WHENEVER I LOOKED at a map of Brazil, my eyes were drawn west. Why? My guidebook devoted only a handful of pages to Brazil’s second largest state, Mato Grosso, concentrating on Cuiabá (the capital), the Pantanal wetlands, and Guimarães National Park. I wasn’t convinced. Such a large region, I thought, there must be something more to explore. Besides, if we didn’t like it we could simply turn around and return east, couldn’t we?
My partner Coen and I ended up traveling in Mato Grosso for five months. Few people spoke English; our Portuguese was limited. Apart from the Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland, there was no tourist infrastructure of note. Yet we were overwhelmed by all there was to discover. Along with extraordinary natural scenery and wildlife, outdoor adventures, and historic culture, this visit gave us some insight into the lives of the region’s indigenous people, as well as the cattle breeding and soya and corn production that’s helping fuel Brazil’s behemoth of an economy.
All photos by MatadorU graduate Coen Wubbels.