The Pantanal, Mato Grosso and the Atlantic Rain Forest
October 8 -22, 2005 with Michael and Paulo
Saturday, October. 8.
We begin converging from various points – Michigan, Florida and the Bay area. We meet in the Miami airport for our TAM flight to Sao Paulo. Great clouds outside and a long wait inside. This is a very long day for most of us. On the plane and heading south, way south for our long flight. We go from this day into the next.
Sunday, October 9.
Land at Sao Paulo. City of 20 million, supposedly the largest in Western Hemisphere even bigger than Mexico City. However I went to http://www.citymayors.com/features/largest_cities.html and found this information.
Rank Area Country Category Population
1 New York (NY) USA Urban area 21,199,000
2 MEXICO CITY Mexico Urban area 20,267,000
3 Los Angeles (CA) USA Urban area 16,373,000
4 Mumbai (Bombay) India Urban area 16,368,000
5 Kolkata (Calcutta) India Urban area 13,217,000
6 Delhi India Urban area 12,791,000
7 TOKYO Japan Urban area 12,059,000
8 BUENOS AIRES Argentina Urban area 11,298,000
9 SEOUL South Korea City 10,231,000
10 Sao Paulo Brazil City 10,009,000
11 JAKARTA Indonesia City 9,373,000
12 Karachi Pakistan City 9,339,000
13 PARIS France Urban area 9,319,000
14 Chicago (IL) USA Urban area 9,158,000
The airport is crowded, everything takes a long time but we do manage to get on our flight to Cuiba. No one knows what time it is. At Campo Grande for quick stop then fly directly north right over the Pantanal to Cuiba we land at 11ish. Whoops we lost another hour. Paulo, Marluca (wife of Paulo), Marques, Noam and the King TUT bus is waiting for us. Is this all the room we have? Cuiba has 800 K but we only see Varzea Grande where the airport is and Paulo lives. Many colors of people here. Brazil encouraged immigration about 20 yrs ago and the pop. increased dramatically. Mango trees everywhere and just getting ripe. Heading toward Pecone, a village about 60 miles away. Driving west on BR 070 toward Bolivia through the Cerrado vegetation (Cerrado is a type of Savannah). The soil is too poor for growing crops because it lacks nutrients and is full of iron but perfect for native vegetation. Mato Grosso has 1/4 of the entire land mass of Brazil! Paulo claims it is the same size as the continental US. with 2 million folks. However I checked that out. The state of Mato Grosso is a bit less than ½ half the size of the Continental USA, still one big place! In 1971 they started building the Transpantaneira Highway to connect the beef-growing region to the southern market. When they divided the Province into 2 in 1976, they stopped building it half way. So now it remains the Transpantaneira Cul-de-Sac. MG is number one in soy, cows and cotton.
60 miles of pavement. We get to Pocone, the last village along the route. Celebrating 224 years (where did they get that number?). 20 K people. Began as gold mining and they brought slaves in to work the claims. We saw some current mine tailings. Next stop, lunch at a “churrascaria” called the Panteneiro Restaurant. Only the first of several of this kind of eating establishments we shall visit. Rufous horneros. Beef, pork, chicken etc cut for us right at the table. Cashews trees leaden with fruit in the backyard. We ate cashew apple for dessert. Back on King Tut and around 3 we officially begin the “road”. NO PAIN NO GAIN says our local guide for the first but not last time. Transpantaneira Highway is dirt with 40 bridges (only 2 are concrete). The highway is built above the field level because of seasonal flooding during the wet season (Nov – March). Stop for Brazilian teals, red-crested cardinals, bl-collared hawk, fork-tailed flycatcher, white headed marsh tyrant, limpkins who like to eat the flat snails. Photo-op at entrance sign, we take our group photo early! Silver beaked tanagers, caimens. Jabiru storks!!! the emblem of the Pantanal. Our first capybaras. Zebu cattle, water buffalo!
Zebu is a term which is synonymous with “Bos Indicus,” the scientific name for the humped cattle of the world. The major Zebu cattle breeds of the world include Gyr, Guzerat, Indu-Brazilian, Nelore, and Brahman. They originated in India, and are thought to be the world’s oldest domesticated cattle. They were introduced into the United States as early as 1849. In general zebu cattle (Bos indicus) are known to have descended from the secondary cattle domestication in the arid areas of the ‘Fertile Crescent’ about 5000 BP (Payne and Wilson, 1999), and that they are the most recent types of cattle to be introduced into Africa. Recent molecular genetic as well as archaeological evidences (Hanotte et al., 2002; Marshall, 2000) also showed that the introduction of Zebu cattle into Africa centred in East Africa rather than though the land connection between Egypt and the Near East. Zebu are known to be better than the Humpless cattle in regulating body temperature (hence lower body water requirements). Their hardened hooves and lighter bones enable them to endure long migrations. These adaptive attributes have facilitated their importation and spread by Indian and Arabian merchants across the Red Sea to drier agro-ecological regions of the Horn of Africa (Loftus and Cunningham, 2000). The word ‘zebu’ is derived from the Tibetan word ‘ceba’, which means ‘hump’. Zebus, like European domestic cattle, are descended from the aurochs. The earliest bones found with typical Zebu characteristics date back to the third millenium BC. It appears that they were developed in the Middle East soon after cattle were domesticated. Their area of distribution subsequently extended from China to West Africa. Zebus are adapted to tropical and sub-tropical conditions. For this reason they are now kept in similar regions of America.
99% of the Pantanal is in private hands, mostly large cattle ranches. We take our first stroll. I get the scope out and non-birders are starting to get hooked. Our first caimans babies= so cute says Lil, crested caracara, striated heron, great kiskadee, cattle tyrant, red capped cardinal, white winged swallow, white-necked heron, bl-capped donicubus. Capybara is the largest rodent in the world – to 150 lbs.! Light is fading, sun has set 5:45 and we still have a long way to go but first- Marsh deer (the largest in the Western Hemisphere). Snail kites, muscovy and more marsh deer. In the dark we finally cross the Rio Pixain and make it to our lodge -Mato Grosso – Hotel Pantanal right on the River. After blessed showers we meet for dinner at 730. That is followed by an official beginning and orientation. We have seen a lot and this was one long day…….tired but happy we head off to AC and bed.
Monday, October 10.
Paulo and Marques are busy catching piranha to feed the birds and caimans later. sunrise (5:23). Kinda loud in the early am with the dawn bird chorus and humans but Millie sleeps right through it. FEEDER BIRDS and other moochers: Saffron finch, yellow billed cardinal, shiny cowbird, giant cowbird, purplish jays, bay winged cowbird, scaled dove, great white egret (Louisa) and white necked heron, southern crested cara cara, black vultures, many welfare caimans.
Off on our boat trip all in one boat. At 715. Life jackets for all. Fiddler crab holes in bank. Heading west downstream. We feed several black collared hawks with silver fish with Hyacinth stems through the gills for added weight. Our boat operator is Peixinho (little fish), who will serenade us later. The temperature is perfect, light breeze, the world is right. We motor very slowly down river. Anhinga (AKA snake birds), gray necked wood rail skulking along the shore, well seen sun bittern, Ringed, green and Amazon Kingfisher, Purplish jays, savannah hawk with very long legs, greater black hawk (not interested in our fish), Green ibis, greater and lesser kiskadee (onomapoetic). Nice stop at a colony of yellow rumped cacique nests. Frank Sinatra’s blue eyes. Silver beaked tanagers wow! We passed the Hotel Santa Teresa where we were supposed to stay. Now the hyacinth is stating to get pretty thick, we back up and take a running start to plow right through it. Though this is native to the area it still can be a pain. This plant is considered to be one of the worst escaped, introduced plants on the earth.
The Water Hyacinth was introduced from its native home in South America to various countries by well-meaning people as an ornamental plant; to the US in the 1880’s; to Africa in the 1950’s spreading to the Congo, the Nile and Lake Victoria; also in India.
The fast-growing Water Hyacinth soon becomes a noxious weed outside its native habitat. Plants interlock in such a dense mass that a person could walk on a floating mat of them from one bank of a river to the other. The presence of Water Hyacinth disrupts all life on the water. They clog waterways preventing river travel, block irrigation canals, destroy rice fields, ruin fishing grounds. By shading the water, these plants deprived native aquatic plants of sunlight and animals of oxygenated water. As the mats decay, there is a sharp increase in nutrient levels in the water, which spark off algal growths that further reduces oxygen levels.
Water Hyacinths are difficult (if not impossible) to destroy. In the US, arsenic was used on a large scale which only partially cleared the weeds but poisoned the ecosystem. Fire and explosives were also attempted, but the plants reproduce rapidly even from the tiniest fragment and simply grew back. The most effective measures are biological controls, hundreds of which have been studied for this purpose. Two weevils, a moth and two types of fungi have been introduced to successfully control the plant.
Other common floating plant is Soldenia which is a fern and really sheds water. The jacana turn it over to look for invertebrates to eat. They can walk right on it hence the other common name for this bird – lily trotter. Many beautiful rufouscent tiger herons in this section. We are finally where the giant river otters are supposed to be but they are not here. Oh well, later maybe. We sit for a while and learn the origin of the name for the river- Pixiam. Means in Portuguese the curly hair that Africans have. The story involves a long story about a wild cow. I tell you a few details about the Pantanal and Piranha.
Legendary Myth of Piranha Revealed
by Frank Magallanes, OPEFE
The legend started with President Theodore Roosevelt (circa 1914). While President of the United States, Roosevelt decided to explore South America. The Brazilians were excited about the impending visit by this famous American president. They also knew he liked the thrill of the adventure. So they arranged a spectacular tour of their country through the Amazon rain forest. They also found a river that President Roosevelt could “discover” himself (later called Rio Theodore Roosevelt). This river is actually nothing more than an arm of another tributary, the Rio Aripuana.
President Roosevelt was accompanied by a hundred journalists, many whom never had been in the jungle before. When the Brazilian’s took Roosevelt to “discover” the Rio Theodore Roosevelt, the Brazilians were already prepared. They had isolated a hundred yards of that river with nets.
For weeks fishermen caught piranha with hook and line, throwing the fish into this netted off area. Then the Brazilian instigated piranha myth began. The Brazilians told Roosevelt and his group not to venture into the water of this river because they would be immediately be attacked and eaten by piranhas. Roosevelt was skeptical, how could any fish be this dangerous. This played right into the Brazilians hands and their sense of humor. To validate their point, they took a cow, slit her udder, and drove her bleeding into a seething mass of starving, trapped piranhas.
The cow, needless to say, was immediately attacked and stripped to the bone in short order. The piranhas were in fact, so starved they literally leaped out of the water with mouthful of flesh which added more credibility to this setup situation. The President and the journalists stared in amazement at this scene just 10 feet from shore.
