Hello! After days and days of radio silence (me enjoying too much time on the beach) I finally have got around to catching up with blogging our Brazilian adventures, it’s a long process as we have literally just done so many amazing things! In this third part, I pick up where we left off from Part 2, describing our time in the beautiful Bonito. Including; snorkelling in freshwater coral reefs with cool fish, exploring amazing caves, eating a lot (as usual) and a nearly disastrous flood-scare!
Getting to Bonito: a very long coach journey, and a complicated arrival
As imagined, 16 hours on a coach wasn’t that fun, although, it wasn’t that bad either. To be honest, I had envisioned an endless hell on a rickety, uncomfortable coach, bumping along rough roads with a disgusting stink coming from the toilet and somebody noisily vomiting at the back. The bumpy roads part wasn’t wrong, for part of the way my teeth were chattering because we were going over so many potholes! But I couldn’t have been more mistaken in my predictions about everything else; the coach smelled pleasant, and was very comfortable, we had big reclining seats and we managed to sleep for most of the journey!
Arriving to our apartment was more difficult than expected, as Bonito is quite a small town in seemingly the middle of nowhere, I didn’t think it would be too hard to find our address. However, no one could get over the idea that we were renting a house/apartment (we used Airbnb), the taxi driver kept asking for the name of our hotel/hostel and didn’t really seem to care when I told him that we weren’t staying in one! When we finally got him to understand, he took us to our road, where we had been told to pick up our keys from the neighbour Francisco, but it turns out Francisco wasn’t in, although there were some women hanging around outside his house. (Maybe it’s just a Brazilian thing, but no one in Bonito seemed to ever be inside their house, for some reason everyone was always hanging around outside no matter what time of day or night.) I tried to communicate who we were and what we needed in my broken Brazilian (Hopefully I’m on the road to improving!) but the taxi driver just sort of took over proceedings, got the key and took us to the house.
There was then a lot of to and froing because the gate wouldn’t open or we had the wrong key or something, but when the taxi driver finally left (he really was more annoying and scatter-brained than he was helpful!) it all became calmer and clearer and we managed to get inside. It feels strange to me how informal things are here, I expected to have to show some identification to get the keys, or have Francisco show us around and give us some kind of introduction, but this isn’t England! We just showed up, got into the house, and then we were left completely on our own in this new place. So far we have only stayed in hotels, so there is always someone on reception to help you with any queries, but being in Bonito in a house all alone meant that we had to be a lot more independent, and there was no WiFi either, meaning we had to use a lot of initiative when it came to organising things! (Including shamelessly getting my laptop out in a restaurant to book flights later on…)
For our first evening in Brazil, we ate at Pantanal Grill, a restaurant which serves local fish dishes and exotic meats from the Pantanal region (including Caiman!) I love trying new fish, so I had Pintado ao Urucum; the local way of preparing Pintado Catfish made with palm oil, coconut milk, and cream. Our meal was delicious, and to make things even better, the restaurant had WiFi, which meant a quick video call to the family of course!
Exploring Bonito’s Inland Beach!
Our first full day in Bonito was a great introduction to what the town had to offer. We spent the morning at Bonitours, a local travel agent that was recommended to me by some friends I made in Uruguay. And I can see why! They were so helpful and they aided us in arranging all of the trips we wanted to do while we were there.
Since we had organized what we wanted to do for the rest of the week, we had Wednesday afternoon free to do whatever we liked. While we explored the town we noticed that there were occasional signs for “Praia da Figueira” which made us very curious, as ‘praia’ is Portuguese for ‘beach.’ I don’t know if you have looked at the location of Bonito on the map but… it is completely landlocked! So without another thought we decided to let our curiosity get the better of us and take a taxi to Praia da Figueira, completely unprepared.
When we finally made it, (after our crazy taxi driver bombed it so fast down a bumpy dirt track road that Will bashed his head on the roof of the car several times) we were not disappointed! It turns out that Praia da Figueira is an inland beach resort located around a tranquil lake. The water is clear and full of friendly fish that you can swim with. There is a bar and restaurant, and included in the price of entry there is even a zip-wire down into the water that you can use whenever you like. We chose the perfect day for our spontaneous visit because it was ridiculously hot and sunny, the water was warm and everything was just beautiful!
Although, one problem with visiting a beach without thinking it through is that you forget that you will need swimming costumes… and towels…oops! But we couldn’t go all the way there and not swim in that lake! So, we did the only thing we could do… I went swimming fully clothed in my shorts and vest top, and Will seemed to think that his boxers looked enough like swim shorts to get away with it!
