Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Swimming in a big natural aquarium: full of big fish!

After Campo Grande, our next Brazilian stop was Bonito. And, it wasn't even a place we'd heard of until Brazilians started telling us about it. 

Bonito is known for crystal clear rivers which have about 30 different types of fish in them: from itty bitty tiny ones, to big fish (I think about 1 metre long, although the biggest we saw would have been about 50cm). And, to see these fish, you simply jump in with a snorkel and mask and let the current take you down stream!

On our first night we were lucky enough to have chosen to stay at 'Camping Gordo'. Lucky, because we were the only people there and because it is such a beautiful river, and lovely campsite. 

We are travelling with our own snorkelling gear so, having arrived late, we didn't waste time: we jumped straight in. We loved looking at all the fish and while H sat in the water looking through his mask I threw biscuit crumbs in front of him (from a bridge above) to bring fish right up to his face! He did the same for me the next morning. 

The next morning we also discovered even better treats at Camping Gordo: the staff put feed into trays beside the river, and the monkeys came for a feed! This time it was the monkeys, perched on a branch above the river, who dropped feed into the river for the fish. 

Then, H went for a walk and discovered the extremities of Camping Gordo, and just how much further we could snorkel. So, twice I went with H: we hiked to the furtherest place and snorkelled the longer distance. We saw even more varieties of fish. 

In the camping area we also saw lots of bird life, from woodpeckers, toucans, parrots, and big goose-turkey types things, as well as a big iguana (lizard), and a rodent which I'm not sure of the name of. 

The following 2 nights in Bonito we passed at the municipal camp ground (Camping Rio Formoso), just because it was closer to town. It also had river access for snorkelling, but not as good,easy, or extensive. There were also some motorcycle overlanders (Germans living in New Zealand), and it was nice to have chatted with them. 

Engine Trouble again!
When H had replaced the oil line in the engine (just a few days earlier), he bought what he could in the small town he'd bussed it to. But, alas, it wasn't strong enough. It did well over 1000 kilometres, and then it burst as we entered the the town of Bonito. 

We were lucky, H discovered the problem immediately. He saw the red oil light come on on the dash and pulled over straight away: said he'd never seen the light come on before. And, as we pulled over, a motorcyclist pulled up to the drivers window to tell us we were spilling oil. 

H popped the bonnet and discovered that we'd just leaked out all 7 litres of oil within 300 metres of the city centre of Bonito. We half expected that we'd be told we had to go somewhere for repairs as I'd read that Bonito is an ecological place. But, clearly, it's a South American standard; the environmental police drove past and didn't even stop. 

So, with no other option that we knew how to pursue, H went and bought more oil, a new (better) hose, and fixed it right there on the street beside the city plaza. Practice makes perfect: he was much quicker this time. 

The next day we had the engine cleaned. For less than $20 we got the car up above a pit where they cleaned the engine from above and below. It came up amazingly clean (like new!), but wow the chemical smelled toxic. 

Choosing a tour in Bonito
You could spend a lot money doing tours in Bonito. We didn't. All tours must be booked in an agency in town, and they all offer the same tours at the same prices. They don't offer Camping Gordo. 

We felt that we'd seen a lot of fish and had a good experience at Camping Gordo, so we decided not to go on a flotation tour (which is snorkelling in a river to see fish). The price difference is massive: Rs35/person camping, or about Rs130/p for flotation tour. 

We did book a tour to see the Gruta da Lago Azul. It's a cave which you hike into (in tour groups) to see a spectacular blue lake at the bottom of. It was lovely, and it's considered the postcard picture of Bonito. 
Our only disappointment in the tour was that it took so long! It could have been 30 minutes, but they dragged it out over 1.5 hours as the guide gave a lot of explanation about safety, and the features of the cave: all in Portuguese, so I didn't understand most of it (if the safety talk was so needed shouldn't they have given us something in English or checked that we understood?). 
Anyway, we did like the blue lake, just not the tour. 

On driving away from Grutas da Lago Azul we saw, at very close range, two red macaws (I think this makes them Scarlett Macaws) sitting in a tree. They are absolutely spectacular birds and we got some nice photos (yes, I'll upload when I can attach my tablet to wifi!)

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