Newspapers around the world carried the story, even embellishing it more by saying anyone entering the water in any South American river would be immediately attacked and devoured by these small fearsome fish. “The terrible piranhas” have since been feared by unknowing people, conservationists and the news media.
Hollywood filmmakers later began creating a few horror cinemas of flying piranhas with wings biting people in the face with long, gruesome-looking teeth!
We begin our return trip and encounter a solitary La Plata or southern river otter. Much smaller than the giant and is usually found alone not in the family groups like this one.
Five minutes of silent floating in a slight breeze a small morpho butterfly flits by. And then a pair of large billed terns. Bare-faced curassow both male and female on river left. I get a quick glimpse of a capuchin monkey but we cannot spot it. Paulo promises us this monkey later. We shall see.
Back at 950. A brief breakfast for those who missed it. And very comfortable seats on the Verandah (Port. for railing – my very cool palm pilot dictionary tells us). And then it is feed-the-cara caras-time. We get photos but it is a little wierd to me this feeding of animals for the tourists. I understand the reason and I paticipate but ultmately I think it is wrong. Next to our friend the caimans- trained to respond to the humans on cue or is it vice versa? But we do get some good photos. A brief rest and then lunch Yummy. Afternoon is hot and time for the siesta and or the pool; I go for a bike ride then nap. Siestas are had by many.
A three we are off again. Paulo assures us that it will cool off by 4 pm. HA! Heading south on the Transpanterio RD. We stop for a walk on the road. Helmeted Manikin called in by Paulo’s I pod. Great looks in scopes. Curassows crossing road but tapir tracks are closer. Scaly headed parrot pair and squirrel cuckoo. Still hot so back in King Tut. We see very cute capybara family on our right. We learn a little about their social structure. The Venezuelans petioned Rome to allow the eating of them on Friday because these rats (also called barking mice) spend so much time in the water. WOW the capped heron with occipital plumes. Greater black hawk, snail kite up from Argentina. Solitary black caciques. It is now 430 and stll pretty hot. Skeeters are about. Rufus cachalote and black backed marsh tyrant. “For the record” we don’t see any jaguars that were earlier seen on this part of the road. The first of many Cecropia tree identified.
The cecropia trees are large thin trees with large umbrella like lobed leaves. They are mostly abundant at disturbed sites because they are an early successional or gap species, meaning they require abundant light to grow. Their seeds can remain viable in the soil for at least two years waiting for a sufficient size gap to occur. When the opportunity arises cecropias grow quickly, as much as eight feet in year. This is necessary as they are intolerant to shade so they must attempt to grow more quickly than surrounding vines and shrubs less their light source become obstructed. There is never a shortage of seeds waiting to seize the moment as a single female tree can produce over 900,000 seeds every time it fruits, which is often. The average height of a cecropia is less than 60 feet (18 m) although some emergent cecropias have been recorded at 130 feet (40 m) tall. The life span of a cecropia is relatively short. One would be considered old should it live to be 30 years. The trunks of cecropias are hollow, probably an adaptation to allow the tree to expend more energy in gaining height rather than in producing wood. The hollow trunk provides a home for biting ants (Azteca spp.). The ants feed on nectar produced by the tree; the ants in turn help to eliminate vines and epiphytes from the cecropia by clipping them off… another example of rainforest mutualism.
Another stop for the field with scarlet headed blackbirds, two Jabiru storks in a tree, russet backed ant wren and a pair of displaying Black capped Donicubus. They put on quite a show. Still has not cooled off. About 15 K from the lodge we do a U-turn at a huge ranch- Rio Alegra. Teddy Roosevelt visited here when he was on an exploration trip. To the north a river was renamed in his honor. Pretty amazing ex pres. In 40 more miles we would reach the Cuiba River and the end of the road and the border with MG do Sul. The bridges apparently really get bad.
Back as the sun is sinking. We stop just as the red ball drops through the clouds and have our 5 ? Minutes of quiet. More like 3 minutes before Paulo has to talk about the tinamou that we are hearing. I think I will keep time for now on. Back in the dark, uneventful, though there are fireflies. Dinner at 7 tonight. Just after dinner we do our introductions. Who and why the Pantanal. Doug took early retirement just to do this trip. The sisters- Mary Ann and Nancy took a freighter once to Brazil many years ago and married the second and third mate. Diana was emptying bed pans at age 13. Millie likes to do trips with me. Anthony comes from the middle class section of England – Surrey.
Then our boat driver – Peixinho (little fish) serenades us. He is very passionate entertainer. Can’t play the geetar very well but he sings about fish and women right nice. I take an evening solitary walk to record the frogs. The lawn crew of Capybaras comes up from the river to do a little trimming, Anthony records it digitally. Giant unicorn beetles (the one who attacked Trudy at our orientation) are attracted to the lights. The AC sort of works, the fans spin, we sleep.
Tuesday, October 11.
Noam goes to wake us up but does not do a very good job. He is too gentle. The day is beautiful. Breakfast outside by the feeder – giant cowbird and shiny cowbird. We are off at 7 am sharp. Thanks! what a great group. There are a few colds in the group and Millie stays back to recoup. We head back north, the road we came in on in the dark. First stop is Jabiru on the nest. Photos through the scope. Small tody flycatcher. Very cute. Then we see the greater rhea one of three species of rheas in S America. The others are the lesser and dia rheas. Yuck yuck but Mary Ann doesn’t get the joke- we have to explain it but she missed her coffee this AM thanks to Noam.
Grayish saltador singing. We stop for the termite story- the fungus farmers. The alletes, the reproductives come to lights and spin around them. This is also a Brazilian dance called Siriri. Noam tells about how the termites affect the Pantanal environment by creating essentially islands of more solid and higher ground. Great stop for MR. And Mrs. Muscovy duck with a campo flicker by his hole in a termite mound. We learn about the two common species of palms. One is a fan palm Copernica alba with very very very very very hard fruits that the Hyacinth macaws prefer to eat. They can get through the shells. Panama hats are made from the fibers of the leaves. It is the emblem of the Pantanal. Also prefers salty water. Rusty collared seed eater flitting around in the background.
The other palm is a pinnate leaved like date palm. Acromia sclerocarpus. Common name = Bocaiva. Very thorny, the natives used them for needles. This palm grows on dry, not flooded soils that are poor in nutrients. All palms must tap into underground aquifers. Next stop for young male marsh deer and the purplish jay show. The bird is gleaning just like the oxpeckers of Africa. Mesmerized deer, now parasite unloaded. Good photos.
Two southern river otters are seen out of water running through the low brush. Paulo has never seen two like this before in all his guiding. Plumbeous (lead) ibis and monk parakeets colonially nesting in Jabiru stork nest. This parrot has escaped and is thriving in many parts of the world. There are many species of hyacinth in the area and we see one with white flowers that is rooted in the ground, not floating.
We turn right – west- off the Transp Highway at the Campo Largo farm owned by the same folks who own our lodge. A lesser yellow headed vulture in the road. The greater is found in the forest, both have excellent senses of smell, not like the condors or black vultures.
A couple of southern screamers – big birds. We hear them later screaming. Orange backed oriole = troupial. We stop and walk right to try for the capuchin monkeys to no avail. We shall return!
To the fendenzo (Port. For farm) for rest, hammocks, coffee, shade under the Ficus. Hyacinth macaws in distant tree, we hike in the hot sun and get the scope on all three of them. Black headed parrots and monk parrots fly in. And the usual birds hanging out- y rumped caciques, yb cardinals, rd crested cardinal, shiny cowbirds. We meet a genuine cowboy and take his and the horse’s photo. Smile Lill says. The horse responds. Mating collared lizards. A beautiful light blue bird is the sacya tanager. A large flock of Nacunda nightjars (goatsuckers) comes wheeling by and lands in the open field.
The national bird of Brazil, the rufous bellied thrush has a nest in the outdoor kitchen. We also have the national bird of Argentina, the rufous hornero here as well. Nancy forgot her “balls” but no problem. Great lunch we leave at 1230 and send Noam and me over to check on the monkeys. They are there… So we feed them papaya and great some great pictures. Of the little extended family group. Ethics of this I debate. There are at least 2 females with young, one large male and several adolescents. Black collared Hawk also known as the OLD WOMAN because of its harsh cry (not PC).
Back to lodge for rest .
At 330 we gather for a lecture by Paulo on the history of the Pantanal which he says starts in 1500. This is when the Port. Navigators first arrived on the coast and named it Isla of the True Cruz or Vera Cruz. Then they discovery it is not an island and change the name to Land of the True Cross. Later changed for the third time to Brazil, which means live coals. The name is taken from a tree, which grows along the coast in the extensive forests, which they intensely harvest for the first major business cycle of Brazil. Now only 5% of the original forest left. Next business cycle is sugar cane that grows well in the black soil. Later emeralds and gold is discovered and slaves are imported in huge numbers, more than any other place in SA. They came to Cuiba looking to enslave the local Indians but found much gold lying around on the surface. It was a gold rush 300 yrs ago which brought the first settlers to the Pantanal region. Many settled in this isolated area that was very separate from the rest of Brazil- a 6-month journey to the coast. Pantanal is 400 x 150 miles.
In 1964 there was a military coup with many resulting changes. At this time 70% of population lived in the country, now it is 70% in the city. Military decided to build a road across the jungle to Peru, 3000 K dirt road that totally failed to attract settlers due to the impoverished soil even if they gave the land away. Manus had tax breaks to attract business, Now it’s city of 1 million that has no roads to it, only accessible by water and extremely isolated. They did develop the southern part of the Pantanal; Campo Grande and that worked. Cuiba was 50 K and now almost 1 million! THREE ecosystems overlap here Chaco, Amazonian, Cerrado. Very rich species diversity.
I made a mistake in telling you that the rubber tree was in the same family as the Ficus. It is actually in the Euphorbiacae family.
Hevea brasiliensis:The Rubber Tree
By Laura Law
During the Age of Exploration many people were sent out to seek unknown plant species that might serve as raw material, remedy, or ornament. Of all the great feats of that era of botanical discovery, none was more imposing than that of the domestication of rubber. New World inhabitants had shown rubber, which they obtained from several tropical plant species, to early explorers, including Columbus. Since it was an unstable product, it remained for more than three centuries a mere curiosity. Then, in 1839, it was found that through treatment with sulfur and heat (vulcanization), rubber’s elastic properties could be made more permanent. (1)
Hevea brasiliensis is the source of virtually all the world’s rubber production. Cutting the bark of this tree releases the latex which is then collected, preserved, and stabilized. The latex is located in the inner bark of the tree and flows in the vessels of the tree. Latex is thought to be a defense against insect predators for the tree. (1)
Hevea brasiliensis was first found in the Amazon basin. The rubber trade became a mainstay of the Brazilian economy, providing at its height almost 40 % of its export revenues. It was not long before the idea was conceived of domesticating rubber. However, Brazil was not the site of the successful commercialization of rubber. Rubber cultivation was, instead, transferred to Southeast Asia. Soon abundant and cheap, rubber was put to thousands of uses. Its reduced cost was an important factor in the emergence of a mass market of automobiles; from two-thirds to three-quarters of the demand for rubber soon came from the makers of tires and tubes for motor vehicles. (1) After tires, latex products, footwear, belts and hoses, and wire cables are the most important uses for rubber. (3) Rubber is harvested in Africa, Central and South America, and in Asia, the latter accounting for greater than 90% of production.
