Last day on the rivers

After a well slept night today we will have an easy start. Our mission of meeting the jaguars has been accomplished and we are all more relaxed, especially our guide.
I find him in the kitchen, where he is preparing our lunch: 'carne com arroz', rice with dried meat, the typical food of the ranchers when they are out herding cattle. When eaten for breakfast it's called  'quebra-torto', the one that breaks a broken man..

It's a very basic dish, but you get kind of addicted to the strong taste of the dried meat, mixed with savory rice, it's really like a balsam for the stomach for me.
Maria has put on some weight from last year, the doctor told her she has to loose it because it weighs on her already compromised back. But she doesn't seem to worry about it and happily stuffs one big piece of 'bolo de fubà', a cake made of corn flower, after the other in her mouth. Julinho asks joking if she was eating because she had to fill the stomach to take her medicines...he says its the typical explanation given by fat people. She laughs and somehow we talk about living without the little pleasures of life, we all agree it's better to enjoy it while it lasts.

After breakfast we climb in the boat and leave for another day on the rivers. This time we managed to convince Gian not to bring his tripod, he has finally understood that it's almost impossible to use it on a 'crowded' and shaky boat.
It's a beautiful perfect day and we enjoy the ride through the more and more familiar rivers.

On a kind of island in the middle of one of the smaller rivers we meet the biggest group of Giant River Otters we have seen so far.
Some are swimming with two puppies, cleaning each other in the waters, half hidden by dry weeds.
We quietly tie our boat to a dry branch that surfaces from the water and the show begins.
One by one the Otters climb on the island, and start rolling themselves in the mud, and cleaning each other with their paws.

Their paws are very particular, they look like human hands, with fingers and nails and a membrane between the joints.
After a while one by one they reach the highest point of the island were they start to pee and shit and then make a strange dance, while mixing up their excrements with the muddy soil with their paws. This goes on forever, sometimes two of them together in a kind of 'merry-go-round', it's a gorgeous view.
I remember during my second stay last year Nobu showing me photos of defecating Giant River Otters, I had secretely smiled at his curious it was clear to me why!
Suddenly one after the other the Otters jump into the water and swim away. On the other end of the small island a big caiman is climbing out of the water and they must have sensed the intruder.
We observe how he advances slowly, seemingly unconcerned. But we had already seen how fast they move when they need to.
Julinho had explained to me last year that they don't actually attack humans, they only bite things that they can swallow. The only danger is when you accidentally step on them (he told me this AFTER my close encounter with one of them while bathing in the river, his head emerged from the muddy waters just a span from my leg...I reacted quiet cold-blooded...and was rewarded by his explanation...).

We reach again the Sao Pedro river where we had been so lucky yesterday. Today to our regret there are two boats anchored in front of the jaguar's den.
Voices spread rapidly in this forgotten corner of the world and jaguars are a big business.
One boat comes from Porto Jofre Hotel, there is a guide called 'Neguinho' and a German photographer lady on it. We had seen her briefly at the hotel's dining room, with a guide. Now strangely she was alone with the pilot. J. tells us that the guide had 'abandoned' her, I don't know what he means by that, probably less melodramatically she simply decided to extend her stay and the guide had other business to go after. The other one carries a British couple, their guide and the pilot, a guy with very strange eyes. They come from Jaguar Lodge on the Transpantaneira, where I had slept one night last year. Julinho greets them and asks about the jaguars. They say that they probably were inside the den  and that they had been waiting for quite a while.
Julinho attaches his torch to the motor, he wants to try illuminating the entrance of the den to see if there was the glimmering of eyes. We get a glimpse of the paws of one, but we see no movement.

After some time they leave and we fix our boat on the opposite riverside, determined to wait. According to J. the problem of staying in lodges is that often they bring you back there for lunch, so only in travel time you loose a lot of hours per day, thus chances of seeing jaguars are lower.
We are in the middle of a dense agglomeration of water hyacinths and after a while the mosquitoes start biting us ferociously. Even J. puts on some repellent. Seeing the panic in our guests' eyes he suggests to leave and go to have lunch at the nice place where we had been two days before.

Getting there we see the two other boats anchored...I see that my friends are a little disappointed but Julinho is heading there decidedly and I try to play down the situation. Once there he reaches the other guides who are eating withdrawn near a tree and we sit down to eat our lunch. The other three tourists engage in a lively conversation, but as my folks don't speak English I stick to them and try to raise their spirits.
After wards we return all to Sao Pedro, but I feel that the magic of the day before is clearly missing...
Then it all happenes in a glimpse, out of the corner of my eye I see Neguinho throwing a fish in the direction of the den and the British woman starts shouting quite angrily: "You shouldn't do that! It's a wild animal and it should be left that way!" Then she orders her pilot to turn the boat around and leave. We are all quite baffled by the reaction, but nobody says a word. While the pilot turns hastily the boat her husband addresses some very bad expressions to Neguinho, who by the way luckily didn't understand a word, calling him a stupid moron and worse. The German woman is speechless too, maybe because she depends on Neguinho to reach her lodge...
Julinho is very angry at their behaviour, nobody approves Neguinho's gesture but it was made in a such naive manner that the reaction seemed really out of this world, and not a good lesson. The guides and pilots had been talking between them before jokingly that maybe throwing some food would have made the jaguars come out, he just took the thing seriously and did it.
Of course the jaguars don't reward us with their presence today.
We leave our beautiful river a little upset, less for the jaguars but mainly because of the unpleasant situation. J. is really angry, he is a proud Brazilian and very fond of the people of the Pantanal. Seeing a foreigner treating one of them badly is just intolerable for him.

He pumps up the boat's motor and we leave the familiar rivers. After a quite long navigation we reach a place of breathtaking beauty.
A kind of sandy peninsula with a lagoon inside all surrounded by dense jungle.
Pure magic...once again I think that this man has a supernatural ability to turn bad moments into gorgeous ones, anger into beauty.

Stunned we get off the boat and wander barefoot on the white sand, each in a different direction.
The sun is already low painting the waters of the river with shiny dark colors.

Sighing I say to J. that I could stay forever in this place and he teases me saying that after the last tourist leaves he will come here and stay for a long time, just him and his music... bloody provocateur...
I ask him where we are, somewhere along the Cuiabà river, but he doesn't specify, maybe afraid that one day I could break his lonely idyll...

Just a perfect end for our last day on the rivers.

We arrive home before darkness and Julinho tries to fix the generator together with Carmindo, while we start to pack our personal belongings.
After our last dinner as usual the Baficos go to sleep and we talk for a while. As usual J. is sleeping with open eyes but this time Maria takes action and stops Carmindo's conversation, laughing she mocks saying that the 'conversa' must be very interesting if our friend is falling asleep. Carmindo who is a good spirited companion sends us to sleep.
It's raining and our tarpaulin works out well, not a drop gets inside our tent. The air has cooled down, so for the first time we sleep cuddled in blankets.

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