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Brazil – First Days

It seemed like I was cold all night on the 9 hour United flight from Dulles. Then it was cold all the next day waiting at the airport and cold again on the connector flight. However, when the aft doors opened on my TAM flight nearly 24 hours after leaving Washington and the heat rushed in so thick you needed a machete to hack through it, I knew I had arrived in Cuiabá.

Cuiabá is the capital of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso and it is the gateway to any outsiders wanting access to the Pantanal, a large wetlands area about 1200 miles west of Sao Paulo or about 1600 miles west of Rio De Janiero.

The Pantanal is home to all kinds of exotic wildlife, from macaws and tucans to anaconda and jaguar. It’s also home to the Pantaneiro cowboys who are the reason for my being here. I have returned to Brazil for additional work on the “Cowboys and Crocodiles” project and continue research on this subject for a potential book. When I was here in August it was the dry season. It is now the beginning of the rainy season and it will be interesting to see how the change in climate affects the area.

I am also leading a Photo Expedition/Adventure with my friend Izan Petterle and 8 photography students.

This area is very remote, often accessible only by dirt roads. In fact, the Pantanal is traversed by the Transpanteneira Highway, which is a bit of a misnomer as this “highway” is really just a state maintained dirt road of deteriorating quality the further in you go.

I will try to blog periodically during the trip, but the days are long and internet access is sporadic and unpredictable. Here are a few images from the first couple of travel days.

The cliffs of Chapada Dos Guimaraes rise up above the highway at sunset. Chapada is east of Cuiabá and overlooks the Pantanal.


The late afternoon sun glows red through the tinted windows on Izan’s face during the drive to Chapada.

As we were driving a storm blew up suddenly and made for an interesting sunset. This is what happens during rainy season, large rainstorms move quickly across the area.

Once we were in the mountains we were treated to a fantastic view of the storm.

Passing through Cuiabá again on the way to the Pantanal.

We were invited to spend a couple of days at a Fazenda Promissao (fazenda is a ranch). Promissao means “Promised Land” but the drive there didn’t seem very promising. We weren’t able to connect with the ranchers until after dark and it was about 20km down a small dirt road.

The rains made the going rough at times.

Champion horses run across a pasture at Fazenda Promissao illuminated by a flashlight.

One of the things Promissao is famous for their original Pantaneiro cattle. Pantaneiro cattle are similar to Texas longhorn cattle. Most cattle in the area have been replaced or diluted by Indian cattle called Zebu, which have a hump like Brahma.

One of the many Pantaneiro horses at Promissao.

My friend and travel companion for the first week Herculano Bernardes with one of the many Champion horses at Promissao.

  • October 31, 2008 - 3:01 pm

    Lara - That flashlight/horse picture is incredible.

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