There are 11 species of Hevea. Hevea brasiliensis is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family (spurge family). Although not limited to the Euphorbiaceae, latex production is one of its distinguishing characteristics. (7)
At 4 15 we are off and immediately find a female tapir feeding right off the road. Great looks and photos. We have some nice quiet while watching this remarkable animal feed and slowly wander through the brush. Severely hunted everywhere, this animal is the heaviest land mammal in South America. Large billowing cumulus clouds portend some rain. But your enthusiasm hasn’t “Tapired” off. Yuck yuck. To St. Teresa. DR. Charlie Munn, the proprietor greets us as we board our boat. Please visit his website at http://tropicalnature.org/. Many southern rough winged swallows flying overhead. Off to see the otters without the hot sun beating on us. We go past some folks canoeing and find the little family group of giant river otters that everyone knows and loves. Way cool as we feed them fish and watch them cavort. Each one has a unique pattern of white on the throat for simplifying IDS. The world’s giant river otter expert, Dr. Nicole Duplaix is in the next boat with a group from SF’s Oceanic Society and her Brazilian assistant Carolina. Just as we arrive at the dock a heavy rain begins= what exquisite timing, thank you. A piping guan flies up in the tree by the lodge.
Nicole agrees to give us a little talk. 38 researchers in 13 different countries. Good ecotourism can help, bad can hinder. She recommends no boat motors over 15 hp. 50000 tourists in the last 10 years have had the otter experience we just had. Maybe 2K otters in the Pantanal. Overall they are doing very well now that hunting has ceased. There are several family groups along this river. Units consist of alpha male and female and young from 2 years. The young disperse from the family unit when they are sexually mature at age 2-3. Dangerous to move out then. Predators = jaguars, anacondas and caimans and other otters. 13 species of otters in the world. See Nicole’s website at http://www.giantotterresearch.com/
Back to lodge for piranha soup. Very tasty better to eat them, than to have them eat you. We pay our bills and get ready to get up very early. Anthony, Marques and Noam go for a night drive looking for crab eating foxes. They find them and a red brocket deer and a tarantula.
Wednesday, October 12.
Up early again, some of us go for a walk. Lynn sees a crab eating fox. We see tracks of tapir and baby, crab eating raccoon, capybaras. We hear black howler monkeys in the distance. B-fast at 530 and we are off by 615. We have all morning to go a short distance. The clouds are really amazing, opalescent. A bit cooler. We stop at the famous twisted Ipe tree with very very very many winged seeds in the pods. Bignonacae family same as turmpet creeper, princess and catalpa trees.
All the rocks for the road are brought in. Marsh deer, pampas deer, red brocket (English word for brick), gray brocket deer.
Sandpaper tree = Tacoma americana. Common tree n the Cerrado. Today Oct 12 is a national holiday for the Black Madonna.
In Brazil, in 1717, 3 fishermen found a Black Madonna in the Paraiba River in São Paulo – Our Lady Aparecida, patroness of Brazil, venerated today in the city which has her name. She is a small and beautiful black female figure supporting herself on a crescent moon. First her body was fished… then her head… and when she was made whole again, fish could be fished again in that river. Says the legend that when she was discovered, this tiny figure became extremely heavy, preventing the fisherman to take her away from that place. A small sentry-house was made for her there. Today there is a sanctuary city with Basilicas, numerous churches and the whole infra-structure of a city that has already welcomed the Pope, and which all year round receives pilgrims from the whole country in a great happy and colorful religious celebration. 8 million visit a year says Paulo.
Sting less bee hive in tree. The smooth billed ani is black twice – feathers and the skin. Next stop for Hyacinth macaw walk. Also displaying crested oropendulas, epilated orioles, and a savannah hawk on the ground hunting snakes? Golden chevroned parakeets. Turquoise fronted parakeets. Two orchids (hidden testicles) growing epiphytically on the palm.
Cowboy stop, three of them. One from yesterday and one is the Marlboro man. They are using tame cattle to help pacify the feral cows they are hoping to bring back.
Noam’s favorite- peach fronted parakeet. We stop at a large field full of the Nelore race of Zebus. We talk about cicadas and their role in nature. Nancy spots an animal so we stop and we don’t find the one she saw but we do find a capuchin monkey. Squirrel cuckoo seen very well with leaves in its mouth. Peppershrike and ruddy ground doves. It is hot in the mid day sun.
Photo stop for termite mounds. Plumbeous kites flying very high waiting to catch cicadas below. An elusive look at a collared anteater as it quickly scurries across the road far in front of us. Turn right off the main road toward Pouse allegro. Laughing falcon with party mask eats snakes.
An elusive group of black tailed marmosets are seen.
We see one Whistling heron, who actually whistles before flying away. The Ipomoea morning glory is growing every where in the Pantanal; it is toxic to cattle therefore it thrives. There are terrestrial bromeliads, cerus cactus, the amaryllis and bigger trees here. We turn left for about 4 miles heading to “Pouso Alegre” means Happy Roost, called that because the place is a roost for a flock of Hyacinth Macaws, (the biggest parrot in the world and threatened with extinction because of the high price in the illegal pet trade – $10,000.00 for a single bird!)
Two more peach fronted parakeets drinking in the middle of the road. Anthony spots a marmoset and we also see our first tuco toucan. Good in the scope. Feral pig diggings. We stop for a while to watch a colony of monk parakeets in a Jabiru nest but Paulo promises better ones. Great black hawk close to the car and above him in the distance is a male rhea with a gazillion babes – no only four. Next stop jabiru stork nest with one baby walking around on the ground. Monk parakeets again. But wait there are some different ones in there- a few white-eyed parakeets.
These low-lying areas are totally inundated in the rainy season and become a huge lake. Great looks at the barking mice rolling around in the water- these capybaras can reach 150 lbs but usually are 110, still pretty damn big for a mouse. Bare faced ibis next to cattle egret. Wow the storm blew through here with a vengeance yesterday. Many trees down, we get to our guest ranch, nice and simple. Our host Louis Vicente welcomes us. We are the only guests. No power due to the storm. A pair of hyacinth macaws grace us, collared ari-caris, and two tuco toucans. Lunch at noon. Hot and mosquitoy. We try to rest while the power is repaired in 30 minutes – hah!
I over-nap while you guys are doing the FTC. Too much information too fast but we have seen a lot of birds. Not even close to done but we call it and go on a very successful afternoon into evening game drive. We are hoping that the power is restored. The black howlers are really howling but too far away to see. Off at 410 and two coatamundis are elusively seen by some of us. We get out and visit the Jabiru stork nest again. We see many caiman farts bubbling up from the green depths. Pleasant temperate (relatively speaking). Cloud cover. We see the rufous collared seedeater. Back on the bus and we follow a nervous young male marsh deer. Great photo shots of him drinking water and then FLASH a gray brocket deer is seen well by all. A quick glimpse at an agouti to add to our rodent list. Two crab eating foxes that both pee on the same bush by raising their legs. Back on the highway and then we head toward Noam’s girlfriends lodge – Arras (macaw) Lodge. Ostensively for the sunset but we know there is a plan for Noam. Red orange ball of a sun drops through clouds and trees as peacocks screams and rufescent tiger heron sits peacefully on a snag. Frogs reported from the ladies toilet. Off at 530. Night drive back on a new road for me. RIGHT ACROSS the highway from the lodge we take the back road. Pretty crowded for a back road. But we see the first of many crab eating raccoons. And we have three minutes of blessed silence while I record the amazing tree frogs sounds.
Scanning everything with the spotlights looking for the tapetum lucidium- the shinning tapestry of light. Several rare boat billed night herons are seen. More raccoons, tons of caiman eyes and bodies, the barking rats, we hear the laughing falcon laughing (in his sleep).
And then there is the Great Pootoo sighting. Glowing eyes high in the tree = two of them. In the same family as the parenque, whippoorwill, poor will- the GOATSUCKERS. We continue our drive, some one (whose initials are MAT) starts to whine a bit sounding like the frogs. A Brazilian rabbit and a family of crab eating raccoons right near the lodge. We get back at 745 and the power is on. No one is very enthusiastic about continuing the FTC after dinner.
It is 300 feet elevation here but tomorrow we go a little bit higher with some trees and not so many mosquitoes.
Thursday, October 13.
Another early call for the hyacinth macaws. I go for a morning walk to record some sounds. Anthony sees the same coatmundis (#2) we saw yesterday. Mary Ann broke her bed last night and her sister just howled. The macaws are seen well. Streaky flycatchers. We gather to talk with Louis Vicente. 150 yrs ago his grandfather founded the farm. You can not kill animals in the Pantanal so it is hard to raise crops. He has 800 head and three cowboys, one lady in the kitchen. Takes 7-8 yrs to raise a cow on the native grass- tastes good though. He has 5 kids, two boys. In 95 highest flood in years water almost to dining room. 1000 head lost. He likes the scenery and rising cows. Antioch students come here in October for studies. Louis Vicente’s umbilical cord is buried in the door of the corral – a tradition back then. At 845 we pick up Noam with a smile on his face.
Back to the freeway and turn north leaving the Pantanal. More Jabiru storks- they mate for life live a long time, return to the same nest, lay 3 eggs and usually raise 2 very ugly chicks. The bridges have been totally rebuilt since I was here four years ago. Into Pocene for a bathroom and souvenir stop. Back onto pavement and naptime till V. Grande (large Swamp City). We stop at a fancy store to meet Marluca’s -Paulo’s wife – and shop. Most of us head straight for the liquor dept. What does that say? Some of us fellows buy Bastao de Gurana- Brazilian Viagra naturale.
In an hour or so we stop for another churrascaria lunch stop. We continue past a government resettlement area with people living in make shift tents.
Heading west and then north again all the way to Jangada Town (RAT village!). I think the Chamber of Commerce and real estate interests would change the name. The Cerrado slowly starts getting more and more tree-y. Teak plantations are passed. We turn left and continue for about 8 miles and then turn left again on a dirt road. Pass the limestone quarry on the way to our lodge in the “Serra das Araras” (Macaw Mountains) and check in at the CURUPIRA LODGE.
