On the way to Ilha Grande!

This would be the second time I went rogue on the Tucan tour, but the opportunity to travel with some amazing people – Orla, Kylie, Pip, Joe, Darran and Mel – was too good to miss!

Destination – An island off Angra dos Reis, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, called Ilha Grande

After the Pantanal, Ilha Grande become a symbol of Greatness, like the island in the television series LOST. EVERYTHING was going to be GREAT once we reached the island.

It didn’t disappoint – It was like stepping onto a movie set. Not only was Ihla Grande beautiful with amazing snorkeling and beaches that would rival the most famous beaches in Australia, this island was full of charm and bursting with character, with food and a cake man to die for!! (crepes, pizza, seafood, deserts, you name it!)

And miracles did happen.

– Both Darren and Kylie’s Pantanal victim, bite ridden, bodies healed after their first swim in the ocean at the gorgeous Lopez Mendes

– Pip woke up one morning and found that she could see! Before realising that she still had her contacts in her eyes.

– Joe found that he could sun-bake until lobster red, without blistering.

– And I found the most amazing Mohito’s in the world at a beachfront café called Café do Mar – It was delicious!!

Oh, and Orla found that she could walk! … Kidding, her legs were always perfectly functional 😉

It was everything I had envisioned, and more, with my favourite travelling partners adding the cream to this delightful experience.

The Pantanal day 2 – Horse play

In day 2 of the Pantanal, the group moved onto a farm and into a barnyard where about 27 of us would be sleeping in hammocks.

Activity – Horse-riding through marshlands.

My dad had been a jockey for 12 years of his life before he became a professional gambler, so I grew up loving horses and horse racing until I was about 10 when I realised how high up I sat on a horse and how hard a fall might be.

But seeing as I was already on this ‘adventure of a lifetime’, back on the horse I got.. And after riding a moody camel in India, a horse didn’t seem so bad. In fact, she was very professional.

Onwards through forest and wet lands we cantered, slapping mosquito’s with a couple of girls getting stung by horse flies.

Apart from my arms looking like an alien infestation from the thousands of mosquito bites, I was enjoying riding through the fields, spotting colourful parrots and tucans. Even when my lips started itching, like really itching, and I started to use my teeth to continuously scrape over my lips in an attempt to relieve the intense itch, I was still having a good time!

I returned to the barn feeling exhausted and fell tired into my hammock.

Kylie and Orla standing over my hammock – ‘Tiara! What happened to your face?!’

T, alarmed with itching lips – ‘What is it???’

Orla, with an unappetising look – ‘Your face doesn’t look right.’

Kylie – ‘You’ve got red marks like rashes all over your face and your eyes look funny.’

T, panting and looking around for a mirror – ‘Well, I don’t feel right, and I’m having trouble breathing’

I look in the mirror to see a blotchy red face, with a swollen red mouth and watery red eyes looking back at me.

Diagnosis – It turns out that I am allergic to horses. Any longer on the horse and my head would have exploded.

Remedy – A high prescription dosage of antihistamine which cleared up the itchy swollen rashiness within 15 minutes. (Thanks Kylie!)

What did I learn? Joe, the Austrian doctor in the group, informed me – ‘You’re allergic to animals, and if you keep on living with dogs eventually you will end up with asthma (but I’ve been living with animals for years!) EVENTUALLY you will end up with Asthma… And that beer your drinking is a histamine’ (oh…)

The Pantanal – Death to the mosquitos!

I was absolutely dreading the Pantanal. The thought of being in one of the largest wetlands in the world where you can go piranha fishing while surrounded by hundreds of caimans while being attacked by thousands of hundreds of millions of mosquito’s did not get my blood pumping, and to me sounded more like a case of ‘I would rather watch my nail polish dry’…

T, to the local guide in Bonito – ‘So how does the Pantanal compare to Bonito?’

Local guide – ‘The Pantanal is very different from Bonito, it’s a different kind of beauty, but I wouldn’t go there now. (chuckles) It’s mosquito breeding season.’

Just a couple of hours drive from Bonito, we arrived into the Pantanal (which mean’s swamp), where you could slap your arm and end up with 6 massacred mosquito’s splayed across your hand.

Defence? Spray 96% DEET Insect repellent all over your body until you are shining. Wear long sleeved light clothing, and on top of that wear your waterproof rain jacket with hood and long pants, with thick socks and shoes, in this sunny 40 degree heat.

