Semana Santa Sozinha: my trip to Chapada Diamantina

Disclaimer, this list is probably going to be pretty long! Feel free to just check out the ohotos!

Chapada Diamantina, a beautiful national park in the interior of the state if Bahia has been on my travel list since I first came to Brazil in 2011. I didn’t make it last year, so I knew that it had to be this year. What’s great is that I only work Wednesday-Friday, meaning that even though the holiday was only Thursday-Sunday, I could  add a few extra travel days. Yes! 

I talked to a few friends about going, but we nebere made concrete plans. Then, one Saturday, I woke up to messages in or mentor whatsapp group that all of the airlines were having mega-promoções and I knew I needed to buy my ticket. But, I was still living with Karine at the time and therefore had limited access to Internet. I found my way to UFC on Saturday, texted those same friends, and received the same response from both: “I’m still not sure of my travel dates but I’m definitely interested.” Great, but I couldn’t miss the promotion, so I bought my ticket anyway. Fast forward a little later that week and, despite trying, I ended up going alone. I don’t know if I mentioned this in my post about my trip with my family, but I spent two days alone in Manaus before they arrived and discovered that traveling alone just wasn’t for me. Despite meeting amazing people in my hostel (who I’ll talk about later), this trip confirmed 100% that traveling alone is not my ish. Happy mom? No need to worry 🙂  I ended up flying to Salvador, catching a cab to the bus stations, and waiting for my evening bus to the small town of Palmeiras. Now, if epany of you have traveled to Chapada before, you may be thinking,” wait, doesn’t everyone stay in lencois?” You would be correct. But, at the recommendation of several friends, I opted to stay in this even smaller town with even less tourist inastructure because of the prices and their glowing reviews about the hostel. I thought nothing of it at the time but, when every other gringo on bus (and three were many) got off in Lencois, leaving just me and a handful of locals, I got a little worried. I shrugged it off. The hostel was practically full when I booked, so it would be fine, right? I couldn’t help but feel this continued doubt as we finally pulled into lencois. From what I could see (around 2am, I might add), the town consisted of one fairly well lit, but deserted street. * I arrived at the hostel only to be told that I was the only guest, What had I gotten myself into? I reminded myself of my Brazilian mantra (and everyone’s mantras this country, I imagine) tudo vai dar certo, or that everything everything will work out just fine. I asked about passeios into the park and was told to ask the guy who works the morning shift around 8am. So, finally around 2:30, after close to 15 hours of traveling, I climbed into bed.

*i would later discover this isn’t true

It turns out that I was in fact the only gues in the hostel until the afternoon bus arrived. Since I was a,one, I decided not to do a passeio, hopped on the bus to lencois, and wandered around. After eating a delicious and crazy cheap ao-quilo lunch, I asked around about passeio prices, and found my way to this beautiful river where locals and tourists alike go to hang out. When I was to find the river, I expected, well, a river! This can only be described as a sprawling riverbed, filled with beautifully smoothed over rocks, and lightly running water. At certain points, there were some natural pools to sit in, and other places you just lay down and let the water run over you. The sun was hit, the water was icy, and it was awesome. Definitely a great way to spend my first day. 

 
By the time I arrived back at my hostel, two couples had arrived. success! Tomorrow, I would finally make it to the park. The first couple to arrive were Rolland and Barbara, an Austrian couple who I would soon learn were taking a full year to backpack around the world. The other couple were Claudia and Glauber. Claudia is from Natal and lives in Salvador , but Glauber is from…you guessed it, Fortaleza! We talked to the guy at the desk (and I ended up translating for the  Austrian couple the entire trip) and made our plans to go the famed Cachoeira da Fuamça and another waterfall the next day. I was so stoked. By the time we got ready the next morning, two more women (Isis and Eunice from Salvador) had joined our group and we took off! To get to Cahcoeira da Fumaça, we drove about an hour to the hippy town Vale do Capão,met our guide, and got ready for our 2hour/6km hike! 

The first full hour of the hike was pure uphill. It was definitely a challenge at times, but I felt great! I am certainly not the most outdoorsy person in the world, but I do really enjoy hiking (especially up mountais, weirdly enough). The views as we climbed were breathtaking. I know our guide had us stop to drink water and catch our breath, and the view was this spectacular prize. 

 
By the time we made it to Fumaça, it was a little past noon and it was hot. But, again, the view and the time spent up top totally made up for the heat. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been raining a lot, so the waterfall was a little dry, but I didn’t even care.

   

  

  

 We spent some time splashing in the river and cooling off before beginning the two hour hike back down. I couldn’t have asked for a better first day in the park, and we weren’t even done yet! 

  
After catching out breath, drinking tons of water, and possibly lying lying down on the ground, we decided to head out. Before heading back to Palmeiras, we stopped at another waaterfall, Riacinho.unlike Fumaça, we could swim in this one and we jumped at the chance. Literally! I was so hot that I took off my clothes and jumped right in (note: I had a bikini on under my clothes). The after was freezing and it felt so good. We spent an hour or so enjoying the water, napping on some rocks, and seeing a beautiful sunset. A great way to end the day.

