belinha checks out David's new shows.

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They get her seal of approval – or is that otterly approved?

She follows us into reception, running around our feet as we pay our dues. At one point she gets a little too excited and bites my toe - she has sharp teeth, but thankfully she doesn't break the skin. Thank goodness she is only playing, I am sure those gnashers could cause some intense damage if she was serious.

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Jabiru - I love the way they strut around as if they own the place!

Flight Transfer
Instead of travelling to Araras by car, we have opted for a flight transfer, and our plane is here already.

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With scruffy jeans and a camouflage shirt, long greasy hair and covered in tattoos, Julinho so does not look like a stereotypical pilot! He is delightful, though, speaks great English and has a super sense of humour.

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We had hoped to do a panoramic flight over the national park as part of the transfer, but the message does not seem to have come through to Julianho, who is most apologetic when he explains that he does not have enough fuel to do that, much as he would be more than happy to.

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Getting into the plane involves climbing up onto the wing, and somehow sliding myself in. I manage without too much difficulty.


Take-off
To call it a 'runway' would be a gross exaggeration, the airstrip is, in fact, a patch of land with gravel and grass. You can see it on the Google Earth map below.

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Space is at a premium inside, and I daren't move a muscle for fear of touching some of the controls as I am sitting next to the pilot in the front. There is no room for the luggage, so that travels separately in another truck that is going that way today anyway.

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You can see my knees jammed right up against the dashboard.

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The lodge we just left

Photography, as a result, is extremely challenging. Not just because of not being able to move around freely as I did in the back seat of the helicopter (where there was loads more legroom too), but also because none of the windows open, they are small and covered in scratches and splattered with kamikaze insects. Oh, and my side is into the sun.

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It does, however, make for some great shots of the low sun reflecting in the rivers. Well... they would be great if the dirty window wasn't there.

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You can see why they call it a wetland.

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Julinho points out Areras Lodge, our next overnight accommodation as we fly past. Unlike Porto Jofre, Araras does not have its own airstrip, so we are carrying on to Poconé and will drive back down the Transpantaneira (the long straight track that runs through the Pantanal wetlands that you can see in the photo) to reach the lodge.

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As we get nearer to Poconé, we see gold mines rather than wetlands.

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As we approach the landing strip in Poconé, Roberto points out to Julinho that there is another small aircraft that is due to land just before him. Oops. We do a swift, about-turn, and circle the town to come back when it is safe.


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At least it means that I get to see Poconé from the air; which I otherwise would have missed as there would have been no reason to fly over the city because of where the airstrip is located.


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While I am sure they would still have been able to avoid each other, I guess this is what in aviation terms would be classed as a near-miss. When there is no air traffic control, you have to rely on physically seeing any other aircraft.

Landing in Poconé is somewhat bumpy – the landing strip here is not a great deal better than the one in Porto Jofre.

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Getting out of the aircraft can only be described as 'interesting'. None of the other three can help me, as I have to get out before them. The lack of space is not helping one bit, and obviously, neither is the fact that I struggle to bend my knee.

Eventually, I manage to swing myself around so that my bum is resting on the wing. What now? The owner of the plane, and the driver who has come to pick us up for the road transfer look on with bemusement, not sure whether to laugh or cry. When I start to laugh, they nervously join in.

By the time I have endeavoured to somehow get my legs out of the cockpit, with some pushing and lifting by Julinho, and swing those same legs over the top of the plane while lying on my back on the wing, everyone is roaring with laughter. “No need to go to the gym today!” says Julinho.

I slowly slide down the wing, conscious of not losing my pants in the process, I land on the ground with whatever small amount of dignity I have left and smile broadly. “Welcome to Poconé” says the plane's owner.

Thankfully there is no video of this, as David is still inside the aircraft.

Poconé
We ask Roberto to stop at a pharmacy for David to get something for his sore throat. The pharmacist himself shines a torch down into his throat and exclaims: “that is very red and looks extremely sore. I think you have a bad infection there!” He prescribes antibiotics for the throat and drops for the eyes.

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The pharmacy

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David's poorly eye - not a pretty sight!

Transpantaneira Safari
Roberto says we will take a safari on our way to the lodge, and instructs Mr Marcos to drive slowly. I never see him smile once during the entire journey and rename him Misery Guts.

Charity Cycle Ride
The first thing we see is a plethora of MILCC – Middle Aged Lycra Clad Cyclists. Actually, they are not all middle-aged, but few of them have the usual cycling event type body. This is a charity event and one that whole families and groups of friends can take part in.

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Roberto claims he's never seen so much traffic on the Transpanntaneira before, not only the 500 or so participants on bikes but also sponsors, police, ambulances, pick-up trucks, supporters, bike carriers for those who have given up, food suppliers, water trucks and more.

