Brazil: Corumbá Airport

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I flew back from the Pantanal; a journey which involved two taxi rides (one of an hour and one of an hour and half), two flights and three airports. The first of these was Corumbá, an elegantly faded town on the border with Bolivia. Corumbá Airport must be the smallest I've ever been in. It's modern, clean and very comfortable, but absolutely tiny. There's almost no need for a boarding call, as there's only one gate and the pilot can practically tap you on the shoulder personally as he picks up the keys to the plane.

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Brazil: Pantanal

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The Pantanal is a truly amazing place for wildlife. It should come with a health warning for biologists (or any wildlife enthusiast): "WARNING: liable to cause heart palpitations and shortness of breath". Here are a few of my favourite wildlife encounters, and there are more photographs on my Brazil flickr set. Capybara Troupials Troupials are the most orange bird I've ever seen. Their plumage is made up of highly contrasting patterns of black and the shade of orange usually seen on fluorescent safety jackets.

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Electricity + water = ?

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This was my shower in the Pantanal, which I found it quite entertaining. The combination of bare wires, electricity, bits of casually-applied electrical tape and water had a kind of devil-may-care bravado about it, and I liked that fact that there were no nannyish notices around, warning you not to touch the heat setting lever1 once you'd turned the water on. It felt like being treated as an adult, not an idiot.

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Brazil: Night boat

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We set out in the small motorboat after dark to take a look at the animals in and around the river. It's very cool and still, and in the moonlight, eerie blue reflections of the trees are cast on the water. Our torch catches the twin red glows of caiman eyes, looking our way before quietly slipping under the surface. A family of capybara clusters near the bank, ears twitching and their long, square heads breaking the water like a collection of floating, furry shoe boxes.

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Brazil: Rawhide

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Like most pre-adolescent girls, I took horse-riding lessons when I was young, but I haven't ridden much since then. I've also never ridden Western-style before, with a one-handed grip on the reins and long stirrups, but it was a lot of fun. My horse and I developed a reasonable working relationship, and broadly agreed on the direction and speed of travel, which is always a bonus. Watching wildlife from horseback is actually quite a good way to go about it.

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Brazil: Night show

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We had an unbelievably long journey to the Pantanal by road1, most of which was at night. Thankfully, we had hired a very comfortable coach, with reclining seats, blankets, and all kinds of other little luxuries that made it a bit more comfortable. I sat right at the front of the bus (best seat in the house!), and watched the scenery for a while until it got dark, when I settled down to get some sleep.

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Brazil: People

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In the run up to my trip to Brazil I was very excited, but also a little apprehensive. After all, Brazil has a slightly fearsome reputation for crime. That may be partially deserved in some restricted areas, but my own experience of the country and people was universally positive. Any country has cities with slightly dodgy areas, which you are wise to avoid, or travel through with caution. I can honestly say that I've felt less safe and more threatened in parts of Birmingham and London than anywhere I went in Brazil1.

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Travelling tips

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I'm looking at an enormous pile of stuff that I've somehow got to try to cram into a suitcase. Hum. Anyway, I've been thinking about travel tips. I'm sure that you've all got your own essential rules when travelling, but here are a few I've gathered over the years, tuned to stays in somewhat remote areas, doing field work: There's some kind of unwritten rule which states that however leak-proof you believe your bottles and jars of liquids to be, the effect of changes of temperature and pressue will prove you wrong.

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Japanese toilets

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At some point, I was going to write an entry about the fabulously hi-tech nature of Japanese toilets, but I see from Tom's links on plasticbag.org that imomus got there before me; Japanize your ass! has a glorious and detailed history of the various kinds of Japanese sanitary facilities. I'm also grateful to have a proper name for the electronic, all-singing, all-dancing toilet: the washlet. Not knowing the correct name, I had been referring to it as a 'techno toilet', which had a certain Wallace and Gromit quality about it, but was hardly accurate.

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Karaoke

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Part 3 of a series (Read Parts 1 and 2) We had to do it. Not just because we were in the home of karaoke, but because PD made us. She, it turned out, is a bit of a karaoke addict. I think it's fair to say that GS and I were a bit dubious about the whole thing to start with, though we were encouraged to hear that you get your own private — and more importantly, soundproof — booth.

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