Caught up in a caiman face off

Today we’re talking reptiles and mammals and despite the night safari being cancelled due to high winds, the 7am 4km walk through the neighbouring area showed up a whole array of strange and exotic creatures. That may sound like an early start to some of you, but believe me, it’s impossible to sleep past 5am as a cacophony of birds, ably led by the extremely loud and extremely ubiquitous chaco chachalaca, shake you out of your bed whether you’re ready or not. (Side note here – I am awarding the chaco chachalaca my, ‘how to big yourself up’, award as it has a fabulous name that sounds like a samba step and a call like nothing you’ve ever heard before yet it is the most dull and boring looking thing you’ve ever seen. The thing is, everyone knows it and it is completely unforgettable  – a great job of self publicity that we could all learn from!)

Back to the morning walk and it wasn’t long until we came across howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, yellow armadillo, marsh deer and South American coati.

Capuchin monkey

When I say we, that means me and my personal guide Edson. He and I are now joined at the hip and he leads the way on our daily walks, thrashing through the undergrowth with his large machete – why push a branch out of the way when you can hack it off in one majestic swoop? I do however, love a man with a machete. It makes a girl feel very safe!

Edson with his machete

The highlight of the day, however, came during our afternoon canoe trip. Edson and I were paddling down the river, taking in the incredible array of birds along the river bank, when we came across two enormous male caimans, nose to nose in the water, staring at other, neither one moving a muscle. Edson explained that they were in a fight for a female caiman and that it could get very nasty. We watched for a minute or so and then went on our way. About an hour later, as we came back past the same spot, there they were, still nose to nose, only now they were hissing at each other and looking as though it had moved up a gear. Just as we decided to leave them to it and paddle past, one of the caimans lunged at the other and the fight was on. Unfortunately we just happened to be in the exact wrong spot as two huge, marauding caimans came right for us, drenching us with water, rocking our canoe to the point of almost turning it over and pushing us up against the river bank. I was petrified and screamed like a chaco chachalaca. I was sure we were going into the river, to be bitten to shreds by the caimans and then finished off my flesh eating pirana.  Edson found it all highly amusing – although he did tell all the other guides about the encounter in great detail as he had never experienced anything quite like it. I now have a phobia about caimans – they seems to be everywhere, their beady eyes following my every move. They may not be dangerous to us humans but I have heard them hiss and I am giving them a very wide berth.


Shocked and still shaking from my near death experience, I walked back to my room only to be greeted by a group of capybara happily munching away on the grass in front of my porch.  Docile and content, they barely gave me a glance.

That evening, after dinner, Edson lit a fire in the pit out front of the dining room. We all sat, drinks in hand, and chatted about our day. Personally I think he did that so he would have a captive audience for a retelling of our afternoon adventure. I’m sure that will go down in history as one of his more memorable canoe trips. I for one will never forget it!

Taking Havaianas to Brazil

I’m not very good at travelling light. Normally it’s the shoe dilemma that stumps me. But when I found myself packing Havaianas to take with me to Brazil, it was time to have a word!

In my defence this is a longer trip that usual. Two months that will start with a week or so of pure vacation and then onto six weeks of  volunteering to mentor young entrepreneurs who are starting up social enterprises ahead of the 2016 Olympic games. I’ve never done anything like this before and I am both excited and nervous in equal measures.

Don’t rush through your 50s. Take your time, enjoy. They’ll be over soon enough.

Words of advice from my Uncle Ronnie on my 50th birthday.   I wish I’d acted on them sooner. But here I am, on the wrong side of 55, and a testament to the perils of working alone from my kitchen table for far too long.  Sitting for much of the past three years has meant that my behind has now spread to fit the shape of my dining room chair, my waist has expanded to the point where my Pilates teacher has something substantial to hang onto as she corrects my postures, and my shoulders are permanently tensed up around my ears. It’s time for a change. Time to shake things up. Time to get moving.

Notice period complete, I am excited to start this new phase of my life. Why Rio, you may ask? Quite honestly, when I think of Rio I think of fun  – samba, smiling faces, carnival – and I feel as though I am ready for some of that.  Add to that the challenges of volunteering and travelling with a purpose and it feels like a pretty great way for a solo traveller to become immersed in a whole new culture and way of life.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out – warts and all. I’ll be sharing my experiences, tips, tricks and anecdotes along the way. If my camera doesn’t get stolen in the first week  (yes, I’ve been warned by many people about staying safe and avoiding being mugged) I will also be sharing photos of my travels.

I’d love to read your comments and thoughts on my posts and any tips that you may have on getting the best out of Brazil. For now, it’s back to my packing. I think I can probably remove that sixth pair of jeans. After all, I’m pretty sure they have shops in Rio.