Everyone’s AC works. A few of us take advantage of the nice pool. Pantanal horse, zebu cattle and Royal Poinciana (native of Madagascar is a tropical legume) is in full flower.
Off at 415 looking for the largest eagle in the world the Harpy Eagle, well almost- the Philippine eagle may be a bit bigger… We pull our socks up over our pants in the most nerdy way, put on bug juice because of the chiggers. Hop on the bus and then transfer to our safari vehicle= sort of it is actually the bed of a farm truck. To the first pond for least grebes. Walk a bit, high tech communication strategies with the walkie-talkie-harpy-lookers chatting back and forth. To no avail although we see many other birds – Blue hooded, canary winged parakeets; lettered and chestnut eared aracaris, dusky headed parrots Amazon sp.
Originally wind spirits, the Harpies’ inital role is to carry to Hades the souls of the dead. The harpies are born from Typhon and Echinda. There are four Harpies: Aello (meaning rain-squall), Celaeno (storm-dark), Okypete (swift-flying), and Podarge (swift-foot). In later myths the Harpies are featured as winged monsters with pale female human faces with long hair and claws made of brass. Although invulnerable, they always look hungry and withered. Everything that they touch immediately becomes contaminated with an awful stench. They were afraid of only one thing: the sound of a brass instrument.
There is one magpie tanager, the biggest of the tanagers. Boat billed flycatcher. I give a brief Moon talk. Karen, Lynn and Susan walk back. A few of us take a night drive looking for pootoos and we find one. But the best is the incredible night sounds that I record. VERY strange and eerie. No way to describe it but otherworldly. I have heard the night sounds in the Amazon many times but nothing like this. High flying lightening bugs. no mammals. The smell of sulfur is everywhere from the Garlic trees but I prefer the real thing. Back for drinks and dinner. Venus is seen as half full through the scope. At dinner we guess Diana’s weight. Trudy wins. Tomorrow is another early morning from the slave drivers – P and M.
Friday Oct 14.
Wake up call at 530. Noam has it down now; he wakes everyone. The water knob on the electric shower for hot says INVERNO. (=hell).We are all ready to go at 635. Paulo is a little testy until he sees his first Harpy eagle for the trip. We repeat the same path as yesterday afternoon’s trip. Least grebes in better light. 830′ elevation. South 15.10 by West 56.61 is our position on the planet earth. Great looks at the capped heron with the blue on his bill. Orange winged parakeets.
The translation of mud flaps on our truck reads-
In order to conquer me you must be blonde because I already have a brunette.
And then we find him- the harpy eagle. Hard to see in the crotch of a tall tree. He keeps flapping his wings. What is up with that? We all get a look through the scopes. Clarence can really pull that image in. Then we move closer. He or she has a possum or what is left of it in the talons. That maybe explains the flapping motion. The eagle flies off. It was the bird born 3 years ago. We all take off on the trail through the forest. Watch for poison ivy er make that stinging nettle.
It is a bit slippery over some of the rocks to the big Ficus tree with a hole through it. Many things happen here. The fig and the wasp story, glorious butterflies, Piper plant with drip tips, the tree with the large thorns on it. Group photos. The temperature is nice, few bugs and it is great to stretch our legs. Then 9 of us take the longer hike back. The rest of you, the shorter route. On your way you have a good look at the turquoise browed motmot or was it blue capped? And you take advantage of the spring fed pool at our lodge. Swimming is delicious.
Our group sees many things – hornworm caterpillar and then a large sphinx moth. A family of black tailed marmosets much closer and easier to see than the last ones we saw along the Pantaneria Highway. Morpho butterfly that keeps landing, guess that one didn’t get the memo about constantly being in flight.
Buttress roots, heavy-duty thorns, llano galore. The bus is waiting for us just as planned around 11. Back for lunch at noon, a bit of free time then to the FTC at 2.We catch up on the birds, then do the mammals and other critters in chronological order. We have seen a lot and it ain’t over.
Off we go sans Trudy at 410. The hornworm caterpillars are all over the Plumeria. A king Vulture is spotted below…whoops! through the scope it becomes a wood stork. Brazilian ducks aka teals, spotted sandpiper in pond. We find a tegu running down the road – quite an odd gate that lizard has.
Looking for king vultures and the Harpy again.
We stop and walk left. Find a black headed trogon after a bit of work= incredible green. A Plumbeous dove singing. We walk over to the creek flowing out of a cave. You can see the stalactites and realize the roof of the cavern collapsed some time ago. Two long nosed. Bats are seen. Plumbeous kites everywhere. Back to the bus we decide to retrace our steps and see if the King Vulture we saw earlier has settled down with the other vultures. Nope, so we continue and fortuitously see an adult Harpy eagle fly into a nearby tree. Everyone gets a fine look. It has caught something that we cannot Id. DEAD for sure. We move closer for better looks but the light is rapidly fading. WOW an impressive animal to be sure. Four feet high with a seven foot wingspread. Massive talons seen well. We are all thrilled and today I had a life bird! Back down the road, as night is falling we stop the bus to listen to the evening chorus. Awesome and superb. One of the highlights for me is the acoustic landscape of the Mato Grosso. I catch a click beetle with two biolumisnce headlights.
Back to the lodge we are waiting dinner for some guests. I read to you my friend Bill Keener story of his first harpy eagle.
One Tough Bird
Meeting the unexpected in Brazil’s Mato Grosso.
by William Keener
I admit it, I’m a sucker for roadkill. After four days of birding by van in South America, it was no secret to my companions. Paulo, our guide, wasn’t surprised when I yelled “Stop!” making him turn around and head back to the large shaggy mass at the side of the road. Judging from its size and color as we sped by, it might have been a rhea, a flightless relative of the ostrich. We got out to take a closer look. It was no bird, not a feather in sight. Covered with coarse grizzled hair, the beast was six feet long and weighed about a hundred pounds. Certain that it was dead, I couldn’t resist reaching down to feel the wicked claw extending from its foreleg, fit for a velociraptor. Yet this was a toothless anteater, the first I’d ever seen. It would never again use that heavy claw to slash open the termite mounds that dotted the grassy savanna for miles around. High above, a King Vulture would soon come spiraling down, but we had no time to wait in the stifling heat of the Mato Grosso.
We continued north across the flats of the Pantanal, Brazil’s vast marshy floodplain where we had seen anaconda, caiman, capybara, otter and dense concentrations of waterbirds. Our destination was a low smudge on the horizon known as the Serra das Araras, the Macaw Mountains. At the edge of the Pantanal, these tablelands form the continental divide and the southern limit of Amazonian trees and birds, although the climate is too dry to support mature rainforest.
A few hours later we wound up the dirt road to a comfortable lodge on a spacious ranch, or fazenda. Our hostess, Maria Teresa, greeted us warmly. It was October, when spring rains begin south of the equator, and that meant low season for the lodge. The few guests included me, my birding buddy, Steve Bailey, and our guide, Paulo Boute. Steve is a Ph.D. ornithologist and a serious worldwide lister, while I gladly remain amateur. Paulo knew the terrain, and had proved it over the past few days. Of Russian descent, Paulo was fair-skinned, tall and lanky (setting him apart from the typical Brazilian), perennially in good humor, and proud of his idiomatic English. After a satisfying evening meal of barbecued beef with the ubiquitous beans and rice, Steve and I were about to leave our table for some much-needed rest when Paulo stepped up. As usual, he had a smile on his face.
“Hey, would you guys like to see a Harpy Eagle?” he asked casually.
“You betcha,” said Steve, firing back Paulo’s favorite Americanism, assuming Paulo was teasing.
“Good, because Maria Teresa just told me there’s one in this valley.” His grin widened, betraying excitement.
“Paulo, we’ve spent a lot of time chasing birds in the tropics, and never seen a Harpy,” I said. “That’s the most wanted bird on my wish list.”
“It should be,” Paulo declared. “Once, in the Amazon, I saw a Harpy Eagle in the air. I can tell you it was something special.”
“I believe you, but how can Maria Teresa be so sure she has a Harpy?” Steve asked.
“Because last week a tourist staying at the fazenda spotted one flying in the forest, and he showed her a picture in a book.”
Tantalized, I closed my eyes a moment to imagine it. A Harpy Eagle. The most charismatic bird of prey in the world. Its power is legendary. Wielding massive talons on full-speed attacks through the treetops, it tears sloths and monkeys clean off the branches without missing a wingbeat. No wonder the Amerindians respect this predator as the “jaguar of the sky.” Years earlier at the Smithsonian, an obliging curator had granted my request to examine a stuffed specimen of the Harpy. I’ll never forget how formidable it seemed. In disbelief, I measured the girth of its leg shank, at a point just above its talons, by comparing it to my wrist–side by side almost the same width. Unnerving, but I gained a physical appreciation for the bird’s immense strength.
I also knew how tough it was to observe Harpies. Critically endangered, they are restricted to the pristine rainforests of Central and South America. Everything I had read confirmed that they need large tracts of undisturbed land where they, and their prey, can survive. It seemed unlikely that one of these raptors was anywhere near this ragged margin of semi-Amazonian vegetation. Steve knew the Pantanal area bird list, and Harpy Eagle wasn’t on it. We also recalled a recent article in the American Birding Association’s newsletter, brashly titled So You Want to See a Harpy…, chronicling the hardships endured by an expedition trying to glimpse one of these birds in Panama’s Darien jungle. Wilderness is where Harpies are supposed to live, not the domesticated ranch lands around here.
Tourists could be wrong about the identification. Even if they were right, a Harpy might have been just passing through on its way to greener canopies. At that moment, Maria Teresa walked over and passed me an enormous feather. With a chill, I recognized the gray-brown mottling. It matched the pattern on the bird I had seen at the Smithsonian. In my hands, this flight feather was an undeniable eighteen inches of evidence. Probably from a Harpy, perhaps from another species of eagle. Whatever the source, it was certainly imposing and worth pursuing. Struggling in Portuguese, I tried get more information out of Maria Teresa.
“Onde?” I asked, waving the feather. Where?
“Debaixo do ninho.” Under the nest.
“The nest! Quando.” When?
“Há quatro ou cinco semanas.” Four or five weeks ago.
Amazing. An eagle’s aerie within striking distance. A month is a long time, and the birds could have left after fledging a chick. Still, there was a chance of finding them, to be the first birders at the nest. My pulse quickened, and I began to allow for the possibility that I might see a bird that seemed beyond reach, a “life bird” that could elude me all my life. When I told Paulo the feather was all the convincing I needed, he began quizzing Maria Teresa about the location of the nest. She couldn’t give us detailed directions, explaining that it was complicated, across her ranch, through some hills, and too far to go on foot. But she had a plan.
“Tomorrow I’ll have one of our vaqueiros take you to the nest. He’ll bring horses for everyone.”
