Day Seven - The Pantanal

French may be the most romantic language but the sexiest has to be Brazilian portuguese. I woke up to the soft and melodious voice of a news anchor lady describing last night's carnage in Sao Paulo. There was a shootout and the twisted wrecks of still-smoldering cars. Who knows how many dead from last night's toll in this, one of the world's most violent cities. But unless you were fluent in her language you'd just as well think she was seducing you with the sultry sounds of too many J's and overly extended vowels. Wherever you go it's "Bowwwahhhh geeeeah" this, a "Mweeeeto obrigaaaahdo" that; the siren call of an always friendly (and invariably attractive) waitstaff genuinely happy to help you. If you're the easily flattered type you'd think for sure every one of 'em was flirting with you.

I got out of bed bright and early, brushed my teeth and hit the breakfast bar. The day's drive takes us within walking distance of the Bolivian border and all along this remote drive on either side of the road is a wetland stretching clear to the horizon. There is no u.s.-style national park entrance with a high tech visitor's center complete with overpriced kitsch and free coffee. None of that. There aren't any visitors either that we can tell of. Just slow trucks and warp speed diminutive hatchbacks zipping down this remote section of the world. But the scenery is clearly deserving of national park status and hightech headquarters and free coffee. We don't really have an adequate viewing area in which to enjoy the primeval beauty of this place. We stop by the road shoulder, awkwardly, to snap a photo of somewhere distant in a remarkably ineffective attempt at capturing this 360 degree scene within the 2D confines of a few megapixels. But whatever, we make the best of it. We spot exotic wildlife of toucans, monkeys and a rat the size of a German shepherd called a capybara. Sometimes we catch a glimpse of them scurrying alongside the road and, disappointingly, oftener smooshed into it. One such rather heartrending sight involved what from a ways looked like a man run over lying face down in the gutter but on closer look turned out to be an anteating animal that appeared for all the world like a misplaced Jurassic Park prop.

There was not much else to do but catch these semi-accidental glimpses of strange animals and the slightly eerie look of swamp forests. So we headed back along the same road we came in and the daylight was at any rate dimming fast so that our attention turned to finding a hotel in one of the small towns strung along the sparse lacework of roads in the region. One could never be too sure of finding a hotel in such remote locations where, I guessed, few travelers come through.

But I was wrong. By twilight we rolled into a town so reddened with dust that I was unsure if the road in was actually paved or not yet immediately on arrival find it had a decent hotel in which we were apparently the only guests. Next door across the street a bar was playing Guns N Roses and the locals, none who seemed older than about 40, rode bicycles to and from nowhere in particular while talking on their cell phones.

After a shower and walk we had dinner at the bar. French fries and a Coke for me then off to bed.

Day 8