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.