Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Sancho friend goes to the Pantanal -- Part three

Pampas deer

This time we opted to travel by 4x4, and it took around five hours. We really enjoyed seeing the scenery from the ground -- although as there are many ranches, there were lots of gates to open! The second lodge is on an island and was bought by the owners to farm rice, but they changed their mind and turned the property into an eco lodge. I should say at this point that Carolina Vargas gave us some excellent advice about our trip, and thought our choice of two lodges was a good idea as we would get to see two different areas of the Pantanal.

Spectacled caiman


Refugio was different, but excellent also. Our guide, Sergio, was an amazing character who had lived and worked all over the world and knew the flora and fauna of the Pantanal really well. We had another four excellent days and nights there with the added bonus of seeing the places in the programme where Carolina had been teaching Sancho to become an adult otter. We saw the large family group from the programme (with Italo), and most afternoons a solitary otter would come and fish outside the restaurant (not Sancho, I'm afraid). The water at this lodge was clear so we could see how amazing they are in the water. We were lucky enough to see two ocelots at Refugio, although the otters were my favourites. When I got a picture of one with a fish in its mouth it made my holiday.

When we left to go to Rio, I was gutted -- you know, when you were a kid and cried when a holiday was over? I felt just like that again. Rio was good, but on reflection, I think a week there was a bit long. I think it would have been better to spend more time at the lodges and maybe 4/5 days in Rio.

To those of you who, just like me after I watched Raising Sancho, are thinking I really want to go but it's a long way, etc. -- just do it!!!!!!!!!! I have never once regretted it and I look back on our time in Brazil with fond memories. It's the best trip I have ever done - period. Enjoy and Boa sorte (good luck).

[Trailhead's note]: There will be an additional post containing some practical travel information Jim included in his post, and also many more photographs and videos. I will be stepping out of civilization for the next three days, however. So the final posts will come after I return. Many thanks to Jim for sharing his experiences with us!]A S

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

A Sancho friend goes to the Pantanal -- Part Two

The flight was amazing. It was just over an hour, and once the land dropped away into the Pantanal basin, he flew us low over the river so we could see the wildlife. We landed at the lodge at lunchtime and all went to have lunch together with the other guests and the owners.

The early start meant we were able to do an afternoon safari, which lasted into the evening. We stayed there for four nights and had the time of our lives. We did jeep safaris, horse riding, boat safaris and kayaking. We saw so many birds and animals that I couldn't list them all. The only absence was the cat family. That is not surprising, however, as to see a cat is highly unlikely. Some of the lodges that boast about lots of Jaguar sightings actually leave meat to attract them, and frankly I would rather not see one. We did hear one calling at night and found tracks:

Barranco Alto was a fabulous place and at the end of our four days and nights we were really sad to leave, the other guests and two scientists that were there were all lovely people but soon enough it was time to move on to Refugio Da Ihla and Sancho country.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A Sancho friend goes to the Pantanal -- Part One

January 2008 was a very important month for me. I was at a rehabilitation centre in Penrith in Cumbria. I was there for the second time in five months to aid in my recovery from a back injury I had suffered earlier that year at work. (I am a firefighter in Hertfordshire, England.) It was a Saturday afternoon the day before I went home and I was one of the last people at the centre (most had left or gone home for the weekend) and I had decided to watch tv in my room. There was a BBC Natural World programme on and I had seen several before and really enjoyed them.

Little did I know that the following forty six minutes were going to change my life forever!

I won't go into detail about my reaction to the programme, as this can be found in earlier posts (I posted under the name jim-irie) but I did think at the time and many times in the following weeks and months -- wow, what amazing animals the giant otters are and how much I would love to see them and the pantanal for real. 

When I googled Raising Sancho, I found my way to Trailhead's blog and in the following months my interest grew. Fortunately my wife was interested too, so we started looking into the trip of a lifetime.

We booked flights through a company I had used before and a hotel in Sao Paulo (for 1 night to break up the travelling) and in Rio for a week at the end of the trip.  The thing to remember is that most internal flights go through Sau Paulo and there are two airports in the city. We stayed our first night in Sao Paulo then got an internal flight to Campo Grande (pronounced grange). 

