To get to the centre of the Pantanal you have to drive around it. We decided to take an unpaved road around the eastern edge. We went down to 131 m but did not reach the water level. The road is dusty but fine. Contrary to what others had reported we did not see any wildlife (especially the elusive anteater). Only one deer crossing the road in the distance. In the evening we checked into a campsite near Rio Verde de Mato Grosso. It is a large area with many barbeque pits and also cabana’s, bar and restaurant. The centre of attraction is a wide waterfall and water pools for swimming/splashing. When we arrive it was almost dark. The next day (Sunday) it started to get busy in the early morning. We packed up and parked the camper on the parking lot and went for a splash underneath the waterfall. Very refreshing after a hot night.
We continued the road North around the swamp and stopped over at a road restaurant along the way. The next day we first made a detour to a nearby national park (Chapalada dos Guimararres). These cliffs actually surround the whole Pantanal and offers great views down into the distance swamp. We made a brief stop at a waterfall hoping we could swim there. It is a high waterfall and therefore not suitable for swimming. In the large modern city of Cuiaba (lots of high-rise apartment blocks) we did our shopping both in the local and the international oriented supermarket. We were ready for the challenge of the long dirt road to Porto Jofre at the heart of the swamp.
The first stop was still on the tarmac near Pocone. Then it was descending (down to 100 m) and drive over a slightly raised sand road/dyke. In total there are 114 bridge to cross (Jamaliah was so bored she decided to count bridges). The 20 or so from Km 0 of the transpantaneira road are new (high concrete bridges) while the rest ranged from moderately old to very questionably wobbly and a few still under construction. At one of them the water level in the swamp had risen so much that the bypass was flooded. Fortunately there is a ‘pull it yourself’ barge on which we negotiated the camper and pulled ourselves across.
It is actually the wrong time to visit the Pantanal. Normally everything is already flooded at this time of year and all campsites and lodges are closed. Fortunately we managed to find a open campsite along the river at the end of the road in Porto Jofre. They are obviously also in the process of packing up but still allowed us to camp and use the facilities. The next day we took a boat tour up river and through the swamps searching for the elusive Jaguar. As said it was the wrong time of year to spot the animals. We did see lots of birds and a few caiman and capybaras. All in all not really worth the long detour (290 km round trip). At the campsite and on the boat tour we were plagued by swarms of mosquitoes. I assume they are less in the dry winter season.We are camping again at the same Gas station as on our way to Porto Jofre.
Tomorrow begins the long journey up North towards Cusco, Peru (3500 km).