The morning sky was a cloudless blue by the time our cowboy arrived, hitching a string of horses to the fence. Soft-spoken, he introduced himself as Eurides. Young and stocky, he wore a ‘Ducks Unlimited’ t-shirt, topped off by a dusty white Stetson. We mounted up, scope, tripod and all, and headed off. Well, almost. Steve had not been on horseback since a pony ride at age seven, so his horse just stood there giving him a contemptuous look. Paulo got things moving by grabbing the reins as if the horse were a pack mule, hauling Steve behind him for a while. Steve complained that he could walk just as fast on his own two legs, but it was obvious the lure of the Harpy far outweighed his discomfort.
We rode slowly across the ranch, fording a shallow stream before reaching a sign lettered PERIGO. DANGER. I facetiously asked whether it was a warning that babies could be carried off by a Harpy Eagle. “No,” Paulo answered, “it’s there to keep people away from the shed where they store dynamite for the lime quarry.” Apart from the local quarry, the hill slopes were thickly vegetated, though our trail led us through gently rolling pastures punctuated by huge trees, remnants of the climax forest that was cut years ago. I was surprised when Eurides commented that we only had a half hour ride ahead of us. It seemed too little time to bring us into the heart of healthy untouched forest, unless we were making for an overlook above the valley. I tried to relax, and patiently listened to Paulo translate his question and answer session with Eurides. What I heard had me salivating.
“Have you actually seen this eagle?” Paulo began.
“Many times,” Eurides replied matter-of-factly.
“When was the last time?”
“A few days ago. Bringing one of our lambs to the nest.”
“Lambs? How often does that happen?”
“Oh, he’s a regular customer. But he eats other things, too. Like foxes. Sometimes snakes.”
Less than thirty minutes up the trail, Eurides pushed back his brim and began to scan the trees in earnest. His vigilance increased my tension. We were about to see something. But what? Eurides halted, dismounted and told us to stay put. Motioning to a tree about 75 yards away, he assured us the nest was there. Standing unchallenged in the open grazing land was a towering jatobeiro tree. In the center of the dark foliage, at least fifty feet above the ground, we could make out a massive nest, five or six feet across and equally deep. But there was no sign of either parent bird or a chick in the nest.
Our cowboy strode off, only to crouch low next to a bush, using it for cover. “Ali está…” he whispered, tension in his voice. There he is… Instantly, I slipped off the saddle and was the first to join Eurides. He pointed to a pale shape in the leaves far to the left of the nest. My heart pounding, I held my breath and brought the binoculars to my eyes. Yes! The majestic head of a Harpy Eagle with its double-pointed crest was clearly visible. There is no other spiked crown like this in the kingdom of birds. I gave a thumbs up to Steve and Paulo, and they came running. We all stared, transfixed, euphoric in the eagle’s presence. This was the most awe-inspiring bird we had ever seen. We moved to get a clear view of the Harpy as it perched on a thick limb overlooking its nest. Setting up the scope, we took turns shouldering each other aside to see this magnificent creature. At 30-power magnification, the nearly four-foot tall raptor filled the frame, and for an hour we feasted on every stunning detail: the enormous hooked beak, the broad black collar, the fine barring on its thighs, and the unique split crown feathers that appeared to swivel independently in the light breeze. Those fearsome talons clamped on the rough bark looked every bit the efficient lamb-killers. The eagle was supremely alert, following the movement of each bird that flew through its domain. Occasionally, it would fix its fierce eyes on us, shifting its head from side to side, watching the watchers.
Eurides told us about the time he came riding around a bend in the trail and found the Harpy on the ground, wrestling a big snake. The huge bird was flapping its wings, spread over seven feet wide, as it worked to tighten its hold on the writhing reptile. The wild scene spooked his horse, so Eurides had to dismount until the battle was over. After killing the snake, the eagle stood there, its bold, penetrating stare daring Eurides to make the first move. It seemed afraid of nothing and no one. The cowboy shouted and flailed his hat in the air, to no effect. Finally, he picked up a dirt clod and heaved it at the Harpy before it flew off.
Paulo was impressed, and asked Eurides, “How long has this sort of thing been going on?”
“About five or six years.”
“What?!” This was too much for Paulo. “I’ve been leading trips here for years. Why wasn’t I told about the nest?”
“But you’re the expert who knows everything about the birds around here. We thought you knew.”
As Paulo scratched his head in chagrin, we kept a close eye on the tree. We suspected this bird had young in the nest and was standing guard while its mate was away hunting, but we never saw another adult. After it flew to the other side of the tree, almost out of sight, we decided we’d been there long enough. To minimize stress on the bird, we withdrew to the horses and mounted up. The hardest thing about leaving was giving up the opportunity to walk right up to the biological treasure-trove scattered at the foot of the tree. Better than roadkill. I had visions of monkey skulls, toucan beaks, snake skins, the remains of who-knows-what jettisoned from the nest. Had I looked, Eurides reckoned, I would have found the woven pouch-nests of Yellow-rumped Caciques, larger cousins of the Oriole. The Harpies had apparently acquired a taste for these common birds, and would sail through their breeding colonies indiscriminately snatching the hanging nests in mid-flight. Back home, the eagles would rip open the packages and eat whatever hapless birds had been trapped inside. “Harpy fast food,” Paulo quipped.
As we rode out, a herd of zebu cattle slowly plodded past us in the late morning heat. The cattle were more proof that this pair of Harpy Eagles was extraordinary. They had resisted pressures that would have forced most birds of prey to abandon a territory. Obviously, they were not bothered by cows chewing their cud in the shade of their nest tree, and they were used to humans, at least those on horseback. Every morning, at exactly 7:00 a.m., they put up with the horn blast announcing the start of the work day at the quarry. Against all odds, they had learned to co-exist, adapting to a fragmented and disturbed habitat. Our admiration for their resilience grew as Eurides told us that a few years ago a hired hand shot and killed one of the birds for its trophy talons. He was rebuked, and moved on. But the lone adult Harpy was tough enough to stay and, miraculously, it found another mate to keep the nest going. These birds were true pioneers and survivors.
As the eagle flies, it was only two miles from the nest to our air-conditioned rooms and ice-cold bottles of ‘Antarctica’ beer. Everything had unfolded so perfectly. Almost too effortlessly, I thought, riding back in a swirl of unanswerable questions. An unattainable bird had been delivered to us as a gift. Was it luck, or fate, or the simple willingness to travel that put us in the right place at the right time? So often, despite the energies we devote to quests, we fail to find our long-sought birds. Yet there are times, like this unexpected day in backcountry Brazil, when nature brings us to a state of grace.
William Keener is a writer and environmental lawyer living in Marin County,California. His chapbook, “Three Crows Yelling,” authored in collaboration with poets Bill Noble and Michael Day, won the 1999 National Looking Glass Award sponsored by Pudding House Press. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I end the story just as dinner is served. The moon is nearly full; Venus is in Scorpio right near Antares. The night is pleasant. Hot showers cold beer and amusing company. We are having fun now.
Saturday Oct 15.
An optional very early morning “game” drive. At 530 we leave, drive out to the main road, turn left, drive a couple of miles and turn right into some ag land. They are growing some kind of small corn here used for animal feed. The state of Mato Grosso is an economic powerhouse fueled in main by the agricultural output. Of course at the expense of the wild things. The smell of pesticides permeates the air. Noam says this is why he is a vegetarian- there is a tremendous waste of resources to produce one pound of beef. We are heading toward the headwaters of the Paraguay River which is born in the mountains 40 miles ahead of us and flows through the Pantanal and eventually turns into the Rio de la Plata at Buenos Aires.
In spite of the Ag lands there are many burrowing owls to be seen. Campo flickers. Many rheas as well. As we drove along we note quite a contrast between a plowed developed field and the one with all the white termite mounds stretching to the distance. Our first of this family – rufous winged tinamou. Hugh flocks of Pico Azul pigeons. American kestrel from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego- appropriate name. Beautiful white woodpecker against the red soil termite mound. We stop at a little wet spot with the Murata palms trees that the red bellied macaws like to eat. Spotted sandpiper with its reflection in the cow pond. Anthony calls all the zebu over to him. IT rained a bit this AM. Black billed toucan. Everything seems far away this morning. We turn around at 710 and find a pair red-legged sieremas (= to Africa’s Secretary bird). One poses nicely. Great hair doo.
We stop at the intersection heading into the lodge to have our slowly leaking flat tire repaired. Our lodge name CURUPIRA comes from the name of a forest spirit that guards the welfare of the animals. Not doing it very well, says Doug, thinking of the destruction of the Brazilian landscape. Many butterflies flitting around. It is warm now. We start walking back and see Red shouldered and blue and yellow macaws.
Back for a late breakfast and we are off at 930 heading back up the road which goes all the way up the valley to the next Farm (owned by the former Gov of MG). There are only two farms here. The first one is owned by our lodge. We have two very fine stops for hundreds of butterflies getting salts form the middle of the road. There are at least ten different kinds. Paulo seems only interested if it has feathers. So we see the gray monjita for his sake. A drab bird – the little gray nun who eats flies. Yummy..
Back at the trailhead some of us do the hike through the forest again. We are amply rewarded. Anthony spots the harpy eagle close to us in very good light. Clarence puts his scope on it and we have an excellent view. WOW again. More great butterflies, simply nice to hike through the symphony of forest Mato Grosso sounds.
Back for lunch, which the rest of you are kind enough to wait for us. The food seems particularly good today. The cabbage is really tasty. We decide to take the afternoon off so Paulo heads home to see his little boy and lovely wife. Noam is in charge. We read, swim; catch up on our journals, nap. Tonight the time changes, we spring forward.
A few of us head off to witness the night sounds again before dinner. There is a tree below us in the pasture full of cattle egrets. Two new birds for the list- common stilt and roseate spoonbill. Just before dinner Noam tells us his family history. Born in Israel in 1966 moved to Sao Paulo 9 yrs later. Studied architecture for two years then droped out. Hung out at the beach and them moved to the chappada to be close to nature Been here ever since. We get at lesson in the national drink of Brazil- CAIPIRINHA. Lime, sugar and sugar cane brandy. Now we know what that special utensil was to squish the lime properly.
Sunday October 16.
We get a late breakfast at 8. Oh boy, it is really seven body time. AT 7 Noam takes most of us on a little walk down to the fish farms and dam. Amazon and ringed kingfisher. Southern screamer seen well and spotted by Sylvia- her first major ID! Our first white faced tree ducks. No roseate spoonbill but thre are Brazilian teals. After breakfast we try for the Ferruginous pygmy owl. We fool all the birds with the I pod except the one we want.. A hermit hummingbird is working the Heliconia. Off on time. What a great group. Laundry was very pricey here. Back on the same road to the same store. Clarence passes his beautiful Pantanal book around. Wow that guy got some good photos. We stop at the same store as before and see Marluca with Mateus, 10 months old and very cute. Paulo is happy for his conjugal visit. Do you think he conjugated?