Imagine, 96% DEET is severe enough to melt your clothes away, melt through your nail varnish, and eat away at any plastic you touch (there were many sticky camera buttons), but was it strong enough to stop a Brazilian mosquito’s from penetrating your skin? Fuck no!

As we went on a river tour, scaring away all the wildlife with the echoing sounds of aggressive slapping and involuntary cheers whenever there was one less mosquito in the world, I wondered ‘What was the PURPOSE of these trillions of mosquito’s in the circle of life? Was it quantity control through the spread of disease?’

At that moment, as if in direct response to my silent question, an ant found the dead body of a bloodied mosquito that I had killed against the wooded frame of the boat. In seconds it had rallied all of it’s friends and family from deep within the cracks of the boat and barbarically carried the remains, piece by piece, back to their queen (I suspect).

And this was the most exciting thing that I saw at the Pantanal.


I was super excited to arrive in Brazil’s ‘Capital of Ecotourism’, a town aptly named Bonito, which means Beautiful in Portuguese and is located in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

Taking a day tour snorkeling down the crystal clear waters of Bonito’s Rio da Prata, did feel like swimming in a an aquarium, or a really clean and beautifully landscaped fishbowl. There’s a gentle current that floats you down these waters, passing schools of fish and underwater flora, as if nature herself had approved of this eco-friendly tour.

I was surprised at how eco sensitive Brazil was. With carefully practiced rules and regulations.

Sunscreen and insect repellents were forbidden to be worn before entering these pristine waters. We weren’t allowed to touch the bottom of the river, or kick, to minimise disturbance to the waters and it’s inhabitants. And God forbid if you needed to pee – the pirhana’s would come after you! Kidding about the last one but you get my point… my bladder had swelled in disgust by the end of the tour.

All local guides are required to pass conservation examinations making them credible in their knowledge and experience of the land. The quantity of tourist floating down these rivers are heavily regulated with a well organised voucher system that eliminates all discounting on price, and any unqualified or unaccredited tours.

I love Bonito, for it’s amazing natural beauty and it’s representation on how tourism and nature can grow together in a healthy and educational environment – Definitely a place to revisit! 🙂

Travelling tips, Part 4 (final) – Odin & Tiara’s comedy of misadventures.

Here are a few tips to make your bus journey through Brazil run smoother and be more enjoyable.

Know the correct time – If your bus is a no-show, DON’T PANIC! Raised voices, pacing, throwing hands around in frustration while wondering out loud ‘where the f#ck is this bus?!’ does not help. Calmly and politely confirm the time with a fellow local commuter and you may find that there’s been a time change between cities (or daylight savings has kicked in). In this instance we found that Dourados was an hour behind Foz do Iguacu and our bus was not due for another 45 minutes.

Do not settle into a false sense of security – Don’t expect a smooth journey and for everything to go as planned – Something WILL go wrong!

Finally back on the road, Odin and I were deliriously happy, giving each other high fives and big smiles. Then !!BANG!! The bus swipes a parked truck as it turns the corner out of the bus terminal, knocking it’s right side rear-view mirror off, leaving it dangling and banging against the side of the bus.

Odin and I sit in shocked silence as the bus pulls to a stop.. We had only been on the road for 20 seconds.

T, hopeful – ‘He doesn’t need that rear-view mirror to continue, does he?’

Keep the conversation clean on public transport – Especially on a night bus.

It had been 36 hours since we had lost our luggage. 36 hours of buses and waiting for buses. In this time Odin and I had done a lot of talking, broaching every subject, including sex. And if you know Odin (22yr old Australian Male) when he talks, he gets his whole body involved, hand actions, hip actions, so even if you don’t understand what he’s saying due to language barriers, it’s still pretty easy to understand what he was talking about.

Listening to Odin, I noticed an older Brazilian man sitting across the aisle from us in the dark (night bus), staring, and slowly rubbing his upper thigh while watching Odin orally and visually express how he likes to play behind closed doors.

T, interrupting Odin in the middle of his story, whispers – ‘Odin! What’s that guy doing behind you?’

Odin, his hands still in a slapping motion as he pauses from his tale, turns to look at the man who is rubbing himself, then slowly turns back to face me and whispers – ‘I don’t know…’

We sit in an awkward, exposed silence until eventually the man lets out a quiet moan.

T, feeling violated – ‘Well, I guess he’s finished.’

Everything’s going to be ok… until it isn’t. Part 3 – Odin & Tiara’s comedy of misadventure.

This had become our mantra.

