For some birds you have to know the exact place in order to see them. Therefore, we decided to hire a bird guide in a small town called Dourado. We arrived at 20.00 and we could stay the night with Forrest in their garden. Our main target was the Buff-fronted Owl. A really rare species but this guide knew a place. He wanted to step in our car, but we only have two seats. He asked his dad to drive us for the first evening and the next day we could go with another car. So there we go, with four people in a decent 4x4 car. The road was horrible, a lot of potholes, loose sand and rocks, but we were sitting in the back enjoying the ride of about an hour. We managed to hear the owl, but it was too far away to see. The next morning we were ready at 6 am to go search for some other birds. A very old little dirty car was the ‘other car’. Rob had to be the driver, because our guide lost his driving license. Every speed bump or pothole, we were afraid the car would fall apart, but Rob managed to keep it alive. At the end of the day we wanted to try to see the Buff-fronted Owl again. The horrible road was still there, but now we were in this car (that should be at a car cemetery). At first the owl was still only calling far away. So we decided to wait, but the sky was getting dark because of a tropical thunder storm. There wasn’t a lot of dry time left and the road would not get better with rains. We waited in the car to be safe of the lighting and we decided that when it would start raining we would drive back again. Then Rob saw the silhouette of an owl flying in a big tree nearby from the car. We managed to find it back and Rob was able to take a few pictures before it started raining cats and dogs. We asked if the guide could drive the first part of the road, because he knew the road and his directions were maybe even more horrible than the road ;) And then... Let’s say we figured out why he lost his driving license when he drove that first part of the road. But at least it was himself scraping that car over every stone and pothole, and not us. Back in town, we celebrated that we found the owl with one of the best pizzas we ever ate in our live: a pizza with hamburgers as topping.
Our next destination was Serra da Canastra NP. The place to be for seeing the endangered Giant Anteater and the Brazilian Merganser. The Merganser is a duck species who lives in clear rivers. The first day we drove the road next to the river to search for the birds. Rob even sat on top of Forrest to have a better viewing angle and the best chances to spot the bird, but no luck for us. The next day we drove to the upper part of the National Park to get on a plateau. This road could run for the title: most horrible road in the world. We even saw another car passing us with one wheel standing at least 30 degrees wrong on its axes. But no road can stop us if we set our minds on seeing our targets. On the plateau, we managed to see the Brazilian Mergansers near the top of the waterfall. Really cool to see! While driving on the plateau we were searching for the Giant Anteater. It felt like a Brazilian Safari. There was a viewpoint and from there Rob spotted 3 Giant Anteaters not far from the road. Rob drove back as quickly as possible and parked the car next to the road. He put on his boots and went into the field. He managed to come really close to the Giant Anteater. At one point the Giant was too close for his camera, so he decided to sit down and enjoy this great creature. Suddenly there was only one meter left between Rob and the other Giant. So Rob decided to make a little noise, just in case the Anteater would be aggressive or territorial instead of curious. Luckily he did, because later we read that Giant Anteater can attack people with their front big claws when they are surprised. What a cool species! And what a great encounter!
From Serra da Canastra we decided to drive a whole day to our next destination: a 7 hour drive. As you now know, the roads are pretty good in Brazil. Well for the highways it is true. A lot of times there are two lanes to pass those really slow trucks :). We were getting closer to our destination and Romy was driving. A police car was behind us with flashing lights. There was more than enough room to pass, but they stayed behind us and in the end they drove next to our car to pull us over. We were not really in the mood for a corrupt policeman, but we didn’t have another option then to stop. The two officers were standing next to our car and we played the ‘we don’t speak Portuguese’-card, but one policeman talked back in English. He asked us why we were having a Chilean car and what we were doing in Brazil. Rob said that we were searching for birds and mammals for two years and that buying a car is the easiest in Chile. The policeman didn’t believe us: ‘two years for only searching birds and mammals?’ he said looking very suspicious. And yes, a lot of times we also cannot believe this:). He warned us for the criminality in Brazil and said we were good to go. We just drove two meters and they stopped us again. He walked up to the car again, we lowered the window and he said: “Really dangerous!”
We arrived at the place we found on iOverlander to stay the night (the app with all the tips about places to camp etc.). We couldn’t stay there, but we could camp at their neighbours. A steep ride up the hill and a bumpy ride later, we arrived at the top with a huge house on it. At the door were two young owners who even spoke English. We decided to stay for three nights and take some time to relax in the house and do some birding in the garden. It felt like we were at a home of new friends. The first night they let us try a really delicious dessert and we talked about Brazilian food. So the second night we wanted to do something back: we invited them for a Dutch Pancake Party. I made a huge pile of pancakes. And we had all kind of toppings on there: avocado, sugar, jam, chocolate, cheese etc. As a return, the third night they made a typical Brazilian meal for us: Moqueca. We enjoyed our stay and sharing stories and food with each other.