We’re leaving Cusco this week and going back to Brazil. During the week I found a photo that I thought was lost. I have been recovering some 13,000 images from a broken HD, and there it was, although some similar photos have not surfaced.

Meet Alan


Alan is a Jacré de Papo Amarelo (Black Paraguayan Cayman), he was rather a decent size, about three metres.

This story is from 1996 and amongst my first experiences in the Pantanal.

This dinosaur-like reptile lived in the lagoon beside the camp. There were plenty of his species to keep him company but they all stayed respectfully on the far side of the lagoon, it was only Alan who preferred the company of tourists. He was very photogenic.

Alan was a placid sort, lying in the sun on the grassy sandy bank.

My first meeting with the beast was after a swim in the lagoon. I had not been forewarned of his residence, merely that the others stayed over there. After my dip, I lay on the bank to dry off. It was while I was lying there in the sun, I felt a presence close by. Turning my head and opening my eyes, expecting to see another tourist, I was instead face to face, as it were with Alan who had likewise come to bask in the sun a little more than a metre away. Now for our American cousins, a metre is 3″ more than a yard; it doesn’t matter whether you use metres or yards, IT WAS TOO FREAKIN’ CLOSE!

Avoiding a blood curdling scream, which was my first thought, I managed to inch away without disturbing my neighbour until I had put enough distance between us and was able to summon up the courage to RUN!

I learned that Alan often did this. He was not menacing the tourists, he was quite a happy cayman, if indeed you can measure a reptile in degrees of happiness. Alan was never hungry because he ate the scraps from the kitchen, so he was never considered a threat to the tourists. Cayman only bite for two reasons, they are hungry, which Alan wasn’t, or you piss them off.

The guide showed me by laying close to Alan and draping an arm across his shoulders. Alan didn’t even blink.

Tourists often used to ask me why he was called Alan, was he male? I didn’t know, in fact no one in the camp knew. I always suggested that if the tourist wanted to know, was he/she brave enough to lift his tail to find out…

It remains a mystery to me to this date; for I never met a tourist brave enough.

I went for many trip to this campsite that year,  Alan was always there. The campsite was deep into the Necolândia region of the Pantanal, about six or seven hours from Corumbá on the Bolivian border. It is a beautiful place, one of the most beautiful I have ever been to.

Sadly the Pantanal is shrinking, the climate is changing just like the rest of the world. But also in 1996 a project called Hydrovia was responsible for ‘straightening out’ the kinks of the Paraguay River. It was these kinks that slowed the drainage, now the drainage is much faster and the water that created the Pantanal is diminishing. Progress has claimed another victim.