So here I am again in Poconé, the sleepy little gateway town to the Transpantaneira, spending some days with dear friends while I wait for the Bafico family from Italy, that will join me in a 12 day Pantanal tour.
Coming to the Pantanal was a long time dream of Gianluigi Bafico but somehow he had been researching for more than 10 years and had never been able to find a tour/guide that suited his needs, on one hand because of the language barrier (neither he or his wife speak english) on the other because of the very standardized tours offered by the few Italian agencies that work on this part of Brazil. So when he heard about my last years trip he asked me to organize this 12 days tour for them.
Of course Julinho from Pantanal Trackers would be our man again, after the perfect guidance of my 2009 trip (read my trip report at pantanalnorte2009.blogspot.com).
After some dinners at their home where I tried to get an insight in what they expected from this trip and what their travel 'style' was, together with Julinho we tailored via e-mail a trip suited to their wishes and expectations.
I got the feeling that they were real nature and wildlife lovers, with a longtime travel experience in Africa and that Gianluigi is a passionate photographer. They assured me they would like to rough it up if possible, and that they were not interested in staying in fancy places.
(note: This is the most difficult part when organizing trips for so-called 'Westerners', what they consider 'basic' a lot of times in other parts of the world is already upper level and often misunderstandings occur between local organizers and their customers because of this double standard).
In 12 days we would have the opportunity to see a lot of different parts of northern Pantanal, along the Transpantaneira staying in Pousadas/Fazendas along the road and on the rivers departing from Porto Jofre, camping on the riverside in the middle of nowhere on the courtyard of a local family of 'ribeirinhos' (name in Portuguese for 'people that live on the margin of rivers').
So finally I am here at Julinho's sister's home waiting for them to arrive together with Julinho from Cuiabà airport, on his blue Toyota, the 'burro xucro'. When we hear the familiar sound of the engine Raquel, Ale and Nobu's small Japanese-Brazilian daughter jumps up shouting 'Tio Julio, Tio Julio'!!
Alessandra, who speaks some Italian, engages immediately a lively conversation with our guests, while offering them lunch.
Julinho had asked me to tell them to bring light luggage, it would be 5 of us on the jeep and the boat plus provisions for the 5 days on the rivers (he usually doesn't take more than two persons at a time, but I had begged to make an exception for me). I knew he had already sent a load of non-perishable food and fuel with another boat to the river camp site, so it was a quite complicated logistical organization.
I tried to get a glimpse of the top of the jeep and it seemed quite crammed to me...J.'s guitar was not there, that meant the luggage was consistent. What a pity, he's a great guitar player and it would have been nice to have some jam sessions on the road.
After lunch we say farewell to the Yukawa family and drive through Poconé in direction of the beginning of the Transpantaneira (BR-060), the unpaved 145 km road that cuts through northern Pantanal, starting from Poconé and ending in Porto Jofre on the bank of the Rio Cuiabà.
It was built in the 70's under the military government and was supposed to connect Poconé with Corumbà, originally as a 'boiadeira' for the transport of cattle from the north to southern meat-processing plants, thus eliminating the traditional great cattle marches. In those years Mato Grosso was the largest cattle producer of the country. It was never finished.