After catching the night bus from Foz do Iguaçu we arrived at our next destination, Bonito, the following morning. The journey had taken a mere 13 hours and, taking full advantage of the luxurious legroom, I had slept very comfortably. The buses really are a miracle in this country. I was sat with Gina, a dreadlocked South African, who was quite lively and enjoyed a good chat. Before going to sleep the conversation had jumped from one subject to the next. Offering our opinions on such emotive issues as divorce, gays and lesbians and age differences between married couples, we generally concluded that where there is love there is always a way. We also discussed her country and how much it had improved since she was a little girl. She conceded that much more had to be done but was happy with the progress thus far. She was quite amused by my Geordie accent as I was by hers. At one point she even gave me a highly entertaining demonstration of one of the South African tribal languages. I was most tickled to hear that it involved making loud intermittent tongue-clicking noises between words. What a hoot!
Muito Bonito, our residence during our stay here, was a glorious place. It had a delightfully pretty veranda and, surrounded by a multitude of exotic flowers and pretty plants, was the ideal setting for eating breakfast and relaxing. I was supposed to have been going for a bike ride with some of the others but I took a mid-morning disco nap and hadn’t woken up until mid-afternoon, by which time they had already set off. So instead I went for a walk with a couple from the group who couldn’t be bothered to go for a bike ride. Bonito was a lovely little sleepy town. It was a hidden gem that I would not have thought about visiting if the first part of my travels through South America had been as a solo traveller. It was a great spot to just chill and meander about at your own pace letting the world go by. There were shops to explore selling jewellery and clothes, and a few pleasant cafes to visit for refreshments.
Back in my room later on I had some time for reflection and made an entry in my diary:
‘Bonito is such a quirky place. As we walked around, taking in the new environment, we noticed many things to pique our interest. My favourites were the huge telephone boxes made in the shape of giant parrots, macaws or jaguars, and also an old Beetle car with a mural of Spiderman painted on it. Interestingly, it would also soon be hosting a gay pride event, as advertised by the numerous ‘Gay Bonito’ posters decorating many a wall throughout the town centre. I can’t imagine how the peaceful atmosphere of this lazy town will be transformed once the participants of such an event have arrived. I feel sorry for the giant parrots. Currently the stars of the show here, they won’t get a look in once an exuberant gay community has descended from every corner of Brazil! We stopped off in a bar and tried the local tipple, taboa, which consists of rum, honey, cinnamon, guarana powder and natural herbs. It certainly had quite a kick to it and I felt the warm burn in my throat as I knocked it back.’
It had been a lovely day and we were all in exceptionally good spirits. I think a few days of constant sunshine can do that for you. The warmth seems to release pleasure into your body and it makes you happy to be alive. It has something to do with the vitamins and the endorphins that the sun unleashes upon us, thus gifting us positivity and joy. As Britons, we are stereotypically seen as quite cold people who don’t really show our emotions. To an extent this may be true, when compared to some other nations, but it has more to do with the weather than any in-built national characteristic. Those that live in a country with electric blue skies and the warmth from a glowing sun are surely going to have a greater lust for life than those that suffer the misery of grey skies, pouring rain and freezing cold temperatures. This was certainly the case for me here in Brazil. My lust for life was through the roof and I was loving every moment of this hedonistic adventure. Every day there was something different to experience and the beautiful weather was the icing on the cake. On the downside, Dracula’s little helpers had savaged me again. I counted another half dozen mosquito bites on my leg to add to the collection. Pathetic little specimens!
The next day was a good day. A few of the girls and myself went snorkelling down a river. To get there we had to drive for 62 km along a dirt track before arriving at a farm in the middle of nowhere. As we got out my poor backside felt as if it had just come directly from the Gay Bonito festival. Thankfully, however, it was simply feeling the effects of the insanely bumpy track we had just driven along. The farm was a bit like a ranch with lots of horses around as well as geese and chickens. There were also cows with a hump on their back which I found a bit strange as I had never seen cows with a hump on their back before. We were led to some tables where we had a lovely buffet of fresh meat, bread and fruit, before being taken away to put our frog suits on. Once clad in tight rubber we were driven over more uneven terrain until we could go no further. We then got out and were guided through an isolated jungle track. After walking for about 5 minutes, half expecting to get ambushed by a herd of sex-starved tribal midgets, we finally reached the river.
We were given life jackets to wear, thus enabling us to float effortlessly like leaves in the water, whilst the current slowly carried us down stream. With our masks and snorkels on we could simply put our heads in the water and watch the magic of this underwater safari unfold beneath us. Peering through crystal clear water, aquatic plants danced before us whilst silvery blues and purples radiated from the reflections of the shiny stones on the river bed. We were greeted by an extraordinary array of colourful fish swimming by or coming up to us to take a closer look. They were beautiful. There were small ones, large ones, strange looking ones, multi-coloured ones, bright luminous ones, regal ones, dopey ones and inquisitive ones. It was hypnotizing watching them all go by and, under their spell, I felt like I was in the river for hours. It was as if I had been transported to a different world where, for a time, I forgot who I was. I thought to myself that if I was to be reincarnated I wanted to be a fish immersed in this liquid paradise of kaleidoscopic beauty.
Moments after getting out of the water I had a truly enlightening conversation with Gina, the South African. She was obviously just as blown away as myself by the visual delights of the underwater journey we had just experienced. After stating that she also wanted to be a fish, we talked about their simple life and why they exist. Then we asked if fish exist, why do we exist, and then we got on about why the world exists! We ended up going deeper and deeper and I honestly believe we were on the verge of cracking the meaning of life when Tara, an Australian girl, suddenly emerged from the water, fully decked out in her rubber suit, and began to sing, “Sex bomb, sex bomb, you’re my sex bomb!” The moment was lost forever. Solving the mystery of the meaning of life, we conceded, would just have to wait for another century.
The following morning we were up early for more Brazilian adventures. After the standard breakfast of fresh fruit, bread, meat, cheese, crap juice, that I was now pretty sure was just coloured water, and some nice strong coffee to wash it all down with, we said our fondest of farewells to ‘Gay’ Bonito. It had been a lovely place to relax, contemplate nature, and pretend to be a fish. Our bus and trailer were loaded up as we prepared to be driven into the heart of the Pantanel, the world’s largest tropical wetland area.
Would the magic never end?