Nova Scotia Artist, Joy Laking, posts ramblings while she's travelling and painting in South America.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Pantanal. Brazil

Giant Pantanal cranes,
(White with black heads and a narrow red featherless neck ring)
Pose, as cranes do,
And seem to announce,
`Welcome to the Pantanal`.

The jungle is alive with sounds;
Screetches, trills, hissing and chortles.
It is every shade of brilliant green.
The ivy covered foliage along the river
Is dotted with flowers;
Hybiscus, morning glories, bird of paradize.
Enormous jungle trees tower behind.

The sliver of moon and a zillion stars
Give way to the morning light.
High wisps of cloud float in the clear light blue.
Throughout the day, the sky darkens.
The clouds build and in the late afternoon
A burst of thunder and rain
Disappates the intense heat.
Just for a moment
The mosquitoes rest.

For three days,
We walk in the jungle.
We ride horses.
We go in boats.
We travel in the back of trucks,
In the day time and at night.
We watch.
We listen.
We breath.

Occationally, we retreat to our dark cold room,
That is deliciously free of the heat and the bugs.

The sounds of howler monkeys
(Much like a super highway)
Start and end each day.
We watch them swinging through the canopy.
A young one rides on its´ mother`s yellow back.
Large black ones dangle from
Hands, feet or tails.

Despite our searches,
We don`t see any jaguars, ant eaters or iguana.

We do see many camen.
From tiny to two meters.
They lounge along the river`s edge
And then slither into the water.
Only their rounded dark eye arches
showing above the surface.

Herd of carabaris,
(Large brown river pigs)
And groupings of black South American river rats
(Also the same size as large pigs)
Parade along the rivers edge
Or munch on the hyacynths in the water.
Two giant South American river otters make an appearance.
As does a deer
And an armadillo.

In the trees,
And in the water
Are birds.
Some like the Pantanal Crane are unfamiliar.
But many look like kingfishers, hawks, hummingbirds
Woodpeckers, herons or egrets.
I am enthralled with all the jungle birds.
The toucans;
With their fuzzy black heads
And colourful eyes
And enormours colourful bills.
The Parrots in all sizes and colours.
The brilliant green ones disappear completely in the green foliage.
The parakeets that swoop
Across the river in pairs;
Flashes of blue or red.
The large white osprey like bird with its´
Slicked back black toupay.
He has adopted us or
Us him.
The tiny inch long ground feeders
In yellow, green and red.

And an unexpected jungle highlight
Turns out to be the cameraderie
amongst our fellow travellers.
They`re from all over the world
And mostly half our age.
We talk religion, ethics,
Books, nonsense,
Mosquitoe bites and politics.
Cold beer and good conversation
Has never tasted so good.

The Train of Death

Our Lonely Planet Guide and rumours
Told us of giant mosquitoes filling the train cars,
Layers of dust coating all the sleeping passengers,
Crowds of people and contraband packing the aisles,
Derailments, break-downs in steamy jungles,
Even the name:The Train of Death.

In reality the train ride was okay.
It was long, (more than 14 hours)
And it was very rough.
Occationally the train stopped
And peddlers and begging children would fill the aisles.
Occationally the police would check passports, tickets and luggage.
But mostly we slept in air conditioned comfort
Through the jungle on the way to Brazil.