Sunday, 5 July 2015



12/06 - 14/06

It was a long 23 hour and 50 minute bus ride to Cuiaba from Porto Velho. As we arrived to the dusty city we quickly collected our bags and were happy to take a walk to the nearby bus station. Rafa then mobilised and found us a hostel and Google Maps showed us the way. Fully loaded with our backpacks and frontpacks, we squeezed our way onto the public bus and received the usual stares from the locals. We arrived at our hostel,  in which we were the only guests. It seemed as though it had once been a bustling hostel, as it had all the facilities perfectly set up, but it was now a ghost town - we wondered what might have happened here...  We didn't mind though as there was an aircon in our room and a shower with good pressure! That evening we enjoyed a home cooked spaghetti dinner (although Roxy burnt the garlic according to the pasta king, Rafa) and even received some free food from the owner. There was a huge tv in the common,  so we decided to treat ourselves to a movie...Big Hero 6 (animations are the best)! 

We awoke to another hot day in Brazil. Our plan for the day was to organise our route for the rest of our trip. Up until now we had had a very general idea of the path our 6 months around South America would take but having spoken to fellow travellers and by doing a little more research ourselves,  we realised that we firstly we had to visit Colombia and secondly,  even though we had 6 months, it was going to be tight!  We had better start putting some meat on our skeleton plan. After a morning of investigation and deliberation, we finally managed to map out a route and timelines. 
Rafa had once again ventured off to see the sights of the city. Upon his return he was once again exhausted from his gallivanting.
That evening we wanted to get out of the hostel and see if we could find any exciting nightlife in Cuiaba. As we left the hostel we realised that the receptionist, Filipe, had left so we weren't sure as to how we would get back in, as none of us had been given keys to the inside-operated-electric gate, perhaps Felipe would return. It was Saturday night and the streets of Cuiaba were buzzing, we even passed what looked like a matric dance. Young girls dressed up in elegant dresses and young gentlemen in their suits. We carried on to Praca da Mandioca where there was a lively market and a children's play area. Joy was very tempted to jump on the trampoline but was advised by Roxy and Rafa that it was exclusively for children. We had heard whispers that there was Caju juice (juice made from cashews) at this market. We had been dying to try it so went off in search of this sweet treat.  We were waiting in line at the chosen stall in anticipation for this new drink. Suddenly as we were chatting away, the person in front of us turned around and exclaimed that it was so strange to hear English. We struck up a conversation and found out that she was from Germany and had been volunteering at a Kindergarten in Caceres for the last 4 months. We were very intrigued about this project of which she was a part and she invited us to join her table with her fellow volunteers. We quickly ordered our caju juice, which was delicious and joined their table. Anna and Sophia were both volunteers from Germany. Markus, also from Germany, was the leader of the project and had lived in Brazil for the last 30 years. We had a wonderful evening chatting to the group. We discovered that Markus had lived in South Africa for 2 years working as a missionary with the Zulu tribes. He shared stories of his time in our country as well as his other travels around the world. The group had come into Cuiaba to buy the month's supplies for the school (they  could get better wholesale prices in a bigger city like Cuiaba) and were planning on going back to Caceres on Monday. Markus jokingly said that we should abandon our plans to take the Death Train from Curumba and rather get a lift with them to Caceres where we could cross into Bolivia from the border post near there. We laughed along with this crazy, potential alteration in our plans but Rafa took his number anyway. However, as we departed and reflected on the seemed to sink in more and more.
Upon arriving back at our hostel we discovered that Felipe was still not around. Despite ringing the doorbell as knocking on the gate, no-one came to open up for us. Thus it was up to Spiderman, Rafa, to scale the wall and  push the bottom to let us in. It had been a wonderful evening meeting such friendly people. We went to bed with one question circling our minds...Should we change our plans and go to Caseres instead?

Today was our day to explore the city. Although Rafa had done most of it already, he hadn´t yet gone to the zoo.  Cuiaba is the place where many tourists explore the Patanal - a wet land in Brazil filled with all sorts of exotic and strange animals.  However, as we had already spent enough money on our jungle adventures in the Amazon, going to see the rest of the animals that inhabit Brazil that we hadn't yet been able to spot in the FREE zoo seemed like the best option. So, we all decided to go and do some animal spotting together. Google Maps lead the way and R$1.5 and one local bus later we were at the gates of the university within which the zoo was housed.
As we strode towards the entrance of the zoo, we realised that all the people around consisted of families with small children or school tour groups. We felt like we needed a little person to justify this outing.
The zoo was small but clean and well maintained although some of the enclosures did not seem to be too secure in containing their inhabitants. We wandered around and came across some rather unique looking animals...

A small albino caiman basking in the morning sunshine.

An anaconda cooling off

Although monkeys are not Joy´s favourite animals, we were quite intrigued by these characters. Their tails seemed like a fifth limb, as it readily assisted them in climbing and hanging around. They also walked using only their back legs - just like little furry people.

Rheas -  large flightless birds of South America: the male trying to impress the female with all his feathers on display.

We then stumbled upon this odd looking animal. It had the body of a large warthog and the extended snout of a pig. It is a large herbivore called an Ante (Portuguese) or a Tapier in English.

From the back it looked like it had Shrek-like ears


A large tortoise heading for shade.

Three is definitely a crowd! 

A wild cat peering our from behind the bars

We found some fresh leaves and fed this little deer.

A smaller monkey running about on the roof

The next interesting creatures we came across were these little guys.

These Quati (or Coati in English) are omnivorous mammals. They feed on mainly fruit or small invertebrates. The females usually live in groups while the males are solitary.


Sniffing around for roots and plants to eat.

A slither of snakes huddled together under their wooden tent.

We then entered the bird section of the zoo. After seeing a few water birds during our Amazon trip, we were itching to see some of the more tropical birds that we were not able to spot in the wild.

Scarlet and Blue and Gold Macaws

Unfortunately, the cages did hamper our photographs of these stunning birds.


The next odd looking animal that we had the pleasure of seeing was the Urubu Red (or King Vulture) .

They have brightly coloured, bald heads and a strange extra flap of skin on their beaks (almost like the comb of a chicken) which just makes them look ridiculous. It you want a clearer picture of these unique scavengers, we would definitely suggest Google´ing it!

Group of Parakeets

Black Chested Buzzard Eagle and another South American bird of prey.

On the far side of the lake we found an animal Joy had been waiting her whole life to see...  The biggest rodent in the world, the Capivara.

These large rodents feed on grass and love to cool off in the water while birds use them as moving vessels.

A couple more Tapiers having an afternoon snooze.

After an enjoyable 3 hours wandering around the zoo, we had had our fill of weird and wonderful creatures for one day. We were extremely scorched from the midday sun and longed to return to our aircon room. We caught the bus back to the hostel and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. After letting the idea percolate, we decided to be spontaneous and called up Markus to take him up on his offer to give us a lift to Caceres the next day. It was our last night with Rafa, who had been our mouthpiece and travel companion for the past two weeks. We had our last dinner together before watching a movie and heading to bed. Wonder what the small town of Caseres will hold for us.. 

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