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Ambulance

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There is no shame in admitting defeat

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Prat's, the sponsors (they make orange juice)

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More bikers abandon the ride

I must admit I would not want to cycle on the Transpantaneira – not just the heat, but the dust! Every time a car goes past, a cloud of dust gets thrown up and hangs in the air, just waiting to enter those poor cyclists' lungs.

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As for wildlife, it is conspicuous with its absence today, undoubtedly as a result of the charity event with its numerous cyclists and vehicles.

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Little Blue Heron

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Black Necked Stilt

Pousada Araras Eco Lodge

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As soon as we arrive, Roberto negotiates with the manager for us to have a room nearer the restaurant and parking area. Good man. The room is not ready yet, however, so we have a drink in the shade while we wait.

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The lodge consists of several accommodation blocks set in lovely grounds that include a swimming pool.

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Each room has a couple of comfy chairs and a hammock on the veranda, and the interior is cool and cosy.

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Flower decoration on our bed

The one thing that I find surprising here, is the number of children. We saw none in Porto Jofre, whereas here there are several – German, French, English, American and Brazilian.

Lunch
We hear a bell at 11:30, which we later learn is the dinner bell. By the time we arrive at 12:30, all the tables under cover appear to be taken. There is one free table out on the patio, in the shade, that is laid up. When we get nearer, we discover it has a name on it: “Matias Family x 4”. The waiter casually moves the sign to an empty table and beckons us to sit down.

As usual, the food is served as a buffet – I so don't like buffets! There is a large bucket filled with ice, where soft drinks and beer are found, and you just help yourself. I assume the waiter makes a note of it from your table, hence the names.

As I rummage through what is left of soft drinks in the cooler, I come across cans of Guaraná, and memories from our last visit to Brazil come flooding back. I was completely hooked on this drink back then.

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It still tastes just as good as I remember.

The main course may be a buffet, but the dessert is served! And very nice it is too!

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Afternoon Safari
Araras Lodge has a number of included activities, mostly centred around trekking, horse riding and canoeing. As my poorly knee will not allow me to do any of those, Roberto has arranged for the use of a car every day we are here, and we will do car safaris.

This afternoon Roberto drives the vehicle himself, with me in the front and David in the back seat. Bird sightings begin even before we get into the car, right here in the grounds of the hotel.

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Rufous Hornero

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Peach Fronted Parakeet

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Campo Flicker

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Striated Heron

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Yellow Billed Cardinal

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Greater Kiskadee

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Green Ibis

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Purpleish Jay

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Bare Faced Curassow

Sundowners
As we return to the lodge in time for sunset, a welcome drink of champagne and nibbles has been laid on for us, overlooking the lagoon as the sun goes down.

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Dinner
At dinner, we join an English family with two teenage boys, who are absolutely delightful. Much as I love chatting to people, I do tend to be rather antisocial when we travel, but here we don't have a great deal of choice. There are no tables for two, and the barman tries to get you to mix by placing you with different people each night - hence the names on the tables.

Still feeling rough, and no doubt knocked out from the antibiotics he is now taking, David goes straight to bed after eating. Roberto and I, however, go out into the wilderness in search of a good place for shooting the Milky Way.

He knows of a large open area with some old farming machinery left lying around that could be used as a foreground.

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The stars are absolutely amazing tonight, with no light pollution whatsoever on the horizon. These are truly dark skies!

Goodnight from Araras and thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip for us.

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Posted by Grete Howard 10:07 Archived in Brazil Tagged sunset wildlife flight dinner safari brazil lunch brasil eye jay south_america stars heron stilt ibis cardinal spoonbill gold_mine guarana pharmacy bubbly pantanal eco-lodge astro cockpit drops mosquitos otter antibiotics jabiru milky_way pocone astro_photography wildlife_photography undiscovered_destination throat_infection araras port_jofre southern_river_otter small_aircraft pantanal_from_the_air near_miss transpananeira charity_cycle_ride cycle_ride cycylists pousada_araras safarai_by_car jeep_safari hornero flicker curassow sundowner chanpagne unlimted_champage Comments (6)

Cuiabá - Porto Jofre

Entering the Pantanal


View Pantanal and Amazon 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

David is really suffering this morning with his sore throat, poor thing. After a decent breakfast and a leisurely start, we meet Roberto, our guide, and Ouzito. the driver, outside the hotel at 10 o'clock. They will be taking us by road to Pantanal today. I am excited. I am very excited. Pantanal has been on my wish list for the longest time, and having had this trip cancelled twice, I can't quite believe that I am here now, so very close.

The first part of the journey is on a sealed road with a relatively smooth surface. Alongside the road, we see fields where they grow soya beans or graze Brahma cows imported from India. The odd gold mine dots the landscape, and we see birds such as vultures and rhea, plus the odd capybara.