We go through prosperous Cuiba and see the motels that charge by the hour. Mirrors on the ceiling, hidden car parking, dumb waiter to get your food and drinks, no windows. Gee what goes on in there? We now know why you don’t take the family to the Alibi Motel. There is a huge dish that NASA uses to send information about the Amazon and illegal logging so the IBAMA (the Brazilian parks association) can take action. Driving northeast up up through the Cerrado into the tablelands. Fantastic sandstone formations along the cliff face. Many of you are sleeping through this gorgeous landscape.
Finally around 1245 we arrive at the PENHASCO HOTEL (Cliff Hotel), that is, guess what? right on the edge of the cliff. Phones, TVs, civilization. We drop down past it to our restaurant for lunch. VERY nice view and a BUFFET- surprise surprise. But Lil says this place has nothing on Evelyn at previous hotel. We have little overview of the Cerrado biome and then take a nice walk down the boardwalk along the riparian forest in the shade. A blue headed motmot is seen by just a few, sorry Lynn. He kept pecking at my laser dot on the branch. We get to the edge of the red sandstone cliffs. Below is the basin that Cuiba and the Pantanal is in. We are 2400`, more or less. Gee it doesn’t feel that much cooler here. A pair of red and green macaws fly by. The bus has come down the hill to meet us so we don’t have to walk back to it. Thank god say many of us. The bus is getting a big reluctant to start. As long as it does at 330 AM tomorrow. We decide to go straight to Bridal Veil Waterfall (highest in the region: 210 ft) in the National Park of Chapada dos Guimaraes which borders on the Amazon Basin. It took us about 20 minutes passing by the second homes of the rich Cuiabanos that come up her for the coolness. Doesn’t feel very cool today however, as Paulo suggests we use our umbrellas to escape from the sun. Down the hill to the crowded park. It is Sunday and I am happy that so many people are using their National Park. Great photos of the falls from the far right side. The Swallow tanager is a big hit and violaceous euphonia, white-eyed and blue hooded parrots, chopi blackbird. The Visitor Center has some nice maps for an overview. Photos taken of the Macaw phone booth. Off at 4 and the bus has the same starting problem. HMMMM I continue to wonder.
The vegetation is very diverse here in the Cerrado- Passionflower, Cassia, Eucalypt relatives, Kapok, palms. One the way back we take a quick tour of the village of 20 k or so with a church built in by Black and Indian slaves. Then to the church de Santana built in 1779 by slaves. Remember slavery was legal for quite a while in Brazil until 1888. In the Voyage of the Beagle Darwin was particularly disturbed by the cruelty of Brazilian slave holders. That experience made Darwin a passionate advocate for emancipation of the slaves. The city of Chapada dos Guimaraes (named for a city in Portugal that is supposed to be the heart of that Country) was founded on the sugar cane industry in 1751. We drop Noam off at the town center right by our pizza restaurant. We shall return for a lot of melted cheese later. To our hotel again this time for check in. Paulo ticks off all the amenities – sauna, gift shop, internet, two swimming pools – that we do not have time to use. In our rooms for a couple of hours. Hoary Foxes are supposed to be around on the grounds.
Some of you get a great water massage at the pool. Nancy tries the internet. It is, of course, down. Several of you see the resident foxes. We meet at 630 and head to town. The full moon over the church and I think Lynn gets a good photo. Some shopping is done; no bargaining and they do not take dollars but will take charge cards for a bill that is less than $5. This drives Trudy batty. Too late to see the macaws in town. We eat at the Fiesta Pizza place. Portuguese Pizza is full of ham. We also get the 4 cheese pizza and they make a couple of special tomato and argula pizzas- yummy. We all have enough cheese to last us for a week. Some bottles of your purchased wine are opened and beer is consumed. We thank Noam Salzstein at email@example.com for all his efforts and give him his well deserved tip. What a gentle soul he is. Wish the world were full of more like him.
We decide to send Marques back to Cuiba to get another bus. Would hate for that one to fail tomorrow morning. There is a little fox by our rooms. Anthony (who else) waits for the whole family to show up. Mated pair and four offspring. To bed as early as we can.
Monday, October 17.
That wake up call comes at 3 AM. We are loaded and off in a half hour. Try to fall back asleep. To the airport by 435. Good time made. We say goodbye to Marques, give him his tip. Airport stuff is painless. We must move our watches forward one hour because we are heading back east. Nothing hot to eat on the plane just little snacky treats for breakfast- twice. To Brasilia we go and change planes. We meet a native Indian who lives near the Pantanal. Paulo is interested in maybe setting something up with his tribe in the future – that would good for my next trip.
Off to Rio we go on our Airbus 320. Paulo manages to move us to the head of the line. Thanks buddy. It is because we are so old. After we get our bags and meet Saka our 2nd generation Japanese Brazilian driver; some of us change money.
We leave the airport in a very comfortable AC bus we go just a little while and stop at a large shopping mall for lunch. Weird place to be but the food is actually good at the Pelican Grill. Most shops are closed because there is a state holiday called Commerce Day. Go figure. Heavy duty security. There is much violent crime in Brazil along the coastal areas.
We basically are heading north west from Rio on some very high speed quality roads. Paulo continues his story of this birth. High points. Father born in 1898. WW I fighter, wounded three times, never got over it. Very very very very poor. Mother had very very very very cruel father. Would not pay her way to the US and was going to leave her in Italy to fend for herself at age 12. Made kids work in the coffee fields. Paulo’s mom married widower Mark (52 yrs) at age 30. Four kids. One sister English teacher. Both brothers are pilots. Most successful family.
Stop at bus/truck stop for toilet and some ice cream. We pass a Finnish community. They were invited by the government in the 1940’s to start a fruit industry but it didn’t work. Itatiaia is a local Indian term that means pointed or very sharp stone referring to the rugged high mts in the area. Rarely there can be snow on the peaks. We turn right just before we get to a town with the same name and we enter the national Park. The first one established in Brazil in 1937. Up up we go passing a military establishment. In the park we stop for an overview and can see our hotel up on the slope. Pretty hot today but won’t be for long. Next stop is at Norma’s. She is gone but the humming bird feeders are working. We get our first tantalizing looks at the number and varieties of these magnificent new world only birds. The best one is the frilled coquette- the littlest one with a totally different flight pattern.
Check in to our hotel. We are essentially the only guests. No AC but the views are fantastic. We watch more birds at the feeder. Green headed tanager. Banaquit, red rumped cacique nests, WOW.
A very very very good dinner and then Doug gives us all a very excellent Econ 101 lecture stimulated by Susan’s curiosity. It was really fascinating and I am not kidding,
Tuesday, October 18.
Dusky legged guans walking around the grounds. Safe here from hunters. Dusky titis (a small monkey) two family groups calling in the distance. The hummingbirds and tanagers are a good thing to wake up to. Hummers: Brazilian emerald, White throated Hummer, Black Jacobin, violet capped wood nymph, scale-throated hermit, and versicolored emerald. Tanagers- Blue Dachis, green-headed, golden chevroned, Sayca, Magpie, ruby-crowned, chestnut headed….whoa. We start at 8 in front of Harold’s house and watch all these guys. Harold’s dad started the place in the 30’s really built it up in the 60’s. Ital. National Park is the oldest in Brazil since 37and is 75 sq. miles. 80% Brazilians and 20 % foreigners visit the park. We cross the street to the Orchidaria run by Norma, Harold’s sister. She sells some of us the new picture book on the Birds of Sao Paulo. Great flowers and there are three pet Red footed Tortoises in there. We walk up the hill pass the Impatiens or shameless Marys. Many epiphytic plants, giant tree ferns, Araucarias (so- called pines, monkey-puzzle), bamboo, salvias. I define endemic and species for you. Up past; the empty swimming pool and we meet Roberto who just bought the place. He has some work to do. Past the vegetable garden, birding the whole time. Rufous collared sparrows galore. Long tailed flycatcher. Hill is covered with the Hearts of Palm palm trees. This is indicative of undisturbed habitat because they are often cut down and poached.
It is the most pleasant temperature we have had on any of our hikes. Overcast and a bit cool. Rain seems to be coming. Diana’s bird book goes south down her backside heading toward her feet. Circle back by the hotel and then down the same road we came up. We stop at Christian the Australian and Brazilian wife – Tatiana’ artist’s house. We admire their art but don’t have the money to buy any. They don’t take Visa. Gilt edged tanagers, green headed tanagers, and Maroon bellied parakeets are very cooperative. Down the hill we go. Anthony finds an absolutely incredible cicada for me. Looks like the green headed tanager colors.
Blue and white swallows and two species of swifts flying around. Southern house wren singing and the rufous bellied thrush, Kiskadee calling. Several kinds of wood creepers. We scope out the beautiful peaks in the distance where the park gets it name.
Back for lunch and siesta. The desserts are very very good here says the getting fatter one. Lil “Now what was that pretty bird we saw, you know the one, the green one at the hummingbird feeder” OH yea that one.
AT 2 we meet for our update on the bird list. We are getting quite a list.
At 4 Leonardo, the artist, joins us as we gather back by Norma’s house to watch the flower kissers, a cooperative Morpho eating a banana. Scaly throated hermit with the very long tail seen. More green headed tanagers- I could never get tired of looking at that bird. Leo picks us some mulberries called mora in Brazilian. Our giant bus with Saka is following us everywhere. The rain seems close. To Vivart where the owner Dioclesio Jose (www.atelievivart.com) sells us some t shirts and tapestries. We try a new fruit – the Jaboticaba – a member of the Myrtacaeae Family aka Eucalyptus family. Good with white fleshy fruit
We hop in the bus and head downhill and take a sharp right and then back up the mountain. Sylvia spots a trogon female by the bus and then we see the male at the entrance to nesting cavity. There is native bamboo here. The larger one is an exotic from Asia. We stop at the end of the road – steep stream flowing across the granitite boulders- looks a bit like the Sierra. Anthony goes up the closed trail to a nice waterfall while the rest of us walk down the road. He finds a dipper. Climbing bamboo, bromeliads, ferns, ground pines, impatiens, and another trogon. Getting dark. Some of us hike back to the lodge along a nice trail – three saffron toucanets seen. There is a trail off to our left and in about 7 K and 3 hours it gets to Tres Picos – three peaks – . which are in the clouds right now. South 22.26 West 44.36 and 3500′ accdg to the GPS
Another nice dinner with trout and they do know how to cook potatoes. The pineapples so sweet and the lime pie is superb. Roberto has only owned this place for 18 days accdg to Leo. Mary Ann feels the very very very strong need to let Roberto know about the bat that was flying around in the restaurant earlier. I give you a little chat on the carbon cycle – the geological and the biological. We are really upsetting the stasis of the planet. BUMMER, George BUSH.