Later in the evening we had dinner at O Casarão, a great restaurant with big portions (and a fab Wi-Fi connection) where we tried another local fish dish, this time the delicious ‘Tilapia.’ Then it was time for drinks at Taboa, an amazing bar where the walls, tables, chairs, and everything else are completely covered in writing; everyone that visits Taboa bar is given a big marker pen and encouraged to sign somewhere! It was obviously a great chance for me to do some self-promotion and write the URL for this blog all over our table 😉
Snorkelling in the Aquario Natural
Thursday was our trip to the Aquario Natural, one of the stunning freshwater coral reefs that Bonito is famous for. Think; trailing through thick tropical rainforest, followed by snorkelling in crystal clear waters, and swimming with amazing, exotic fish as you explore their beautiful underwater world. (Yep, basically paradise!)
Although our morning was perfection, the same can’t be said for our afternoon! On the way back to Bonito the heavens opened; storms are quite normal there as in such a hot climate the weather is always unpredictable, so we didn’t worry too much. Until we got to our road, or should I say, the raging river that used to be our road…
Our apartment was on a hill, and so much rain had ran down said hill that a drain had burst at the bottom of it! A huge fountain of brown water was erupting from the broken road, and our taxi couldn’t go any further. We had to forge our way through the torrents in our flip-flops, and arrived at our apartment to see that the water level was up to our step and going under the door!
Luckily, the water hadn’t got very far or soaked any of our things, and we managed to mop the water up. We were panicking because the rain showed no signs of stopping, but just in time a truck appeared to repair the road, which meant that the water drained from our garden really quickly and the threat was removed. Still, every time it rained from then on we couldn’t help getting a little bit worried!
On Thursday evening we had flights to book, so back to Casarao we went, this time with laptop in hand ready to be the ultimate Wi-Fi leeches. It feels a bit shameful to be on your laptop at the table in a restaurant when others are eating, but we really had no other choice!
Visiting the Blue Lake Cave
On Friday we had a very early start, as trips to Gruta do Lago Azul leave at 6am (!) But, as much as I love a lie in, this was definitely worth sacrificing one for. The Blue Lake Cave is a prehistoric cavern, undiscovered until 1924 when an Indian from the Terena tribe came across it. Not only does it have an impressive array of both stalagtites and stalagmites, it also has a beautiful lake inside, with honestly the most gorgeous blue water that I have ever seen. My favourite fact about this cave is that expeditions have yet to reach the bottom of the lake; the deepest depth recorded so far is 90 meters, where fossils from around 10,000 years ago were discovered by divers, including the bones of creatures such as the Saber-tooth tiger and the giant ground sloth!
After such an early morning, a nap was in order. We then spent the afternoon exploring the cute little town of Bonito and its very quirky telephone boxes (see photos below). Our evening meal was at Pache Pizza; their motto is “the best” and they honestly were! Some of the nicest pizza I’ve ever had!
Relaxing in Balneario Municipal
After realising how much more you can fit into your day when you get up early, we decided to be early risers on Saturday too. We woke up, walked to town, hired some bikes, and bought some fresh fruit- all before breakfast!
Once we enjoyed our delicious fruit salad breakfast, we cycled to Balneario Municipal. In Latin America, a ‘Balneario’ is a resort town, either by the seaside, a lake, a river, or a hot spring. (In Part 1 of our adventures I mentioned visiting the beach at Balneario Solís.) We had a great day at Municpal, a lively Balneario alongside the River Formoso. We spent the sunny day swimming, snorkelling, and despite our seemingly healthy start to the day, eating and drinking a lot! Our favourite part of the day was when we found out that if you pick the fruits growing on the trees around the resort, pop them onto the end of a long stick, and dangle them above the river, the fish will jump really high up out of the water just to eat them! We had a lot of fun feeding them.
We finished the day with another delicious Pache Pizza, and more drinks at Taboa bar. I tried some ‘Capifrus pinga capuaçu’ a very passion-fruity twist on the traditional Caipirinha; yummy but way, way too strong! Will practically had to carry me home!
Boia Cross Rapids!
We started the day with another fruit salad, and a very sweaty arduous bike ride up and down hills in the hot weather. After arriving at Hotel Cabanas, and downing loads of water, it was time for Boia Cross! Which is basically going down the river on big inflatable rubber rings! And it was as fun as it sounds! We went down little waterfalls and through rapids all bouncing into each other and clinging on desperately to our little round boats, it was such a great laugh, but by far the best part was that Will was completely fearing for his life, he is so amusing when he is terrified!
Traveling to São Paulo
Travelling, travelling, travelling. Monday consisted of a 4 hour transfer from Bonito to Campo Grande Airport by minibus, then a flight from Campo Grande to Curitiba, with a stop in São Paulo and a chance to stuff ourselves with some delicious Pão de Queijo. Then finally a short taxi ride to our fab hotel in Curitiba, where we ordered in huge pizzas and enjoyed finally having Wi-Fi and TV again.
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments below 🙂
(Click here to read the fourth and final part of our South American adventures blog: our city tour of Curitiba including the city’s famous Botanical Gardens, and our time on the beautiful island of Florianópolis, Santa Catarina.)