Part 2: OUR northern Pantanal adventure (Transpantaneira highway)

This is where it all begins and where it all ends, at the gate to the Transpantaneira highway

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But first we had to get to the gate. After all the wildlife we had seen in the northeastern Pantanal in the area around Mimosa, we were so excited, that we chose a small gravel road called MT-351 leading from Cuiaba and almost all the way to Poconé. The last stretch towards Poconé would be on MT-370. But the MT-351 turned out to be really shitty, due to a lot of pot holes, some of them so big, that they could swallow a small car. If we were not slowed down by the holes, it was the cows.

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Not all the scenery was bad, but there was just too many people, farms, horses and cows. So no wildlife and a tough day of driving

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The sun was setting, and we were almost at the end of MT-351, when a giant anteater showed up

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The giant anteater was really close to the road, so we just turned of the engine, and sad in the car watching it, and then the anteater decided to go across the road!

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We really enjoyed the sunset, but the long drive on MT-351 was not worth it… we had to drive the last kilometers on MT-370 in total darkness to reach Poconè. So no more pictures from this day Camera.

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Heads up, because today was the day, where we would enter the Transpanteira highway. After passing through the gate the wildlife began – WOW!

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The yacare caimans were just everywhere, and Esben almost got a heart attack, when he got out of the van. He almost stepped on a caiman, and he quickly jumped back into the van. The yacare caiman is found in the central South America, and about 10 million individual yacare caimans live within the Brazilian Pantanal, representing what is possibly the largest single population on earth. This is the reason, why there are so many. The yacare caiman is a small and medium-sized crocodilian, males grow to 2-3 meters and weigh up to 58 kg, but the females are mush smaller with an average length of 1.4 meters and a bodyweight from 14-23 kg. The females smaller size make them a potential prey of the Jaguar and anaconda.

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The caimans are not a serious danger to humans, because of their smaller size, and when asking the locals we didn’t hear about any attacks on humans. Also every time Esben got out of the van to take picture, the caimans usually just stayed where they where, or they slipped into the water for protection.

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Close up photos of caimans in the clear water Camera

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This is one of the thing, that makes Pantanal special, a caiman walking across the road – and in a instant we were acting like real tourist, ready with the camera and phone.

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It turned out that it was a female (we think), since she had baby caimans following her

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Close up photos of the baby caiman and a younger caiman. Look how the eye changes

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We continued south on the Transpantaneira (also known as MT-060), which has about 122 wooden bridges and a few made of concrete. Here a Jabiru (Tuiuiú) is walking on the road, it is the tallest, 120-140 cm flying bird in South America. Read more about all the birds we saw in the Pantanal in this post “The birdlife in Pantanal”.

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Some bridges are newer and in great conditions like this one

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Other bridges not so much…

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On the lookout for another of the big five, the capybara! 

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It didn’t take long before Esben spotted a big family of capybaras just hanging out on a small side road next to the small kiosko “Barbara” (it is on www.ioverlander.com). The Capybara is a mammal native to South America and the biggest rodent in the world. An adult capybara is 106-134 cm in length and 50-62 cm tall with a weight of 35-66 kg. It is a highly social species often found in groups of 10-20 individuals.

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These capybaras were quite use to people. This also makes Pantanal special, that we could get so close to the capybara in the nature

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Here they are called Tupi, which means “one who eats slender leaves” or “grass-eater”. They eat grass during the wet season, but during the dry season they have to feed on a greater variety of plants as fewer plants are available.

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Females are slightly bigger than the males. You can recognize the male due to the small lump places on its forehead. Left picture: female capybara. Right picture: male capybara.

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Back on the Transpantaneira, which has never fulfilled its name. It opened in the 1970’s, but stops at Porto Jofre in the state of Mato Grosso 145 km south of Poconé. The original plan was to continue the road on the other side of Rio Cuiaba, through the state of Mato Grosso du Sul, but the two states have never been able to agree on the completion of the road. Today it is possible to sail from Porto Jofre to Corumba, for more information read this post: “DIY Pantanal adventure (tips and recommendations)”.

Time to call a day, enjoying the sunset and wildlife

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The third thing that makes the Pantanal special is how the animals are living together. Check out this capybara hanging out with the caimans

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I guess that the Jabiru is too big of a mouthful for the caiman

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Birds and horses (cows) benefit from each other

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