By the time we reach Poconé, the only town of any size in this region, I have diarrhea. Thankfully we are stopping here for lunch, in a BBQ restaurant known as a Churruascaria, and they have decent toilets.

After filling our plates with salads from a buffet, a waiter comes around with various BBQ meats that he carves off as much or as little as we want. Every few minutes he brings something different: various cuts of beef, chicken, pork, sausages etc.

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Transpantaneira
From Poconé it is a dirt road all the way, known as the Transpantaneira, a 150km journey through a range of landscapes - with drier grasslands in the north, while further south, closer to Porto Jofre, the landscape is wetter with more forest and swamp.

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The road is unpaved, rough, and pot-holed, connected by 122 bridges in varying states of disrepair. A few have been replaced with newer concrete constructions, while some still remain old, rickety, and nerve-wracking. I am sure glad it is not me who is driving.

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We drive slowly as we look out for birds and animals, stopping often when we see something worth photographing - safari Pantanal style.

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Savanna Hawk

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Ringed Kingfisher

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Candle Tree

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Red Legged Serima

Termite Mounds
During the dry season, the termites live under ground, but as soon as the rains start, they commence building their nests on top of the existing mound, thus increasing the height year by year. Some of the mounds we see are taller than a human.

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Red Brocket Deer

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Yellow Billed Cardinal

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American Wood Stork

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Roseate Spoonbill

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Lesser Yellow Hooded Vulture

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Plumbeous Ibis

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Cocoi Heron

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Rufous Hornero

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White Woodpecker

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Caiman

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Black Collared Hawk

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Great Kiskadee

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Sunbittern

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Green Iguana

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Yellow Anaconda

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Marsh Deer

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Finally half way - Bridge 61!

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Juvenile Rufescent Tiger Heron

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Jabiru, the symbol of Pantanal

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Black Crowned Night Heron

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Peach Fronted Parakeet

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Capped Heron

Roberto said the journey to Porto Jofre would take between three and four hours, depending on how many times we stop. We finally arrive at the end of the road and pull up at our hotel after 7½ hours.

Pousada Porto Jofre
Ouzito drives right up to our room. Roberto has arranged for our room to be in such a position that we have easy access to everything: the restaurant, the pool, the docks, the reception, and the car park with the least amount of walking. Good man. There is no check-in procedure, although our room does have our name on it.

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The room is fairly basic, but more than adequate, and the AC is good, which is a definite bonus.

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The hotel started life as a fishing camp on a farm, and when the owner realised that not just fishermen wanted to visit this area, it grew into the mixed-use resort it is today, with the focus split between fishing and jaguar safaris by boat.

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Capybara in the grounds

While exploring the hotel and its grounds, I identify a spot that I would like to use later for astrophotography – an elevated boardwalk with a lily pond that I can hopefully get the Milky Way to reflect in.

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Dinner

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The restaurant

At dinner we are one of the few smaller tables: there are several large groups, including an American party at a long table next to us. Suddenly there is quite a commotion, with scraping of chairs, screeching of guests, and everybody abruptly and quickly getting up and running around.

The reason soon becomes clear: a river otter has managed to get inside the restaurant, and now all the staff and guides are trying to catch it (while the guests are trying to get away from it). After finally managing to grab it and throwing it out, Roberto goes outside to make sure the otter isn't able to get back in again.

Waving his arms, Roberto comes running back in to the restaurant, shouting in excitement: “jaguar!” “jaguar”. We think he is winding us up, but apparently not. It appears the otter was chased into the building by the big cat, and when Roberto went out, it was just outside the restaurant.

By the time we get out there, he has moved further down onto the boardwalk, and all we can see in the darkness of night is the outline of the body and the torchlight reflecting in his eyes. What excitement!

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We reluctantly return to dinner. Tonight is a buffet, and while I am generally not keen on buffets, there is a very nice beef in a tasty sauce, and the strawberry cake is delicious.

Milky Way
Even though the jaguar sauntered off into the jungle earlier, we decide that maybe the boardwalk isn't the best place for astrophotography this evening. Roberto suggests going out onto the Transpantaneira where it will be darker than the hotel grounds, and I reckon I can use the road as a decent foreground. The gates are locked shut, however, so we settle for the lawns.

The problem is the trees have spotlights pointing at them. Roberto tries his best to point them away from my camera, and cover one with his hat, one with my bag, and David stands in front of the third light.

It works (with a little help from Photoshop later).

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Goodnight from Porto Jofre. Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for organising this trip.

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Posted by Grete Howard 21:34 Archived in Brazil Tagged dinner safari iguana hawk brazil brasil bbq deer buffet caiman heron stork ibis parakeet cardinal jaguar kingfisher pantanal anaconda cuiabá termite_mounds milky_way pocone porto_jofre termites undiscovered_destinations astrophotography kiskadee tranpantaneira churrascaria wooden_bridges serima Comments (4)

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