We met our pilot (Alex) at Campo Grande and he took us to the airstrip on the edge of town.


Next:  Flying to the Pantanal.

A Sancho Fan is called to the Pantanal -- A Series

I'm happy to post that one of our original Sancho commenters, Jim Irie, has traveled to the Pantanal and written a piece about it for Mountain Time.  (His original comments can be found here.)  The piece has a lot of wonderful photographs and videos with it, so I'm going to break it up into a series.  The first will be posted later on today.  Many thanks to Jim!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hello, Sancho fans

I see that Raising Sancho has aired again in the U.S. and, it appears, Spain.  I can always tell when that happens, because the visits on the statcounter explode.  This blog has been mostly idle for a year or so, since I began writing on another site.  I do monitor the site, though, because almost every day brings at least a handful of visitors interested in Sancho.

Raising Sancho had a pretty big impact on my life, in sort of a mystical, serendipitous way.  I saw the show several months before some very big changes happened in my life, and in an odd way, my experience with it prepared me and cushioned me for those.  And, of course, traveling to London to meet and hang out with Carolina Vargas, who is one of the most nature-connected people I've ever known was 1) one of the more surprising things I've done in my life and 2) just generally awesome.

And beyond that, watching and writing about the show made me friends all over the world -- Chicago, Belgium, England, you name it.

So.  Even though I went through two boxes of tissues in the week after I first saw the show two-and-a-half years ago, Sancho still reverberates in my life today.  I feel so strongly that Carolina and Sancho's story offers not just a deeply admirable example of human interaction with wildlife, but powerful lessons about life, risk, loss, and letting go.

I've asked one of the many friends I made through Raising Sancho to write a guest post about the trip to the Pantanal that he took after seeing the show.  He has agreed, and I'll put the post up as soon as it's finished.

Feel free to comment as much as you like.  Carolina does check in from time to time, but it may not be soon.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Raising Sancho, 2010

Hi there folks. I'm seeing a lot of you from Denmark AND the U.S. Did the show air here this weekend?

If you want all of my Sancho related posts, they're all here. Start at the bottom.

Also, be aware that there is a "Sancho the Otter Appreciation Society" on facebook.

There have been no major changes since my visit with Carolina last year. Sancho's whereabouts remain unclear.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

No one should have poison ivy

...where I have poison ivy. No one. Ever.

Not even Republicans.

I just got oral steroids prescribed. I'm not screwing around with this.

Eleven years of peeing in the woods and this has never happened.

Till now.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Owl omen

In Mexico, it is believed that an owl's appearance can predict a death: owls are bad omens there and supernatural powers are attributed to them....More in line with the Native Americans of Southern California who believe that owls are sent to guide us through dark places as friends, I consider owls a good omens....[F]or me, every time I have been about to go through a major change in my life -- for the better -- a flesh-and-blood owl appears right at the time I'm making a decision. They do seem to appear to guide me.

Stacey O'Brien, Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl

Pizza was calling, and so we hiked out fifteen miles on Saturday, even though we'd planned to camp a couple miles from the trailhead and hike out Sunday morning. We emerged from the forest very close to dark, and lugged full packs and the dog into the car with a groan. By the time we drove the 11 miles to the main national forest road, it was completely dark and drizzling.

We drove around curve after curve, tailed for awhile by a large, impatient truck. At exactly the same moment the truck swerved into the left lane to leave us in the dust, our headlights shone on a statue sitting perfectly still on the yellow line in the middle of the road.

Except it wasn't a statue. It was an owl, sitting perfectly upright, illuminated by our headlights, staring straight at us. The truck passed on the left and we swerved to the right.

The owl never moved.

I don't know whether that owl was a harbinger of death, or of further change, or just an owl sitting on the yellow line. I just feel blessed to have seen her.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Trailhead to the trailhead

I'm off for three days of backpacking West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest. This time I hope to have something bloggable to say about my trip.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Off, but this time just for two days

I will be computerless until Sunday evening. Tonight I'm camping in thunderstorms and tomorrow I'm doing an overnight kayaking trip.

Back Sunday. Hopefully, with photographs.