Last stop: Pousada Piuval

Last morning at Pouso Alegre. At dawn I get up to enjoy for a last time the genuine atmosphere of this place. I take a stroll around the big mango trees and find Julinho already at work in his jeep. This man never sleeps...
After breakfast we say farewell and thank you to Luiz and there we go: on the road again, this time inside the jeep as the roof is loaded with all our stuff.
I have mixed feelings in relation to Pousada Piuval. It's surroundings are very beautiful and different from the other locations we've been to, but the proximity to Poconé (about 10 km) makes it a favorite spot for weekend visitors. It's just more on the beaten track and gateway to the 'civilized' world. Probably my prejudice is due also to the knowledge that our trip is coming to an end...
Julio Andre Monteiro
photo: Gianluigi Bafico
We pass the gate of the Transpantaneira highway and stop for a picture, Aldo rapidly climbs on his favourite spot.. the roof of the 'burro xucro'.

Julinho turns on his cell phone and calls the pousada to tell them when we are arriving.  Bye-bye wilderness....
While we were away clocks were shifted to summertime in the rest of Brazil, but on the Transpantaneira most pousadas maintain sensibly solar time. Piuval on the contrary adopts city time for meals but for the activities (that are of course ruled by the sun's position here as anywhere else) follows solar time. Quite complicated as we will see...

On our way we stop as usual in some beautiful spots. Julinho is thoughtful. It's his last big tour of the year and probably he can't wait to get some rest from work.

Around 10.30 a.m. (sun time) we arrive at the pousada, a girl gives us the keys to our rooms and we have just the time to shower quickly because at 12 lunch is served (for us it's 11..).

Pousada Piuval is part of Fazenda Ypiranga, a 130 years old family business that started working also with tourism in 1989. It has all facilities of a resort, swimming-pool, internet connection, cable tv, bar, restaurant and the rooms are equipped with all the comforts. If it weren't for the staff and for the lush landscape that surrounds it, it could be a normal resort in any part of the world.
But like many things in Pantanal you don't have to stop at the first impression...

Across the wooden fence that surrounds the flat building where the guest-rooms are endless green fields stretch out to the horizon. Horses, cows and Rheas graze undisturbed. Part of the staff of the pousada, especially the resident guides are in reality cowboys of the farm. Their working day starts at dawn, when they care for horses and do the other daily jobs of the fazenda, after wards they transform themselves into boat pilots, guides for hikes and horse-riding. 

And I think this is a big plus, because they are the real people of this place. Maybe they aren't graduated biologists or so-called naturalists, but they know many more interesting stories than a scientific name of a bird, with all my respect for those who seriously study the flora and fauna of places. 
My fear is that with the growing business of eco-tourism here and in other areas the story of these people will be gradually forgotten. The tendency of many guides is already to sell themselves as "naturalists" because this is what they think the market imposes. And the real 'pantaneiros' are downgraded to mere helping hands, that means doing all the jobs that in reality are part of life here: riding and caring for horses, caring for cattle, piloting boats, driving jeeps... while secretly continuing to be the silent and gentle guardians of the secrets of the Pantanal.

At our arrival at the pousada we had seen a bus parked in front of the reception and in fact a big group of Brazilian tourists roams around. Lunch is quite crowded too, but the marvelous food makes up for it.

After lunch we have our usual time to rest, due to summertime it's really long. Aldo and I decide to get some refreshment in the pool, now empty, because the big group has left. We are the only guests now and with the new found silence we can appreciate the  chirping of the myriad of birds living in the trees and flower beds on the lawns in front of our rooms.

The swimming-pool is inhabited by a lot of insects and numerous small black swimming beetles. Aldo passes his time saving them to the pavement around the pool. 
In the small toilet by the pool we find an unexpected guest: a lizard (popular name: Teiu). Aldo asks worried if we have to get him out of there to avoid that someone harms him...
After a while it gets too hot for Aldo and he seeks refuge in the cool rooms. I resist a little bit more in the burning sun, then move to the shade under the big straw umbrellas on the border of the pool.
Julinho passes by and we chat for a while, he tells me that all the black stuff in the nets under the umbrella is bat excrement. He keeps trying to raise my disgust, but I'm not an easy bone to get...
At 4.30 p.m. I go to get the Baficos at their room. We are going on a boat trip in the Baìa do Piuval. I tell them to wear sandals as we are going by boat anyway.
At the reception there are four or five guides and some tourists waiting, Enrica asks me horrified if we are going all together... we are just going to share the ride on the open truck with one Brazilian tourist and his guide in order to move less cars; Julinho wants to make a night safari when we come back, because it will be already dark. First the Brazilian tourist doesn't seem too enthusiastic about the idea of a night safari, it's not clear why. Finally J. and Walter, the other guide, tell us it's ok and we climb on the truck. 

