14 – 27 May 2014
Owing to the vast distances between states in Brazil, I was on the bus a good long time before I alighted in Campo Grande, capital of Mato Grosso do Sul. However, that was not my final destination, and a few hours after I alighted, I jumped aboard a different bus headed west – destination Miranda, a small town in the Pantanal wetlands region of Brazil. I had arranged to be a Workawayer for a host there for the few weeks of my time in Brazil (my visa was sadly, expiring). My host, Tracy, was supposed to pick me up from the bus station, but as my bus was delayed (of course, why had I ever expected it to be on time?) she sent her partner/husband, Daniel to pick me up instead. Once at their place,
I was introduced to the two other Workawayers – Danielle and Nick – as well as some of the kids who frequented the place.
It was a nice evening we spent together, sitting around, chatting and relaxing.
Really a good chance to unwind, and of course, my quarters for the night (and the rest of my stay there) were absolutely lovely! I got to stay in a Native American tipi – super cool stuff, and so much better than just a regular room. I was immediately in love ❤
The next day, it was to work to earn my food and board. So, Tracy and Daniel are a cool couple who do a lot to help their small community, and one of the things Tracy does is to give yoga lessons. The project I was helping out with was to turn empty glass bottles into a yoga studio. A remarkably simple idea, with a great impact on recycling efforts. What they do is they get glass bottles of the same size, cut them up and stick the bottoms together to make glass bricks which they then use in place of regular bricks. The result is a stunning glass structure, with tonnes of natural light filtering in. Of course, for something the size of the yoga studio they had in mind, thousands of bottles had to be cut to make bricks, and that’s where I came in. My job, along with Danielle and Nick, was to sort out the glass bottles,
cut the them,
wash them clean, wipe them dry
and stick them together.
It was relatively simple, but quite fun, once we got into the rhythm of working as a team. We worked till we felt quite sick of the bottles, and our stomachs were groaning for food, and then sat down to a lovely lunch prepared by Daniel and Tracy. Our post lunch activity was to chill out and chat with each other and the kids who often came by to the space to hang out. The kids only spoke Portuguese, and Nick and Danielle spoke almost no Portuguese, and my Portuguese was rather limited so our conversations with the kids almost always involved lots of hilarity. I also decided to have a go at making tetra-purses, wallets made from tetrapak cartons, and my first one turned out quite well, even if I say so myself (:
Getting into the flow of things, in the next couple of days, we continued making more glass bricks after our delish breakfast of bread, fresh honey (from Daniel’s own bee farms!) and a fruit shake. I still miss the lovely honey sometimes – that’s how yums it was! In the evening, we all headed to town for a wander around,
and some lovely dinner by the train tracks.
Saturday was spent in pretty much same way, with movie night at the end of the evening with tonnes of freshly popped popcorn – Daniel truly makes the best popcorn in the world. Pretty interesting film too – Garbage Warriors: All About Earthships – talking about the sustainability of earthships, or houses made out of recycled glass bottles (available on YouTube if anyone is interested).
Sunday was our day of rest after being hard at work cutting bottles, so we slept in and lazed around the space, not really doing much. It was also Nick and Danielle’s last day at the space, so we decided to take it easy and enjoy our time together. In the evening, we went on a bike ride with Fumaca and Guch, two guys who hung around the space quite often, to the rice fields to catch the sunset. It was a pleasant ride, but once at the rice fields, we were attacked by swarms of vicious mosquitoes that seemed hell bent on eating us alive, so we didn’t stay long, despite the lovely view.
Still, despite the bites, it was a cool excursion heh.
The next day, Danielle and Nick left pretty early, so I was left to pretty much my own devices, to cut, clean and stick bottles together, with occasional help from the boys who frequented the space. It was very therapeutic in a way, focusing all my attention of something so simple (it needed a lot of attention, because the slightest wrong touch meant that you would be cut by one of the razor sharp glass bottles, something that happened to me quite often). Afternoons and evenings were also very low-key, spent mostly chatting with Daniel (about very interesting topics)
or the boys (in broken Portuguese) or just absorbing the energy of the place. It was exactly what I needed to rest and recharge my travel batteries.
After a week of routine, I felt quite up for an adventure, so I decided to head to a small town nearby named Bonito. Tracy said that it was quite easy to hitch a ride from Miranda to Bonito, so I decided to do that. Tracy dropped me off at the edge of Miranda on her way to work, and after a while, I managed to hitch a ride with a cheery delivery guy who very happily dropped me off in Bonito. It turned out to be quite an uninspiring town (despite being named “beautiful” in Portuguese)
and most of the attractions were quite a distance from the town itself. The overpriced town also has a rather confusing system of only allowing tourists to visit the attractions via organized tours, so I was left rather disappointed by my trip to Bonito. I decided to take the only recourse available and to the Balneario Municipal – a section of the river reserved by the town for locals to go swimming with schools of fish. Before heading to the Balneario Municipal, I decided to check on the bus schedule to get back to Miranda that night, only to find out to my dismay that the only bus to Miranda left the next morning. I couldn’t do anything about it anyway, so I headed to the Balneario Municipal, which turned out to be quite underwhelming.
The river was pretty,
and it was fun to watch the fish swimming about,
but the water was way too cold for a swim, and there was nothing much else to do there,
not even a nice hike in the surrounding forest (it was protected by the municipality and required a guide to enter). Even so, I hung out there for a couple of hours enjoying the relative peace and quiet.
It was almost closing time when I was about to leave and I got to talking with a guy who worked at a restaurant there,
and asked them about hostel recommendations to spend the night. He recommended me a couple of hostels and his friend offered me a lift back to town so that I could find a hostel. He and his friend ended up driving me to a couple of hostels in town, looking for a place that wasn’t full and/or charging exorbitant rates, insisting that they couldn’t leave me to wander around the town by myself. It was a very nice gesture by them, considering I didn’t even know them and they had no obligation to help me, but they did anyway. Good people do exist! Well, I settled into my hostel (i.e. huddled in bed with two blankets pulled up to my chin because it suddenly got really cold and I only had my light jacket I used in the day time) for a while, before my hunger got the better of me and I headed out in search of jacare burgers (burgers with a patty made of caiman meat), something of a must-try in Bonito.
I asked at a bunch of places, but to my disappointment, there was apparently a shortage of jacare, so I settled for some rather normal fare for dinner and headed back to the hostel to huddle some more and try to stay warm. The next morning, instead of taking the bus, I decided to try my luck hitchhiking back and walked out to the edge of Bonito. I got lucky and caught a ride after just a short while of waiting, and the guy who picked me up even dropped me off quite close to Daniel and Tracy’s place, so I was home well before lunch time. Awesome (Y)! Post-lunch was back to my routine of cutting bottles and hanging out with the kids at the space – I actually felt quite happy to be back in Miranda, after the disappointment that Bonito was.
I would have loved to stay much longer at the space, but as it was, I had somehow come to the last week of my 4-month Brazil visa, and I still wanted to check out the Pantanal wetlands, so I made some arrangements with a tour agency Tracy recommended, and the next day, after saying my rather sad goodbyes to Tracy, Daniel and the rest of the boys who hung out at the space (who weren’t there when I left),
I was off on my Wild Wetlands adventure, in the heart of the Pantanal!