We have the first surprise even before we leave.
The guide in charge of accompanying us spoke Portuguese. Not the typical “Brazilian” Portuguese, much less that of the Pantanal region. He spoke in African Portuguese.
When we asked him what had taken him to that interior of Brazil, so far from his Angola, Coutinho tells us that the fact that he also speaks English opened up the prospect of working there on the farm and in tourism.
The opportunity seemed perfect to him, not least because he was going to continue to live in the heat.
He grabbed her as soon as he could.
And it continued there, between the Passo do Lontra and St. John. On the way between the two, sitting in the back of a pickup truck, we talked a little more.
Passo do Lontra to São João Farm: Journey through the Pantanal Rural Area
The dirt road proved to be dusty and straight, but full of small ascents and forced descents in places where, during the rainy season and the flooded Pantanal, it was necessary to avoid its submersion, especially around the great course of nearest water, the Corixo do Cerrado.
We came across iguanas and the inevitable carcarás, a mere introduction to the faunal extension of Passo do Lontra that we were about to encounter.
We enter the property around eleven in the morning, with the summer heat already tightening. The rooms, the hammocks, all the private rooms, in fact, were occupied.
We installed ourselves, like this, in the men's dormitory of the farm, it gave us the idea that there is a lot to use. We shared it with two large frogs who had claimed the “bathroom” as their refreshed domain.
Half an hour later, Coutinho reappears. It invites us to take a guided tour of the farm, in the company of a Bolivian external guide and her Chilean clients.
Ser João, the Elder and Owner of the São João Farm
We skirt the swamp in the heart of the farm when we are surprised by a man already his age, at the controls of a tractor.
Coutinho informs us that it was João Venturini, the owner of the property. As if that weren't enough, he drove a Massey Ferguson, has long been our favorite tractor brand.
We ask you for some photos of your work vehicle. Despite not being used to this type of attention and protagonism, João Venturini agreed.
We position ourselves in such a way as to give you the prominence you deserved, and to avoid unwanted background obstacles.
We are in this process when we feel a growing ardor. On one foot. Right on the other. To the ankles above.
By the time we realized what was going on, the ardor becomes a generalized affliction, a kind of biological fire.
We had been photographing for almost a minute on a huge nest of bullet ants (clavata paraponera), thus treated in Brazil because, with due exaggeration, its bite causes a pain comparable to that inflicted by projectiles.
Ser João Venturini and Coutinho strive to avoid impending laughter. Several shakes and curses later, we anticipated the end of the photo shoot.
Discovering the Pantanal da Fazenda São João
We continue to move away from the farm buildings, along the banks of its lagoon, which we see full of amphibian vegetation, decorated by water lilies, inhabited by juvenile alligators, fattened by the profusion of fish that the drought every year provided them with.
We passed between hyperbolic mango trees, by that time, laden with tiny mangoes, still green miniatures of the succulent and delicious fruit that the muggy heat of the rainy season would make them.
Meanwhile, trees fulfilled another function.
Macaws, Ibis and So many other birds of the Pantanal
They gave shady and sheltered landings to the flocks of macaws that flitted about, given over to their shrill thuds.
As we passed under one of these hoses, we spot four or five, blue ones, with their collars and yellow eye-rims.
They watch us, intrigued, but less apprehensive than we expected.
When, at last, their curiosity passes, they return to the conflicted nibbling in which they had been.
All around, flocks of scarlet ibis and red guarás, as Brazilians prefer to treat them, carry out their own flight choreographies, almost always orderly and well grouped.
First against the tropical foliage, then by the sky that the heat seems to wash away.
From the community of mango trees, we evolved into a vast, waterlogged pasture, the livelihood and livelihood of the herds of horses that the farm did to increase and the herds that were at the origin of the property.
São João Farm, the Sister Farm of Passo do Lontra
Until its conversion, Fazenda São João remained the Venturini family's rural and livestock retreat.
It existed as a counterpoint to Passo do Lontra, a river farm that opened, in 1979, on the banks of the Miranda to respond to a growing demand for this river and the Vermelho, on the part of fishing enthusiasts.
Over time, the family decided to offer Passo do Lontra guests a day to discover their other farm.
When visitors fell in love with her, they began to complain about spending nights there. The Venturini acquiesced. They adapted the property to match.
For example, they installed the hammock area where we no longer found a vacancy. And a picturesque dining room, in a rounded building from which one of the many palm trees in the Pantanal sprouts, a bocaiuva tree, or so it seems to us.
The Always Fascinating Pantanal Gastronomy
In this sheltered shelter, cooks with figures and manners of Dª Benta, from the old “Sítio do Pica-Pau Amarelo”, prepare, display and serve typical Pantanal meals.
Rice and beans, fried cassava (cassava), succulent pies and stewed chicken, from time to time, sacrificed from the flock of guinea fowl that, at the end of the day, we find in a communal sleep on the highest boards of the stable.
The night was announced by a perfect circumference of the sun, veiled by a sky that the afternoon brazier had turned gray and, as we wanted it in our photographs, hidden behind the branches of some dry grove.
The night was filled with mysterious and magical sounds and noises, even around the dormitory we called home.
Snorts of owls and songs of moon mothers, the croaking of frogs in the pond, furtive steps of ocelots and tapirs, crawling of anacondas. All this and much more was to be expected. Until the awakening of the great swamp.
Dawn brings relief from the furnace and even some dew that resists the first two hours of solar ascension. In the marshy pond, the water lilies display an exuberant freshness that only dawn gives them.
The Pantaneiro Cowboys of the São João Farm
We went out for another walk, among alligators in full recharge, tuiuiús repairing the nests and the same herd of the day before, intrigued by the new invasion of their pasture.
When we return, we find a trio of cowboys swamps from the farm returning from some task that the cattle had forced them to do.
They approach at a gentle gallop. When they reach the edge of the lake, they decide on the shortcut and cross it.
The crossing starts off calmly.
Until, in a deeper area, a horse is frightened by an alligator. It rears up and forces the pantaneiro to dominate it, with the mastery of years spent in the saddle.
Jesus and his helpers dismount in the stable. They un saddle the horses, reward them with parties, sit on low chairs and enjoy a rest still dressed.
Hats and leather boots, vaquette pants. Belt equipped with knives and bags with other utensils.
Rest with Tea-Mate Flavor
The conversation flows into a hard work in a few days and how the same work generated unexpected problems on a neighboring farm.
Jesus doesn't even want to think about what's next. Betting on freeing himself from the heat and the responsibility of being the example to follow, he fills a horn of mate with boiling water.
Sip your vitamin tea with the lightness of spirit of someone who has ridden through a thousand tribulations like that.
When the truce ends, one reverts to the shade of the stable and an endless drying rack of straps, harnesses, ribbons and buckles, saddlebags, spurs and similar items.
There is still work to be done there, but the heat and curiosity of the outsiders combine in a fair pretext to postpone the task.
Instead, the elegant pantaneiro leans over one of the bars that serve as bed for guinea hens.
Dazzled by the side of the Atlantic that we are telling you about, he reverses roles.
It confronts us with two or three questions-observations that leave us wondering, which it answers with its Pantanal, down-to-earth way, but so honest to see the world.
In those almost Paraguayan confines of the Pantanal, Brazil made more sense.