We drive through the lush grounds of the fazenda, there is no real road, just tracks made by tires in the grass. 
The Fazenda Ypiranga measures around 7.000 hectars.  The landscape is quite particular: vast fields of short grass are interrupted by dense blocks of forest. It looks like the gardens of Alice in Wonderland... as if  giant gardeners had created it during the night. But it's natural of course.
Some racoons and a crab-eating foxes cross our way.

We arrive at a small dock where three anchored boats are waiting for us. One is for us, we have a pilot also, so Julinho for once can relax. 
The lagoon is very extensive, surrounded by forest. It's waters are so shallow that in some points the pilot has to use a paddle to push us forward, obviously J. takes the other paddle and helps too.
The names Baìa do Piuval and Pousada Piuval derive from the piùva trees, called also ipé-roxo, Pink Trumpet trees present in the area. In August their flowers tinge in pink the whole landscape. 
The motor of our boat emits crackling sounds... as if it could break down from one moment to the other. Saudades of 'Dudutinha'...Julinhos tidy well-kept boat.
Our pilot is a funny, nice guy. I share with him one of the oranges Enrica has brought and my bottle of water.
There are many 'islands' of water hyacinths on the  lagoon, where we see some birds. After a while the boat points toward one side of the lagoon. Julinho says we are going to have a walk. I look uncomfortably at the sandals of my friends... but happily they prove to be loyal travel buddies in good and bad times...and just smile at the idea of walking through thorny fields barefoot...

At our arrival, on the wooden rail of the small dock, a surprise: Gian's beloved Kingfisher is sitting there calmly, waiting to be photographed. Gian has plenty of time to prepare his gear, get a good position on the boat and shoot... Aldo mockingly asks 'where is the fun in photographing such an easy subject...'. Later the guides tell us what is quite obvious, that the Kingfisher gets fed by people. That's why he is so patient.
I admit I haven't taken a single picture of the bird, quite stupid because he was nearer than any other bird we'd seen and perfectly motionless...

We walk through a clearing with some flat  observation huts then step on a wooden boardwalk that leads us to an observation tower. It's shorter than the boardwalk of Araras and the tower is less high too, but the view over the lagoon is very nice. On Pousada Piuval's website there is a panoramic view from the tower. 
Some Howler monkeys are eating leaves in the trees nearby and a group of Hyacinth macaws flies  over our heads, stunning as always.

Walter, the other guide from Piuval climbs on the tower with the Brazilian tourist.  We scan the open fields around the tower looking for the Giant Anteater, he has been seen around here lately. But we are not lucky. 
The sun is already low and  Julinho, feeling that my  friends are not so much in for staying for sunset on the tower, proposes to have a walk through the fields to reach a big nest of Jabiru storks near the woods. We have to be quick he says, because it's already getting dark. 
The Brazilian tourist joins us, while Walter returns to the boats. Rapidly we walk through the fields, careful not to step on thorny vegetation with our open rubber sandals. J. has his boots on, he scolds me gently later saying that here you have always to be prepared for every kind of terrain. Luckily nobody gets hurt and my a** is safe.
The nest is well worth the run: made of sticks on a tall tree, it is very big. The nests  can grow to several meters in diameter. In this one three small  Jabiru storks are there probably waiting for their parents to return with food.

We cannot stay long because it's really getting dark and the boat pilot is waiting for us.
Our journey back with the sun painting the lagoon in pink and violet shades is unforgettable.

Back on the truck Julinho and Walter prepare the lamps for the night safari.
We see some Crab-eating foxes and Racoons running through the open fields. One of the foxes looks hypnotized into the light and doesn't run away, I almost feel like telling them to leave him alone. Luckily we move forward soon.
Near the entrance of Piuval we pass through a big herd of free Brahma cattle, slowly, the cows don't seem too enthusiastic about having to move.
After a quick shower we have dinner and go to bed early. Julinho summons us up to breakfast at 7 a.m. tomorrow...our time, city time, we don't know but we pretend to understand, I'll wake up earlier than that and look out for him discreetly.


  1. dear mister,

    that lizard is not a iguana.Its popular name is Teiu. It's a lizard of the Teiidae family, a distant relative of iguanas. It's probably a Tupinambis merianae

  2. Thank you very much for correcting my error! I remember having seen them in Fernando de Noronha some years ago too and they called them lagarto Teiu/Teju.