Animals of the Brazilian Pantanal

Besides birds, the Pantanal hosts many other animals. Following are photos of non-avian creatures from my June 2016, four day, three night Pantanal Trekking tour.

Animals of the Pantanal

This porcupine in a tree was only the second one the guide had ever seen. The farm workers could not believe we saw a porcupine
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Back to Marizá Epicentro Permaculture Farm – this time in Winter

Mariza Epicentro Permaculture Farm, Tucano, Bahia, Brazil

A red-headed bird in the late afternoon Marizá sun

In early June I returned to Marsha’s Marizá Epicentro permaculture farm. I loved my summer visit and looked forward to seeing the farm in winter.

Being tropical, June days were still hot and nights warm  although without December’s extremes. The most noticeable seasonal difference was increased greenery. Continue reading

Waterfalls, Birds and a Dam at Foz do Iguaçu, back in Brazil

The 22 May bus trip from Argentina’s Puerto Iguazú, across Fraternity Bridge, through both sets of immigration and to my hostel in Brazil’s Foz do Iguaçu only took half an hour. This contrasts greatly to my Argentinian entry when I waited for seven hours. The towns’ proximities belie their different languages and out of habit I thanked people with “gracias” many times before adjusting to the Portuguese “obrigado”.

Foz do Iguaçu has a significant population of Lebanese descent. When the local Arab restaurant didn’t have individual pieces of baklava, I performed exceptionally, eating a whole tray. The baklava tasted delicious, too.

The next day, Vimia and I caught a suburban bus to Iguaçu National Park, home of Brazil’s Iguassu Falls. The bus also stops at the city’s airport terminal, convenient and cheap for people with air connections. Prior to entering the park, we visited the adjacent Parque das Aves (Bird Park).

Video of a bird mimicking a boy at Parque das Aves. The bird chases the boy and even copies his jump
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Puerto Iguazu: Waterfalls, Rainbows and Butterflies on the Argentinian Side

Puerto Iguazu is the Argentinian gateway to one of the largest and most spectacular waterfall systems in the world: Iguazu. Near Iguazu the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay join, although the waterfalls lie within Argentina and Brazil, with most occurring in Argentina.

Upon arriving to Puerto Iguazu Airport in May I transferred to a bus for the final journey to the town of the same name. Outside Puerto Iguazu the bus stopped for passengers to pay a town entry fee. Being squeezed on the bus, I left my wallet on my lap instead of placing it in my pocket. Once at the bus terminal I exited the bus, forgetting about my wallet until I arrived to my accommodation. The hostel staff member assisted selflessly, calling the bus company and advising them about the missing wallet. Later, a driver arrived with a wallet. Alas, it was not mine. Luckily my wallet only contained limited cash and a debit card which I blocked.

Iguazu Waterfalls, Argentina

Watching the Iguazu waterfalls from the Argentinian side Continue reading

The Chile Adventure Begins – La Serena and Coquimbo

Following the Salar de Uyuni tour, in early April I crossed the Bolivian border and took a bus down to San Pedro de Atacama. Chilean border procedures are conducted in San Pedro, not at the isolated border itself.

Chile’s quarantine regulations reminded me of Australia’s with no fresh fruit, vegetables, meat or plant products allowed in. After immigration formalities, incoming passenger bags were lined up for a quarantine dog to enter and sniff. On this occasion the dog didn’t find anything suspicious although it did pick out a bag planted later by the customs officer.

Desert town San Pedro de Atacama is a major backpacker destination and outdoor activity base. After seeing many amazing landscapes on the Salar de Uyuni tour, I wanted a change of scenery and travelled onto La Serena via Calama. On the overnight Calama-La Serena bus I slept my best in four days as previous nights were spent at sleep-disrupting high altitude (~4,000 metres).

Founded in 1544 La Serena is Chile’s second oldest city (after Santiago). The existing buildings are however newer as the original city was destroyed by a 1730 earthquake.

Chile is noticeably wealthier, tidier and more organised than Bolivia. Chile also has some of Bolivia’s former coastline, won in a 19th century war between the two nations. The lack of coastline is controversial in Bolivia and subject to dispute. After being landlocked for two months, I was ready for seafood!

One evening I visited Jack Fish, a Peruvian inspired ceviche and sushi restaurant with fellow hostel guest and Pearl Jam fan Natalia. The restaurant owner was also a rock music fan, naming different menu combinations after bands and that night playing music from Touring Band 2000.

La Serena and Coquimbo, Chile

Rocking on with pisco sours and ceviche at Jack Fish, La Serena Continue reading

The Uyuni Salt Flats and Other Amazing South-Western Bolivian Scenery

Unlike the journey to Potosi, travelling to Uyuni was a straightforward bus ride. Uyuni the town is a dusty place with little to note except for one thing – it is a major starting point for tours to the giant Uyuni Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni). Salar de Uyuni and other landscapes in Bolivia’s south west are must-sees on the South American tourist trail.

I wanted to take the same Red Planet 3 day tour as Aubrey (and her friend Jenn), one of several friends I met at the wonderful Beehive Hostel in Sucre. I arrived to Uyuni on the evening of the 1st of April and, after checking in to my accommodation, looked for a restaurant. At a chicken restaurant, upon asking for a menu, I was told in Spanish, we have fried chicken. Obviously no menu was needed. Every local in the restaurant (all other patrons were locals) ate their chicken, chips and fried plantain with knives and forks – no finger-licking-good here.

The next morning I visited the immigration office to receive my post-dated Bolivian exit stamp, saving the need to queue at the border. Checking in at Red Planet’s office, I was delighted to be placed in the same vehicle as Jenn and Aubrey, along with a British couple. We travelled together in convoys of two Landcruisers. The five of us along with six women in the other car made for a great tour group.

The first tour stop was the Uyuni train cemetery, where trains built in the late 19th century lay abandoned.

Uyuni Salt Flats Tour, Bolivia

Posing on one of the old locomotives at Uyuni’s train cemetery Continue reading

Ushuaia, Argentina, the Southernmost City in the World

In early February, I flew from El Calafate to Ushuaia in row one, my first time up the front of the plane in many years. Aerolineas’ Premium Economy tickets were similarly priced* to Economy so it was an obvious decision to make.

*Argentina has a two-tier flight ticket pricing policy with non-residents paying higher prices for Economy class.

Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and a major gateway for cruise ships and research vessels to the Antarctica. Ushuaia is also the capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur Province.

From Ushuaia there is a fairly standard Beagle Channel day cruise offered by many boats to bird, penguin and seal colonies. One morning I walked to the harbour, chose a boat, bought my ticket and jumped on board. Despite being so far south, the weather out of the wind was quite pleasant.

The Beagle Channel divides Argentina and Chile and the Chilean coast was visible for much of the trip including Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world.

Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

An island bird colony near Ushuaia Continue reading