Transpantaneira km 0 - 41, On the way to Rio Claro

Gianluigi has an enormous heavy black backpack with his photo gear, he sits on the front seat beside Julinho and tries to stuck the backpack between them...hmm.. He'll get our guide nervous, I try to convince him to put it in the back with Enrica, Aldo and me, but after the tenth time he asks for the bag to get some lenses Julinho gives in and puts the pack in front again.

After this particularly rainless year I had expected the vegetation to be drier, but to my surprise it wasn't. 
We see lots of birds even before entering the Transpantaneira, Ibises, Barefaced Curassaw, Tiger Heron, Caracaras, Chaco Chacalacas and Tuiuius. Gianluigi shoots like crazy, despite of Julinho's efforts to tell him that we will see much more from now on.
A small Cotia and some Tayras cross the road in front of us.
At the gateway of the Transpantaneira Highway we stop. In a tree there is a group of red-crested Cardinals and higher in the branches a nest of Tuiuius, beautiful in the late afternoon light. 
We have to move on, our first night we will stay at Pousada Rio Claro, at km 41, on the unpaved road it can be quite a long drive.
The Transpantaneira is a mud road, with 126 wooden bridges over ditches for the run off during the floods.During the 'cheia', the rainy season from November to March the Pantanal floods and parts of the Transpantaneira with it.
The road is coasted by ponds where caimans linger, together with different kind of birds. This year there are many more than I had seen on my last trip, I don't know if the timing has something to do with it. In 2009 I came in the end of October, only some weeks difference.
The caiman carry fluffs of water hyacinths, 'aguapé', on their backs, probably they get stuck there when they emerge from the shallow waters.
At km 41 under a gorgeous sunset we turn left on a small mud road that takes us to the Pousada Rio Claro, where we will be staying our first two nights. The vegetation on both sides of the road is closer here, and it's already dark. Still we manage to see a group of 5-6 Cotias in the woods.
The pousada consists in a few groups of one storey buildings, where the guest rooms are, a bigger one where they serve meals, a small reception with internet connection, a swimming pool and on the back on the way to Rio Claro there are the stables for horses, cows, pigs. It is beautifully situated in midst of enormous mango trees, where colonies of monk parakeets 'make a living' on the abundant fruits.
We are friendly welcomed by Junior who takes us to our rooms. 
With Julinho we take from the roof of the jeep the perishable supplies and take it to the kitchen where they store fruits and vegetables for us. Then Julinho takes the dried meat and puts it on a flat tray, it has to be 'aired', adding some salt for conservation. After some small talk with the kitchen stuff we go to meet our guests for dinner.
It is buffet style with typical local dishes, very tasty and abundant, a welcome surprise for the Baficos, they had spent two days in Iguaçu where they told us the food was really horrible....seems impossible in Brazil, but...
Some guest musicians, a 'dupla sertaneja' play the guitar and sing modern Brazilian songs from the countryside, it's a pity, some workers of the farm are in reality great guitar players and singers, it would be much nicer to hear them playing grass-roots pantaneiro songs instead of the modern mellifluous 'all about broken hearts' songs.
After dinner Gian, Enrica and Aldo go to sleep around 8 p.m., alleging that they are very tired because of their early morning flight, in reality it will be their rhythm during the whole trip...
Julinho and I talk for a while sitting at the outside porch, in the dining room meanwhile a group of Dutch are getting steadily drunk and improvise a dancing session. I wait for a good moment to slip away and leave Julinho in the hands of the drunken Dutchmen.

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