Memories of the Pantanal: The Bridge

It was September 14, 2003. I was leading a birding tour throughout Brazil with the great Juan Mazar Barnett (who died way too young in 2012). We had just left the boat we’d spent a week on in the Rio Negro outside of Manaus and were now in the Pantanal. We had already faced many challenges on the trip, including local guides provided by the Brazilian co-operator who didn’t know birds, the lack of field identification guides at the time (I carried guides for Colombia and Peru), and a nasty fall down the stairs by one of the tour clients resulting in several broken ribs. On the bus ride to this point, the bumpy road had dislodged my spotting scope propped up in the luggage, it fell against my shin, and chipped the bone in my leg giving me a nice bump I will have the rest of my life. Then, we hit the bridge.

Surveying the bridge before crossing.

Anyone who has traveled extensively has come across interesting infrastructure, and I was certainly accustomed to traveling across some fun bridges in my travels in other parts of Latin America, but this one seemed extra special. The large number of Caiman (Caiman yacare) at the waters’ edge below the bridge added to its mystique.

It was getting dark and there was really no viable alternative route to get where we needed to go. After surveying the bridge on foot, and with the hesitant agreement of our driver, the tour guests crossed the bridge on foot as us guides guided the bus on a slow path over the bridge. We made it, obviously, but it was certainly something I will never forget. I wish we had had modern digital camera technology so I could have a video of the whole affair.

Before the crossing. From right to left: Juan Mazar Barnett, the bus driver, and three of my tour clients from Wisconsin.

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