Wednesday, October 19.
Woke to rain a lot of it, started at 2 AM or so. Peaceful to sleep by. Guess no one will be hiking to tres picos today. We make our own lunch and we are off promptly at 630 – what a timely group. All except Lill who stays back today. The rain is coming down like cats and dogs or open pocket knives as they say in Brazil. Back down the hill out of the park; we check out a marsh for some birds but nada. There are many large trucks going very slowly in heavy traffic on the freeway and we go west for awhile past the town of Itatiaia. I pass around the National Geographic article on the Atlantic Rain Forest. We turn right on Brazil 354 and wind up into the Serra da Mantiqueira. Toilet stop at the pass (1669 meters) and the border between the state of Rio and the Minas Gerais. Then we turn right on a rough, narrow but paved road. There is still heavy rain as we go higher and higher.
This beat up road is the highest in Brazil that eventually deadends in the Black Needle section. WE don’t get that far. Glad we don’t meet another bus on the narrow road. When we stop the rain has stopped too and it is bit brighter. At 7300′ we begin to walk at 9. OK Paulo lied about the driving time. A female blue billed black tyrant, the males are quite a bit larger. Bay breasted warbling finch, variable ant shrike. Diademed tanager is seen but we will see it much better later. There is bamboo, Cecropia (looking like silver snow from a distance), Melastomas, and Croton with bright red leaves, native fuchsias, many bromeliads and a jeep with tourists including two birders from the US. Leo is carrying my scope. I could get used to that.
We stop at a grassy meadow adjacent to an Araucaria Forest. The Araucaria tit-Spine tail is seen, another endemic. We are in a cloud zone. It has many elements of the Andes. Ericas (heather) blooming brilliant red flowers, dodder the twining parasitic plant, mistletoe, Baccharis trimera is the medicinal plant, geranium, liverworts, ferns. I find a small tarantula under a log. The girls ahead see a greater black eagle they manage to identify er make that a cara cara. Close though. White browed warbler, brassy breasted tanager. Tree frogs are tinking. We turn right and do a loop back to the bus on a dirt trail. Nice — the forest is dripping and very thick. There can be over 400 sp of tress in a hectare (2.47 acres). It seems like that many trees right here. So many bromeliads in red flower. Berberis in yellow flower, sedges, wild strawberry, raspberry, grasses, lichens galore.
Everything feels native here. Except for those pesky cows. The National PARK is having the introduced Australian pines logged and removed.
Latin Name: Baccharis trimera, B. genistelloides, B. triptera
Brazilian Name: Carqueja
Description: A perennial green herb that grows almost straight up to a height of 1.5 feet tall with creamy yellowish orange capitulate, compact flowers at the top of the plant. The bright green, flat, leafy stalks are split into three planes, each more or less of a uniform width, running down the whole stem. Many stems grow out of one base, each branch of stem being 0.5-1.5 cm wide, generally leafless. Grows in small thickets increasing in size every year. Rhizomes are short and cylindrical. Roots are fibrous.
Habitat: Found on forest edge and swampy areas throughout the Atlantic and Amazon rainforests in Brazil, Peru, and Colombia as well as tropical parts of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It is believed to be native to Minas Gerais.
Parts Used: Aerial parts
Key Constituents: Flavonoids – rutin (known for modulating inflammation), quercetin, saponin mixture – echinocystic acid as the major aglycone.
apigenin, camferol, carquejol, clerodane derivatives, diterpenoids, essential oils, glycosides, hispidium, hispidulin, luteolin, neptin, resins, saponins, squalene.
Therapeutic Action: Anti-inflammatory, analgesic (due to inhibition of prostoglandin biosynthesis), anthelmintic and vermifuge, antihepatotoxic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antipyretic, anti-ulcerogenic, antiviral, aperient, anti-rheumatic, depurative, digestive, diuretic, febrifuge, gastrotonic, hepatic, hepatoprotective, hepatotonic, hypoglycemic, laxative, refrigerant, stomachic, tonic, vermifuge (due to diterpenoid action), cosmetic-hair rinse, antacid and anti ulcer properties, due to ability to reduce gastric secretions and gastro intestinal hyperactivity. Hypoglycaemic action lowers blood sugar levels and so is of use in diabetes.
Indications: Intestinal worms, diarrhoea, gastroenteritis, dyspepsia, constipation, fever, anaemia following blood loss, intestinal weakness, gout, flatulence and bloating, diabetes (hypoglycaemic), general debility, gall stones, liver ailments, leprosy, mouth infection, ulcers, cough (see below for recipe) hair thinning.
Contra Indications: Should be used with caution during pregnancy. Long-term use entails a risk of allergenicity. (Cf: Professor Gilbert, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz.)
Preparation and dosage: Simple infusion of 2 cups of dried Carqueja in 1 litre of water. Dosage: one cup 3 times daily on empty stomach.
Harvesting Information: The aerial parts are collected in August. The action is strongest before flowering, at the beginning of the wet season.
Ethnobotanical Information: Used locally as a shampoo and hair rinse, decocted with Jaborandi. (Pilocarpus jaborandi). Other traditional local uses include infusing 2 Carqueja stems with 2 sprigs of mint, administered as a vermifuge, once every 3 months (Cf: Joel, Iracambi). Also used for indigestion and toxic related headaches. A local cough remedy uses 10g carqueja 10g fedegoso 4 orange leaves salt. (Cf: Carminha, Graminha.) A local recipe for equine worms uses 3 stems of carqueja, 3 leaves of café de mato, 3 parts of the bark of Cura madre and 1.5 litre of water. This is boiled in a tightly covered pan for 15 minutes and left to steep for a further 15 minutes. This should be administered on an empty stomach. The horse should be tied up for 2 hours before and 1 hour after treatment.
Propagation details: Can be grown from seed or from cuttings. Cuttings should be taken in the hottest months of the year and planted out at intervals of 0.5 m in rows of 1m spacing and intercropped with other species. Areas of bare earth between the rows produce a poorer and more contaminated harvest.
Additional Information: Carqueja’s uses in herbal medicine were first recorded in Brazil in 1931 by Pio Corrêa who wrote about an infusion of Carqueja being used for sterility in women and impotency in men. Corrêa described Carqueja with the therapeutic properties of tonic, bitter, febrifuge and stomachic with cited uses for dyspepsia, gastroenteritis, liver diseases and diarrhoea. The plant is used extensively as a slimming tea.
Back to the bus. Some are ready to eat and rest but some want to keep walking down the road. So we do. Podocarpus. Without Paulo I can only guess at the birds. But what a fine time…no rain! This is not how I thought the day was going to go earlier this morning. After a while the bus catches up with us and we all walk together. Finger of God rock – which finger? The clouds below look like a Japanese print. All of get back on the bus after superb looks at the diamede tanager through the scope. White spotted woodpecker, and of course the ubiquitous rufous collared sparrow. The rain begins again as we go down down down back to the civilized (or at least paved) world. Stop at the same toilet and then go over on the other side of the road to check out the Sao Gotardo Hotel. Nothing in the pond and not much of a view today. Oh well, the fog is thick.
Back to Tatiana town for another large jug of water and to drop Paulo at the dentist for minor dental work. Cost him 20 reals – ten bucks. When was the last time you had dental work for ten dollars??? The hotel is in the clouds but after all it is a rainforest. Peaceful and quiet time. Trudy blows a fuse drying her hair but she looks nice.
WE meet at 6 for our final Field check list. Brassy breasted tanager – a one in a million possibility.
Weather in Rio is not looking too promising; we have Nancy to blame for that. She does not have good luck in the Rio weather department. However we are going to break that jinx tomorrow.
We pay our bills and tomorrow the big city. We were going to hike up the trail to Tres Picos but now with all the rain, the trail would be very slippery.
Thursday, October 20.
This hotel has an obscenely luscious shower. Velvet blue black tyrant with white wing flashes catching bugs out side the dining room window. Cliff flycatchers too. Once again we demonstrate our timeliness as a group. I really appreciate it. We are off at 800, as scheduled. We stop at the little museum at the VC. The Harpy eagle is the best. Sword of St. George we know as mother in laws tongue are planted to keep evil spirits out of houses. There is little traffic as we head east back to Rio. One EMERGENCY pee break for Michael and we see the jack fruit. The Durian and the Jackfruit, while looking similar, are from different plant families. However breadfruit and jackfruit are related. About the smell of the Durian –
Richard Sterling (as quoted in “The Travelling Curmudgoen”) says; “..its odor is best described as pig-sh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in South East Asia.”
The jackfruit (Artocarpus heteropyllus) originated in India at the foot of the Western Ghats, and is now very popular throughout South East Asia. Elsewhere in humid tropical areas it is a common garden tree. The fruit is unusual as it is borne on the main branches and the trunks, occasionally even from surface roots of the tree. Twigs would not be strong enough; jackfruit is 350-900mm in length and 250-500mm in diameter. It is the largest edible tree-grown fruit.
Jackfruit fondness grows with familiarity. The smell of a fully ripe fruit in an enclosed space may at first be unpleasant to some although the experience cannot be compared to the durian. The fruit is covered with numerous hard points, is pale green in colour and changes to a yellowish-brown during ripening. Fruit is mature for harvest when the single small leaf above the stem withers and the first colour change occurs. Ripening continues post-harvest and with experience is ascertained by tapping the fruit. When ripe, fruit softens a little and will “give” when pushed. Ripe fruit exudes a musty, sweet aroma for a day or two before fruit is ideal for most purposes.
The breadfruit (A. altilis) and breadnut are part of South Pacific legends. They evolved in Indonesia’s Sunda Archipelago and became the staple diet for islanders throughout the tropical Pacific islands. They are one species. The breadfruit originated by chance as a seedless breadnut, and is perpetuated from root-cuttings. The breadfruit is up to 200mm in diameter and almost spherical. It can weigh up to 4kg. These fruit differ both externally and internally
Ipe the yellow flowered tree in the Bignonaceae family is the national tree of Brazil. We visit our favorite large shopping mall in Rio for lunch again. Thanks for your patience. On into Rio – oil soaked rivers look like they could catch on fire. We pass the international airport and see magnificent frigate birds again. Chicken sold in glass rotisseries are called dog TV’s because the canines just stare and watch the chickens going around and around. We stop at the Maracana Station to pick up Edison, our local guide. We pass on visiting the soccer stadium, largest in the world which once held 220K in 1969. Now is limited to 150k for safety reasons. I ask for a little talk on the music of Brazil. Samba is the West Africa Yoruba word for dance. Bossa nova is the rhythm for the Girl for Ipanema. Foho is dance from North eastern Brazil. A British company started offering a dance hall experience and they put a sing up which said FOR ALL. It got corrupted through time to foho. That is where the name for this particular form of music which did not have a name. A piranha is slang for prostitute. The girls used to hang out in the current location of the city hall area. Hmmmm.
