From Petropolis to Bonito is 1606 km. We drove first down the motorway to Sao Paolo through the coastal mountains. The road is good and not too busy until we hit Sao Paolo. You really had to concentrate on the road/traffic and the route in order not to end up in the wrong lane and get stuck in the city traffic. At the first opportunity after the city, we set up camp at a roadside petrol station cum shopping mall. It was noisy during the night. The next day we drove almost 700 km. Normally we would have stopped earlier but since we crossed unexpectedly a time zone, we had an hour extra. Along the way the green hills are covered with soya fields and later on eucalyptus tree plantations.In some sections there is also sugarcane plantation.
The motorway is well maintained and every 50 km or so there is a toll booth. You pay more or less 0,04 euro cent per km but with a diesel price of 77 cents it is still cheaper than in Europe. The time changed when we crossed the wide Parana river (from the power station in Iguaçu) and the 4 lanes road stopped. We are now in the next state, Mato Grosso. The third day was shorter (414 km) and at 15:00 we parked at our first official campsite during this trip. From here we booked avisit to Gruto do Lago Azul (sinkhole cave) in the morning and Buraco dasArares (another sinkhole but this time bird watching) in the late afternoon. Bonito is the centre of tourism in the area. It is surrounded by limestone and has caves, sinkholes and fresh water springs.
The tourism is strictly centrally controlled with time slots per attraction and limited group sizes. The maintourist season had not started yet so we could easily book space. Everything is well organised and safety comes first. So there is a safety briefing, and where needed you wear a helmet or life jacket. The Blue water cave is nice but not spectacular. The large sinkhole (birds cliff) is impressive but the large red and blue Ara’s(Macaw’s) were hiding inside the rock or up the trees. We did manage to spot a hawk and a Toucan from close by.
When coming back to the campsite we met another Dutch couple (Arie and Margo) who are also doing their second 4 month stint inSouth America. They drive a Toyota High Ace which was converted into a camper. Nextto us was a Brazilian family in 2 large campers. The daughter, Gabriela, is a professional runner (1/2 marathon) and spoke good English.
For the next day we had booked ourselves into Nascent deAzul. We were there at 8:40am and together with 4 other couples we put on a wetsuit and lifejacket and walked some 800 m to a fresh water spring. There we swam in the crystal clear water with schools of large and small fish. The rest of the day we relaxed at the central lake/pool which had black fish in it. As a result of floating with the fish at the spring Jamaliah got more confidence in her swimming ability and even went on her own in the lake to swim with the large black fishes. In the restaurant here we tasted our first sweet water fish called pacu. Quite delicious. In fact in this trip we tend to eat heavy lunch in cafes and light dinner in the camper. So much more relaxing for Jamaliah.
In the evening we had a few drinks (Caipirinha’s) with ourDutch and Brazilian neighbours.