Odin, looking delirious and dishevelled at 6am in the morning, repeats – ‘Everything’s going to be ok’ as his stomach churns and makes awfully loud moaning noises, obviously complaining about the service station hot dog he had consumed earlier.

T, wincing at own stomach cramps from bad service station chicken – ‘Yeah, everything’s ALWAYS going to be ok… Until it isn’t.’

Our bus had returned from re-fuelling and we continued forward on our journey towards Bonito chasing after all our luggage… And then the bus broke down, in the dark of night, in the middle of nowhere, and had been broken FOR 4 HOURS, when it was only a couple of hours away from Dourados where we were meant to catch the only twice a day connecting bus to Bonito.

We finally make it to the Dourados bus terminal at 9am that morning, having missed our 6am connecting bus by a long shot, and were fortunate enough to find a lady at the ticket office who spoke some English.

The nice lady informs us that the next bus to Bonito leaves at 4pm that afternoon.

T – ‘Odin, ask her if the bus will drop us off at either one of these destinations in Bonito that’s written on the post-it note?‘ referring to what we had assumed were the names of suburbs in the town of Bonito.

Odin to the lady – ‘Will the bus take us to here in Bonito?’ hands over the post-it note.

The lady reads the 2 names on the note and is confused –‘I’m sorry my English is not so good, and I do not understand … These are the names of bus companies.’

Odin & T – ‘aaah…’. Then giggling. ‘No wonder everyone looked angry and confused whenever we asked if this was where the bus was going!’

Luckily, even though we had been jumping on Brazilian buses demanding to be taken to a ‘bus company’, miraculously we were still on the right path to Bonito.

Lesson – Even when all the odds are against you, (it’s a foreign country, you don’t speak the language, you smell like a hobo and have lost all of your luggage, nobody understands you and you have to deal with your own naivety and arrogance) life will correct itself, and everything will always be ok.

Until it isn’t.

Part 2, Let the chase begin! – Odin & Tiara’s comedy of misadventures

The next public bus heading for Bonito was that afternoon, at 4pm, giving us a few hours to ride out the hangover by eating and passing out on the hostel lounges for a few hours.

T, awakes with a paranoid jolt, calls out – ‘ODIN!’ looks around in a panic, worried that Odin had already left.

A few minutes later there’s a distant and desperate ‘TIARA!’ cried out as Odin is also jolted out of his nap with the fear of being left behind scarred into him.

We make it to the bus station and jump onto our bus to Bonito, a town about 10 hours drive away that was the next stop for the Tucan tour bus which had all of our luggage.

The guy at the information desk had written down 2 names on a post-it note for us and instructed – ‘You must go either here, or here, for Bonito.’

Speaking fuck-all Portuguese, we held onto this post-it note like it was the new Hope, and continuously asked the bus driver and transport officials to reassure that the bus was indeed going to either of these destinations. Unfortunately, no-one understand us unless we pointed to the bus and said ‘Bonito?’.

A couple of hours on the road and our bus pulls into a bus terminal.

The bus driver announces something in Portuguese that we didn’t understand and everyone starts getting off the bus. Still drowsy and half asleep, Odin and I follow the crowd thinking ‘It must be a pit stop’ and figured as long as we stuck with the other passengers on our bus we would be fine.

We check out the food stalls at the terminal. Odin orders a hot dog in pastry, and I order a deep-fried crumbed potato and chicken cone.

We stand out the front of the terminal eating and keeping a watchful eye on the bus.

T, with sudden realisation – ‘Great! I just ate chicken from a gas station in Brazil before taking a massive bus ride. That’s just asking for trouble.’

Odin, looks up in a panic and proclaims – ‘ I just ate a DOG!’

At that moment our bus starts pulling away and slowly drives out of the bus terminal. In a panic, Odin and I start running after the bus, waving our arms and yelling for it to stop.

The bus driver, seeing the spectacle before him, calmly signals for us to wait and that he will be back in 20 minutes. We look around and realise that the other passengers were completely calm, even laughing at us.

T – ‘It’s probably just going to re-fuel or something… But I should have taken my daypack with all my electronics off the bus. I have about 2 grand worth of electronics in that bag!’

Odin, always slightly worse off, states – ‘I left my PASSPORT on that bus.’

We sit back down on the curb, and hoped to God that the bus would return with all my electronics, and Odin’s passport, so we could continue chasing after the other bus that had all of our luggage.

T – ‘We don’t do things easy do we?’

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