Finally, they've reached the eagerly awaited Brazilian wilderness.
At 7am, the bikers were ready to leave Campo Grande and hit the road towards Fazenda San Francisco, 30 km from Miranda, in the South of the Pantanal. The aim was to really feel and immerse themselves into the local life. And did they ever succeed in their attempt!
A Women's' Story
The women were welcomed by farm owner Beth Coelho. A mother of four girls (Cintia, Roberta, Carol and Andrea), Beth had hidden each of her daughters' umbilical cord under a tree after their birth. "It's a traditional ritual in this region, it makes children want to continue what their families do for a living," she says. In her case, it worked. "Imagine if they had turned into shopaholics that just hang out at the mall?" she jokes. As it turns out, that couldn't be further from what actually happened. And although Cynthia, the eldest, works as a psychologist in the state's capital (Campo Grande), the other three - Andrea, Carol and Roberta – have continued the family legacy: They manage the farm with Beth and her husband. This involves running the livestock and rice production, plus taking care of the hospitality, since the farm also doubles as a hotel.
But the girls didn't want to be treated as guests; they wanted to experience real life in the Pantanal. So they were more than happy to join this family's sisterhood and share their daily activities.
They arrived, left their bags, had a quick lunch and went straight to the fields with Andrea and Carol for a typical Pantanal day. In the afternoon, Beth's daughters go cattle herding alongside the cowherds – a typical farming duty in this region, as it is often necessary to move the herds from a flood-risk pasture to one that is safer. This is where the girls helped today, managing over 300 cows!
So, along with the cowherds, they rode on horseback across the flooded fields (where there even were alligators!) to move the animals to safety. Cindy led the group most of the time, since she is an experienced rider and was once part of a horse-riding team. Despite Cecile's lack of experience, she mostly managed to keep up with her friends. "On the riverside, a cowboy plays his horn to lead the animals on the right path," describes Cecile. "We lead the way through the water, and the herd follows behind us. We walk through mud and moss. There is water up to our thighs. The horses swim. We have to keep stimulating them, so as not to let them slip away. We reach the other bank, and the animals rush out of the water, strong and powerful. No words. I'm not sure what role we had in this, but I felt really transcended by this mission. I had forgotten that I am a woman from Paris, that I am 32 years old, even what language I speak... I lost myself in this task, transported by the action and animal energy."
After the herding, some cattle had to be taken to a place called 'mangueiro' (corral). "This is where we keep the cows with special needs, the ones that require more assistance. For example, if they are pregnant or need vaccines. Bringing them here is part of our daily duties," Andrea explains. In order to take them there, they had to lead the animals along a dirt road surrounded by gorgeous fauna and flora. The girls spotted trees like the Barriguda (where macaws often build their nests), and animals like emus, buffalos, anteaters and many beautiful birds including the Black Prince (thus named because of its black beak).
After the fields, the girls went canoeing across a river surrounded by a dense forest – a very typical landscape in the region – with Beth, Carol and Rachel. Later, they had a typical Pantanal dinner around the fire, while listening to Almir Salter's viola coming from the speakers. The finishing touch to a perfect evening: All this took place under the stunning starry sky of the savannah. It will be hard to leave the Pantanal.
The Pantanal is a great plain that shares a border with Bolivia, filled with prairies and flooded savannah, criss-crossed by a multitude of rivers, like the rio Paraguay and its affluents. This makes it one of the largest wetlands in the world. During the 4 month per year rain season, 80% of the Pantanal is covered in water! This very specific situation means that it has the highest concentration of aquatic plants in the world, and the most beautiful natural reservation of animals in Brazil. The girls wouldn't have missed it for the world, and just had to make the detour despite the floods...
Keep following the L'équipée girls' quest to discover what beauty means around the world at the Road to Beauty.