Wednesday, 16 July 2008

5. Chapada Diamantina

Sunday 12th
So, at 5am, I finally arrived in Lencois. Centre of Chapada Diamantina. In total, I had been travelling non stop, on sweltering, shaky buses for more than 32 hours! I was ready to crash, so I put up in a cheap little pousada and passed out for a bit.

When I woke up, I opened the shutters of my room and was blinded by the dazzling sun. The north of Brazil is very different to the south in many ways, and the weather is no exception. Pulling on some shorts, I stepped out into the gorgeous day.

Lencois is a great little town. It's right in the middle of the vast national park and very isolated. It's a beautiful place, and I started getting good vibes the second I stepped out the door. I went for a wander around the town, looking for information on Fazemda Campina and perhaps for an outfit that would help me do some rock climbing. My guidebook recommended a place called Extreme Tours or some such, so I asked for directions and started walking. Unfortunately, everyone I asked seemed to point me in a different direction! I was wandering down a little side street, when I noticed a place with a climbing wall built into it's office. Not Extreme Tours, but it definitely looked like the kind of place I wanted! I wandered in.

I stepped into an office lined with climbing handholds, and a gorgeous girl (who, I later discovered, pretty much ran the place) asked me in excellent English, what I was looking for. I explained and she gave me some options. In the end, I ended up booking some climbing, and a two day trek in the park. Everyone I met hanging out and climbing in the small office was really excellent and, as I left, they invited me back for some beers that evening.

As it started getting dark I pulled on some longer trousers and headed out. Turns out there was some kind of festival going on that day in town, so I headed in to check it out. Sitting down at a little bar to watch the music, I fell into conversation with a couple of local guys. I'd just finished a great book on recent Brazilian history and was really interested to see what the average Brazilian thought of Lula, the union leader who had finally, after 3 elections and much opposition from Roberto Marinio and his Globo media empire, become president with a majority of more than 70%. Turns out the guys loved Lula, and they loved even more that I, a tourist, would ask such a question. After the music finished we headed to a couple more great little bars, and I hung out with them and their friends for a couple hours.

Eventually, I wandered away in search of the agency group and their promise of a free beer. I found them spread out in front of the office, sprawled around on yellow plastic chairs. After a couple of drinks we headed inside, shut the doors, and rolled up some of the most excellent weed I have ever smoked. Good times...

Monday 13th
As part of the trips that I had booked with her agency, Val had offered me a free night in her pousada, and I had gladly upped sticks from the grotty little place I was staying and moved over. I woke up to a breakfast impressive enough to top all the others so far. Everything you could imagine from eggs to freshly baked cornbread was spread over the table. I swear, the more time I spend in Brazil, the bigger the breakfasts seem to get!

Stuffed full, I wandered over and found the group I'd be climbing with. Enrique was leading us - a man of indeterminable age and sun wizened skin, he scaled the most difficult overhangs in nothing but shorts, a harness and flip flops! Climbing with me was a friendly Brazlian guy and two gorgeous girls.

We had a fantastic time - the trek to the slopes we were scaling was stunning, and I'd completely forgotten how much I missed climbing. It's been about four years, but I was pretty pleased with how I got on. You learn a lot about your body when you're 50 meters up and hanging by two trembling fingers! All in all a great day.

Tuesday 14th & Wednesday 15th
The next day we packed our bags, stuffed ourselves once more, and piled into a rusty old jeep in preparation for some trekking. I was with a much bigger group this time, alongside the guys I'd climbed with, there were about three more Brazilian couples (there are very few foreigners travelling off the Rio-Sao Paulo tourist trail in Brazil). We stuffed food into our packs and set off, climbing the steep terrain of the Chapada Diamantina.

Trekking was amazing. The park was full of rivers - all the same deep brown as in Ibitipoca - and we stopped near some amazing waterfalls, rainbows dancing in the spray. I managed to take a couple of photos along the way, and I'll let them speak for themselves once again.

That evening we set up camp near a roaring river. The weather was wonderful and warm, without a cloud in the sky, so camp pretty much consisted of rolling out the bedrolls on some dry rocks! We pulled out the food and wine that we'd stashed in our packs and set about whipping up a delicious dinner, topped off with more of Enrique's smooth, home grown hash.

The next day we left our packs at the camp and started down the river towards another set of falls. Jumping from rock to rock was great fun, and some of us ended up trying a really difficult traverse over the water, rather than swim. I made it the one way, but on the way back the rocks decreed that I would be swimming, like it or not! These falls were equally beautiful, the water cascading down a vast ladder of rocks, and we relaxed - swimming in the deep, dark water.

The trek back was hard work, and felt really good once everyone had gotten into their stride. We piled into the jeep, exhausted at the end of the day, and I was just settling in for a nap on the way back when Enrique tapped my shoulder and, speaking in Portugese, excitedly gestured for me to get out. I complied, confused, only to see the jeep race off without me! Turns out I'd volunteered to run the 5km back to town alongside Enrique and one other guy! I am sore today...

Thursday 16th
So here I am! Today is definitely a day of rest for this lion. I am exhausted. I'm using the day of slobbing around to try and work out my next move. The festival is in 7 days and, despite my best efforts, I've been unable to secure either transportation or a ticket! I should have it sorted soon though - I see many more nights on buses ahead of me! In question, however, is whether I can make it to Fazemda Campina and still be on time to make it to the festival. Apparently some of the dudes from the agency have been there, so I'm going to ask them for some advice. One way or another, it ain't gonna be boring!

Chapada Diamantina Trekking

If you have a 4x4 and it does not look like this then you are USING IT WRONG. (i.e. in Chelsea)

My bed for the night.

I liked these waterfall photos so much, I'm posting two of them. Lucky you!

Our impromptu wine cooler


V said...

Great stuff, sounds so fantastic, jealous.. i am.

thegirlinla said...

photos soooooo lovely. i have that waterfall one on my desktop. million miles from LA!!
hope soreness has subsided a little and that you've worked out the farming/festvalling conundrum.

lbarcaui said...

hi felix, are you in Brazil yet?
I didn't know that qhen uoy taljed about a festival it was fora do tempo, I have a friend that always say, that this festival is the one of the best that happens in brazil....i saw your photos, and I don't believe that you stayed looks like very great!!!!!I want more photos of capivari e mixila like I told you when we were there, if you can, send to my email
tell me your news, ok! Luiza