Hiking through a Diamond Plateau – Chapada Diamantina, Bahia

Bang Bang Bang. It’s 5 in the morning. Police lights are flashing and crowds of people are standing around. Our bus rolls into Lencois and I wake up from my light sleep as the bus jolts to a start. My first thoughts are, ‘Merja, what have I brought us to! Is Lencois actually a poor-ridden suburb ladened with violence and desperation?’

I mean that’s what it sounds like right?

Quite the opposite! Carnival festivities are still continuing as people let off crackers, and march around with masks, flags and icons of festivity. It was just an unexpected wake-up to overnight bus journey through Bahia.

Even though we had little sleep that night we decide to get straight into exploring Chapada Diamantina. As each of the tour guides proudly explained to us each day we were there, the area of Chapada Diamantina is bigger than the entirety of a few countries such as of Holland, Israel and Belgium, with geographical spectacles of caves, mines, waterfalls, water rich in minerals – so we had plenty to see.

Day One – Serrano

For the first day we went with what our Pousada, Pousada Dos Duendes offered – the walk of Serrano. It was described an easy to medium walk, but the trek towards the top of the final waterfall was quite arduous. We start by walking through the Salao de Areia which are walkways made completely of rocks and sands of differing pale colours.

IMG_0181We head towards Cachoeirinha and walk barefoot alongside the flowing river. Our guide got us out of our shoes and at some point knee-deep in the water. Quite slippery actually and I did slip off one of the rocks at one point.IMG_0191Finally we reach Primavera, the final waterfall, which was a relief to reach after clambering up and over rocks and steps.

IMG_0193In all, I guess it was a good starting trek as it finished just past midday so we could head back and recover from our sleepless night.

Day 2 – Grutas e Morro do Pai Inácio

We arrange another walking tour over breakfast with the help of two other German girls who spoke Portuguese. We organised this one externally from the Pousada we were staying at, so as to get a cheaper price.

**Ahh i’m currently just so exhausted writing this. My body isn’t sore, it’s just tired after the long day..

Anyway, at 9:00 we meet our guide for the day. He can only speak Portuguese, but with the help of the two German girls we get by fine. The majority of this trek is done by car (ironic hey, but as you know Chapada Diamantina is big) so we hop into his car and head to Poco do Diablo. Let me just say, this guide is a skilled driver, considering he overtook most cars and successfully avoided the countless potholes scattered across the highway.

It’s a bit of a trek down to Poco do Diablo. Once again shoes come off and we wade across and alongside the river. They really like us walking through water at this place. Poco do Diablo, is my favourite waterfall so far. The water that looks like coca-cola continuously gushes down and temporarily rests within a good-sized swimming basin, before running down the rocks and further along the river. We stop and swim for a good 40 minutes. Once again this guide emphasises the benefits of this water, but swimming through it, you can’t see much at all.

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Our next stop is the most important – lunch! I try cactus! It comes prepared like a bean salad with a bit of seasoning and chopped up bits. It looks like a green vegetable that should taste bad, but it taste delicious!

After our lunch stop we each get flash lights and walk to the Gruta do Lapão to explore the underground caverns actively creating stalagmites and stalagmites. By active I mean an average growth rate of 0.13 mm a year. While we don’t see too much action we get to absorb the darkness and see the water flow down through the ground into the cave dripping through stalactites in the roof depositing calcite and creating stalagmites.

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Our final stop is at the Morro do Pai Inácio, one of the top attractions of Chapada Diamantina. A half an hour steep walk gets us to the top of the plateau and rewards us with a panoramic view of Chapada Diamantina for as far as the eye can see. Our guide tells us a tale of a forbidden love between a black slave a white maiden, which forces the slave to escape to the hill in order to avoid the wrath of the girl’s father. Their love is never reunited but the black lover is able to escape unscathed from the father’s anger.

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Day 3 – Cachoeira da Fumaca

The trek we have been meaning to do since we arrived.. apparently the most strenuous, the most expensive and the most sort after: the 340m tall waterfall, the second tallest in Brazil, know to the locals as Smoke Falls – Cachoeira da Fumaca was conquered today.

One American, one Portuguese, two Australians and a Brazilian guide hit the road. Our guide only speaks Portuguese so Andrea our Portuguese companion translates for us. We drive for close to an hour and a half, skilfully avoiding the potholes and the countless trucks that are transporting soya beans from the south in towards Salvador. This guide is a lot more informative than the previous ones and we learn that diamond mining has stopped since 1995 and only one area is allowed to continue for the time being.

Arriving at the base of the mountain, we take the hike up to Fumaca. We’re mentally prepared for “strenuous”, which I think makes the experience easier. The pace is good, the views keep getting better and with interesting company we make good progress. It’s a continuous 40 minutes of climbing stairs until we hit flat ground and walk more inland to the point of the waterfall.

Like the saying goes.. its all about the journey up. The waterfall itself has little water at this time. There was a big downfall a few weeks prior but there’s since been little rain. But peering over the edge and watching the water descend into the pond far in the distance is still incredible.

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As a wise friend once said: ‘Each droplet of water is needed to make the greater whole, each playing their part.’ – paraphrased from Diana 2016.
I mean she can be wise… sometimes. 😉 Or perhaps when facing such a natural wonder we’re invited to reflect on our own part in the universe and profound words fall from our month.

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We stayed watching the cascading, enjoying a hearty pre-packed lunch for over an hour before heading back and finishing our final day in Chapada Diamantina with a cup of acai in the streets of Lencois.

 

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