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Day 73: The Pantanal

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Vespasiano with second helpings.
Michael Palin - BrazilPollianna and Guilherme are deeply concerned about change. Originally the Barra Mansa estate was part of 400,000 hectares owned by the Rondon family beside the Rio Negro. Over the years the land has been divided up between various children of various generations. The individual properties have shrunk and some have been sold off to what Pollianna calls 'foreigners' which, she hastily explains, means 'people from the city'. Not all of whom are so interested in preserving the habitat and the distinctive culture of the Pantanal.

There are farmers who want to clear trees in order to grow soya and other grasses, and in doing so alter the balance of nature. There are fires that are deliberately set for clearance and in the highlands of the Pantanal mercury used in gold-mining has been found in the stomachs of birds far downriver from the original mine.

By and large she thinks that interest in nature conservation has grown considerably in Brazil in the last twenty years and they have no trouble attracting people to a farm which is comfortable but hardly luxurious. On the other hand they do us what I would call a most luxurious farewell lunch of wild boar marinated overnight in salt, lime, vinegar and lots of garlic and cooked for two hours in a pit over an open fire, which leaves me with an unforgettable memory of the Pantanal. Sitting beneath a huge pimento tree overlooking the Rio Negro in which I'd just taken a dip, not fifty metres from basking and deeply uninterested alligators, with Vespasiano bringing over a spearful of fresh and beautifully tender pork. And talking to Guilherme and Pollianna about the importance of the simple life and how some rich clients check out early when they find there is no television and no spa at Barra Mansa. Guilherme's forefather, Colonel Rondon, mapped most of north and west Brazil. His maps defined this country. His foresight, in laying down telegraph lines and in instructing his military surveyors never to alienate the local people, contributed to the creation of the united, tolerant and largely good-natured place that Brazil is today. It's good to see that the current generations of Rondons are doing all they can to keep his flame burning.
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Last lunch in the Pantanal with Guilherme and Pollianna.
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  • Series: Brazil
  • Chapter: Day 73: The Pantanal
  • Country/sea: Brazil
  • Place: The Pantanal
  • Book page no: 309

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