We stop at the grandstands and private boxes for the number #1 floats to compete during Carnival. 800 meters long starts. The party starts at 9 PM ends at 6 AM. We visit the little shop were nearby and a few folks buy some goodies.
We see the Central Station from the movie of the same name. Ipanema= dangerous waters. Rio named on the first of January because they thought it was the mouth of a large river. Whoops. Citizen of Rio = cariocas (sounds like karaoke). French Antarctica. Downtown is the oldest part of the city. President Vargas was prez for 15 years and there is a big street named for him. Pass the crowded pedestrian streets called the Sahara after the original merchants of Arab and Jewish descent who are being replaced by the Chinese. 180 million 80% are Catholic. We visit San Sebastian Cathedral which they removed a hill to build. Inside it is very impressive, from the outside it looked like a bad idea of a first year architect student. 98 meters high and 102 across. Designed by a priest whose idea was that to feel like you were inside the cross. The cross at the top goes into the four stained glass windows. The French were defeated by the Portuguese here when they called on St. Sebastian to help them. He was the guy killed by all the arrows shot by the Romans. Known as the pincushion saint. 6 million people in Rio, 9 million in greater Rio. No one actually lives downtown it gets deserted at night. Past the OPERA house, the national library has the 8th largest collection of books in the world.
Heading west with the Atlantic to our left (kelp gulls, brown boobies, Neotropical cormorants, rock doves) through tunnels. . . So it looks to be clear on Sugarloaf (396 meters) so off we go to catch the tram. There are two separate trams actually. Tufted ear marmoset is a possible monkey. At the very top with great views and Christ the Redeemer hiding in the clouds. Copacabana (means Blue Water in Aymara language). The name is taken from the village of Copacabana on Lake Titicaca. A priest from there came to this region and built a church in the honor of his home and the name became associated with this place.
To the Hotel Praia Ipanema, one of the high rises right on the beach. There are 7 people per sq meter!! One of the densest concentrations in the world. Sidewalk stone work based on The Portuguese style – black, red and white stones symbolizing the racial contributions of Brazilians. Appropriately there are not too many red stones. Edison sings the Girl from Ipanema. He is in a band but plays bass.
“The Girl from Ipanema” (“Garota de Ipanema”) is considered the best-known bossa nova song ever written, and was a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s. It was written in 1962, with music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Portuguese lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes; English lyrics were later written by Norman Gimbel.
It is often claimed to be the second-most recorded popular song in history, topped only by The Beatles’ “Yesterday”. The best-known version is that performed by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, from the 1963 album Getz/Gilberto. The first commercial recording was in 1962, by Pery Ribeiro.
The song was inspired by Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto (or, simply, Helô Pinheiro), an 18-year-old girl who lived on Montenegro street in the fashionable Ipanema district of Rio de Janeiro. Every day, she would stroll past the popular “Veloso” bar-cafe on the way to the beach, attracting the attention of regulars Jobim and Moraes.
The song was originally composed for a musical comedy entitled Dirigível (Blimp), which was a work in progress of Vinícius de Moraes. The original title was “Menina que Passa” (“The Girl Who Passes By”), and the famous first verse was completely different.
In Revelação: a verdadeira Garota de Ipanema (Revealed: The Real Girl from Ipanema) Moraes wrote that she was:
“o paradigma do bruto carioca; a moça dourada, misto de flor e sereia, cheia de luz e de graça mas cuja a visão é também triste, pois carrega consigo, a caminho do mar, o sentimento da que passa, da beleza que não é só nossa — é um dom da vida em seu lindo e melancólico fluir e refluir constante.”
which roughly translates to:
‘”the exemplar of the rude Carioca: a golden-tanned girl, a mixture of flower and mermaid, full of brightness and grace, but with a touch of sadness, in that she carries with her, on her route to the sea, the feeling of that which passes by, of the beauty that is not ours alone — it is a gift of life in its constant, beautiful and sad ebb and flow.”
Today, “Montenegro Street” is called “Vinícius de Moraes Street”, and the “Veloso Bar” is named “A Garota de Ipanema”. There is also a Garota de Ipanema Park in the nearby Arpoador neighborhood.
The islands we can see just off Ipanema are a home to breeding seabirds. We check into our hotel and a few – Doug, Trudy and Lynn actually go “in” the cool Atlantic Ocean. It is cloudy but not raining so we have broken the Nancy spell. Dinner at 7 at the Hotel. Fun fun time had by all. Karen asks Anthony about his interest in lemurs. She wonders why he is so enamored at little rats that jump off cliffs. Whoops that is lemmings, her amusing mistake.
After dessert we head up the 16th floor for our closing circle and to drink the Amurula so kindly bought for us by Doug and Lil. Nice view and perfect temperature.
So it is time to share our memories, highlights etc. of our brief time together. Here are some of our thoughts and comments.
Sylvia being comfortable enough to take her wig off – we are family now. Soundscapes, Howler monkey sounding like a Verdi Opera. Black collared hawks. Louis Vicente’s fezanda and generously opening his home. People of Brazil are so kind and generous. Birds are awesome. Everyday so much learning. Music of the night = sounds of the universe. Great group, no complaining. Hummingbirds. Exhausting to watch. Paulo is a great leader. Harpy harpy eagle. Hoary foxes. Watching mammals. Had a great time. Paulo has great patience. Gorgeous birds. Motmot, trogons. Amazing birding place. Watching humming birds. Caciques and their nesting activities close to Humans. Both boat trips were great – seeing giant otters and birds diving after fish. The Tapir was a highlight (spotted leopard). We are on the right side of the grass. Big swimming pool at Serra de Arrass. Lunch spot at the hammocks.
We had a wonderful trip and now to retire to our delightful rooms.
Friday, October 21.
Lynn gets up early and goes swimming. She estimates about 72 or so. Invigorating. I find a nice vegetable market nearby. On Friday it is located at Visconde de Piraja and Maria Quiteria. Next to the Everest Hotel is a great handcraft store. Indian almonds are the common tree gracing the street. Ripe mangoes for breakfast. At nine we are ready to ‘rock and roll’ as Paulo says. Edison has been replaced by his friend Hannibal, cannibal or animal- your choice. He says he is the best tour guide in Rio and the most modest one as well. He is quite a talker and his English is pretty good. He is a carioca, born and raised and still lives in a favela that we will pass on our way to lunch.
There seems to be no hard and fast reason as to why they are called favelas, but possible origins include:
1. Named after the flowers which blanket the steep slopes
2. Military encampment called Favela, named for a local cactus, that was razed in the war of 1897 between the rebels and soldiers of the new Brazilian republic. The survivors were made homeless and moved south to add to the great immigration to the cities. Favela lent its name to the shantytowns which sprang up around the great cities of Brazil (10 of which are millionaire cities (which doesn’t mean, as some of my students thought, that every person living there is a millionaire)
3. Named after a honeycomb, because they are a warren of small dwellings all linked together which grows organically over a period of time. The Brazilian name for honeycomb is very similar to favela.
Heading back past Copacabana. Already the beach scene is happening. Can see the sand sculptures that are created. 2 reals to photograph them. Economics are bad. There is now a new class of people= the miserable class. Many people migrate from the Northeast area of Brazil where it is dry and not much economic activity to Rio and Sao Paulo Although according to Hannibal the spirit of Rio is hard to keep suppressed. The people are full of joy. Just need the beach, a beer and a pretty girl to watch. Hannibal’s father migrated into the favela from the northeast. He raised 3 kids, all of whom still live in the house he built. Hannibal was trained as a lawyer but claims he was too honest for that work. He has a wife and three yr old little girl.
Through the Botofoco area we go. Nudity is illegal in Brazil but during carnival the rules are different. The governor of Rio State is a woman- little rose. We arrive at the Tram Station for Corcovado. It is VERY crowded because it is an absolutely glorious blue clear day. Perfect for Christ the Redeemer. It is 10 but we only could get tickets for the 11 AM tram. So plan B is go up the hill on the bus through the Tijuca Forest- the largest urban forest in the world.
Jack fruit trees feed the Capuchin monkeys, marmosets, three toed sloths. 500 sp of birds. Jack Fruit also means a fat person in Rio. The Train was built in 1820 but fortunately has been updated sine then. Most recently 4 yrs ago.
Brazil’s flag is a deep green banner with a yellow diamond enclosing a night-blue, star-studded Southern Hemisphere sky. The color green stands for the lush fields and forests of Brazil. The color yellow represents its wealth in gold. The sky depicts 27 white, five-pointed stars (one for each state and the Federal District); the stars are arranged in the pattern of the night sky over Rio de Janeiro on November 15, 1889 (this is the date when the last Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, was deposed, and the republic was proclaimed). The stars in view include the constellations Southern Cross (also called Crux), Scorpius, Canis Major and others. A banner across the sky reads, “ORDEM E PROGRESSO,” which means “order and progress” .
We can see Christ the Redeemer. It was built from 1926 to 1931 and is covered with soapstone. The French built the hands and head. He is looking over Rio from the top of Corcovado (hunchbacked) Hill. All these peaks of Rio are granitic domes like in our Sierra.
We drive up to the next train station and take a walk along the road while waiting for our 1115 train to pick us up. Morpho and great large white butterflies. One squirrel cuckoo spotted by Karen, a first for her. The rest of us however have seen it before. Exploding Impatient pods. Dancing to the SAMBA band. Hop on our tram and the right side has a very dramatic view looking right down on the lagoon and Ipanema Beach. We finally get to the top and have about 40 minutes. It is crowded. One group, the Chans discover, are some Chinese from Inner Mongolia- go figure.
Wait in a long line for the tram heading down. Get to our faithful bus and driver – SAKA. Then down down down through a bunch of tunnels past Hannibal’s favela through more tunnels into the Barra (pronounced Baja) section. Upper Middle Class for sure. To our restaurant – the BIG Bull. Loud loud loud full of the local crowd having a grand time. Our last Churracharia. This is, if you recall, the first kind of restaurant we ate in in the Pantanal. The Circle is complete.
After lunch we say goodbye to the Iguaçu Girls and we head back to our hotel. Some of us enjoy our free time and others join Hannibal roaming the town and listening to him yak. At 430 we say goodbye to Susan who is staying RIO for a few days and then heading off to Bahia . We say farewell to Sylvia at the airport who is heading off to see her sister in Brasila. The group is now tiny. We have a smooth check in and then a late flight to Sao Paulo, make our connection in heavy heavy rain and lightening and then sit on the ground waiting for the air traffic above to improve so we can fly to Miami.
And we all have a very long travel day that goes into
Saturday, October 22.
When those six of us that are left, fly on different flights to SFO and HOME SWEET HOME.