Greetings from the Amazon! Robyn and I returned just hours earlier from 4 days of sweating it out with the mosquitos in the jungle. At 6:30 this morning we were in a conoe on a river trying to get to a bus in the middle of a huge rainstorm (imagine that - a rain storm in the rain forest). Three foot high waves were totally coming over the side of our 3 inch high sidewall and I thought we were going down. We beached it on the side of the river where I collected a couple ticks and hung out until the worst of it passed.

We started our trip in Rio, although were saving the sites there for last... so we went from the airport to the bus station and bumped down the coast through Parati, Curitiba, Sao Paulo (great Japanese food!) and Isla de Mel - lots of lazy beaches, beautiful islands, small Portugese forts, great hiking and beautiful young people smooching everywhere. Just to fit in, Robyn and I felt compelled to periodically start snogging in cafes, public transport and banks. Brazilian people are all 1) beautiful 2) might as well be naked on the beaches and 3) really excited about each other.

From there we visited the world class waterfalls at Foz de Iguancu, which are at the intersection of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Never having seen any world class waterfalls such as Niagra or Victoria, we were pretty amazed by it and spent two days hiking in the neighboring national parks.

After the waterfalls, we visited the Pantanal - a huge wetland right in the middle of the continent that spans a couple countries including Brazil. We did a 4 day guided tour in a VW camper van and had a great time. We saw 80 million alligators, capybaras (a giant rodent as big as a pig) , taranchulas as big as our hands, a tortoise, a giant anteater and a staggering range of colorful birds such as toucans. Our guide was super knowledgable and told us zillions of things, none of which I remember now. Each time we saw a new bird (every 5 seconds), Robyn would ask him ´Do they mate for life?´. The answer would invetiably produce either cheerful smile or a disapproving frown. While in the Pantanal I got over 300 mosquito bites - Robyn counted 103 on one ankle alone! My ankles puffed up and wouldn´t fit in my shoes any more. Robyn also acquired ringworm on her leg.

Also near the Pantenal we visited the small dusty town of Bonito. Bonito has recently become known for it´s crystal clear streams with tons of exotic fish - it´s like swimming in an aquarium. One of our best days in Brazil so far was spent drifting down a stream in snorkel gear with brightly colored fish up to a meter long swimming about us with toucans, and monkeys dancing 10 meters over our heads in the jungle. Awesome!

In a few hours we´ll jump on the bus to the Guyanese border. There is a spectacular waterfall there also, which is virtually unknown because it is almost completely inaccessible - only 200 tourists visit it a year. We hope to be numbers 201 and 202. After Guyana we hope to pass through Suriname and French Guyana and then back into Brazil.

First however, I think I´ll stop at our favorite dive bar in Manaus. I love the music (they sing bad Sintra covers in unintelligible English). I love the service (they bring you a new beer before you finish your last - you have to get aggresive to stop them flowing). I love the clientel (last time we were there one of the local drunks leaned over his hairy legged, possibly male hooker and said something lude but unintelligble about the size of my feet while spraying spit in my face).

We´d love to hear from you!

Love Keir and Robyn

Robyn catches a piranha in the Pantenal.
Snorkeling in the crystal clear streams around Bonito.
In the Pantenal I got 103 mosquito bites on just one ankle!
Canoeing around the flooded banks of the Amazon. The bottom half of this picture is a reflection of the top half.

February 4, 2001
Keir Paesel