Brazil; Chapada Diamantina Trek
By Karina Berg
(22/07/2011)Good friend of INTO, Karina Berg has recently been travelling in Brazil. Here she tells the story of her trip to the stunning area of Chapada Diamantina.
Travelling out of high season, you run the risk of bad weather, but generally I’m a fan – generally you get to see places without the crowds and prices tend to be lower. However, that’s not what I was thinking as I hung out in Lençois willing other travellers to arrive in order to make a group and head out for a few days trekking to Chapada Diamantina. Who’d have thought it would be so quiet?!
Lençois is a pretty nice spot to be waiting for fellow trekkers – a sleepy colonial village with cobbled streets, surrounded by some very cool spots – waterfalls, impressive rock /land formations, amazing coloured pools and caves, amongst other sights. There was no shortage of places to go and things to do to keep me occupied that’s for sure and it seemed everyone in town knew me by the end of my second day and I was approached by numerous guides offering to take me out into the park. I could have gone solo, but my Portuguese not really being up to scratch, I preferred to head out with other trekkers, so as to avoid a few days having the same basic conversation over and over with a guide who speaks little English. (There are English speaking guides, but it would seem they were taking the opportunity to rest, with most of the visitors in town at this time of year being Brazilian).
After a long weekend, it seemed everyone arrived at the same time and finally I had my four day trek sorted – five of us in total, representing Switzerland, USA, Australia (just returned from a 3 day trek and wanted to come back for more!), and me representing the UK.
Day 1 started with a 2 hour drive from Lençois to Capão, which is an even smaller village than Lençois, set in its own amazing valley. We headed out on our first adventure from there, to the top of Brazil’s highest waterfall – Fumaça - 384m high. Two and a half hours after setting off on the walk, mostly an uphill climb, we arrived at the top – stunning, dizzying views down into the lush, green canyon. Very little water fell from the top as it was dry season, however that did not detract from the incredible views and spectacular location. We crept close to the edge of the sheer drop on our bellies (it felt much safer that way), as we peered over the edge and down the canyon and valley. That first night we stayed in a simple local pousada and got a fantastic feast of home cooked food.
Leaving Capão behind us on Day 2, we headed up and out of the valley and towards the Vale do Pati – we covered a lot of kilometres that day and we had a bit of rain throughout the morning (unusual for the dry season). At times with low cloud and barren landscape we felt like we could have been trekking anywhere. However any doubts about our location, were soon clarified in quite a spectacular fashion as the clouds lifted and allowed us incredible views of the stunning valleys and flat top mountains, with the late afternoon sun dancing from rock face to rock face, as we looked down over the Vale do Pati. The sun couldn’t have shown its face at a better time.
One last haul uphill, brought our 27km of Day 2 to a close as we arrived at our accommodation for the night. Tucked beneath the towering, green valley walls we were welcomed by a simple local house, with showers, beds, towels and a hearty spread for the evening meal – what a trekking luxury!!
Vale do Pati, or rather Chapada Diamantina, has any number of routes and trekking possibilities, depending on how many days you want to go for, or whether you want to homestay with locals, camp out in caves and make shift cabins, carrying all your belongings and food and equipment. Your experience may also depend on your guide’s knowledge and experience in the area too. In the end we were extremely lucky and had stumbled upon one of the longest working guides in the region – Joao - not only did he have loads of knowledge, but he had a calm, peaceful and easy going demeanour to boot. Although he spoke no English, four out of the five of us in the group spoke Spanish and so were able to communicate pretty well and get the information we wanted from him, along with some banter and comedy moments. We really felt we’d been shown some amazing highlights from the Vale do Pati – valleys, waterfalls, views from the top of table mountains, caves amongst others.
The trip more than lived up to my expectations and was definitely worth the wait. At some point I will be back to Chapada Diamantina to spend more days exploring the natural beauty it holds within its valleys – there is so much more to see, I only just scraped the surface. I would have loved to have trekked for longer – note to self – next time take mates who also have plans to spend lots of days trekking.