We got back to the hostel and decided to shower and go out for pizza together. When we arrived, Adonai arena, the lovely older woman who owns the hostel, asked for some more translation help. Have I mentioned that not a single employee spoke english? No worries, I was told I could come back whenever I wanted and stay for free is I helped with the translating! While we were out, a young Chinese man whip live sin São Paulo, Jacu, arrived. I invited him to dinner with us and he ended up joining our group for a passeio the next day too. Dinner was tons of fun. Jacu spoke a little Portuguese, but Claudia spoke so fast that he mostly just smiled and laughed. Despite the barriers (I tried my best to translate, but we also wanted him to practice his portguese), dinner was tons of fun. Exhausted, but ready for another full day of passeios, we went to bed. 

Day two in the park was spent visiting Lapa Doce (this incredible cave), Pratinha (a beautiful clear pool with a zip line!), and climbing Morro de Pai Inácio. It was definitely more of struggle to translate while we were at Lapa Soce. The guide was so knowledgable about the formation of the cave and the different rock formations! Lucky enough, most of the geologic terms come from Latin and are the same in English, but it was still really tough. 

 
Next stop: Pratinha. Michell had mentioned this to me as one of her favorite spots, so I couldn’t wait! It should be no surprise that I was the first to get hooked into the zipline. Moreover, despite being told that I could simply walk off the edge, I chose to run and jump. Sorry mom! 

   

 We spent a couple hours enjoying the water, eating lunch, and enjoying the crystal clear waters. It was great! Finally, we headed off to Morro de Pai Inácio, another mountain. Thankfully we drive up most of this one and just hiked the last half hour or so ( although there was some serious agility required to get up this one!). The plan was to go for the sunset, but we ended up going a little earlier than planned. And thank goodness! The view was so spectacular, but it got really crowded as we got closer to sunset. It was nice to get some time on the mountain to ourselves first. It got cloudy just before the sun set, which was a shame, but it actually worked in our favor, we decided to leave a little earlier than planned because of the clouds. Thank goodness again! There were so many people on the mountain because of the holiday that there was a line to get down. And remember how I said it was tough getting up? Now imagine going down n the dark. By the time I was on the road, it was totally dark and thee was still a huge line to get down. On a separate note, I apparently seemed really confident in my descent, because I was asked by like three different people if I was guide. I guess that’s cool? 

There is no question that Morro de PainInacio was my favorite thing in Chapada. I would go back in a heartbeat. 

   
  
Unfortunately, most of the group (namely everyone except Barbara, Rolland, and I) were leaving at noon the next day and couldn’t do another passeio. We ended up going to Poço Encatado and Poço Azul, these two cool cvses with underwater lakes. It took us about 3 hours to get there on bumpy dirt roads and we arrived at Poço Encatado only to find out that you only spent like 20 minutes in the cave. I kind of freaked out. This was our most expensive passeio yet and a I had talked them into it! My concern dissipated when we arrived in the cave. Armed with helmets and headlights, we wandered about 85 meters into the cave where we saw this incredible blue pool. Our guide then told us that the pool was approximately 30 meters deep and you can see straight down to the bottom! What’s better, is that we arrived just at the right time to see this beam of sunlight enter the cave, reach the bottom of the pool, and reflect back onto the ceiling. In true Brazilian fashion, our “20 minutes” we’re really closer to 40, making it even better. The photos really don’t do it justice.

   

After returning our helmets, we ended up driving another hour or so , on even more dirt roads, to get to Poço Azul. We arrived and were told it would be 45 minutes to an hour before we could go in and that it would be a thirty minute visit (10 minutes down, 10 minutes snorkeling, and 10 minutes back up). Fortunately, our wait was closer to only 30 minutes and we ended up getting 20-30 minutes in the water because part of our group was late. Once again, we arrived at exactly the right time to see beautiful beams of sunlight stream into the cave. The water was so clear and blue, you could see straight to the bottom, which I was between 18-21 meters deep. One thing I have to mention is that I didn’t realize we would be snorkeling, and not swimming. I love swimming, especially in freshwater, but I have never liked snorkeling. I always swallow water and I feel super claustrophobic with the mask on. But, I have to report, that I went the whole time without swallowing any water. laugh if you must, but this really is an achievement for me. Once again, the phot really does not do this cave justice, but I had to include it. 

  I have never felt like more of a mermaid in my life.

My final day, I was by myself again. Well me and my awesome driver, Junior! We went to the Rio Mucugezinho and Poço do Diabo, another beautiful pool. Sadly, this zipline wasn’t open, but it didn’t matter. It was nice to have a day to sit by myself and reflect-on my activities at UFC, how to be a good mentor,and how to make the most of this amazing opportunity. I wish someone else , other than Junior of course, had been there to enjoy the beauty with me, but it was a great way to end my time in Chapada. 

  
I took the overnight bus back to Salvador, managed to get the last seat on an earlier flight home, and arrived in time to attend a belated Passover Seder with the synagogue in Fortaleza. Again, this trip was confirmation that I don’t enjoy traveling by myself, but I don’t regret going. Chapada Diamantina was just as beautiful as I had hoped and I met some amazing people along the way. 

Sorry this post ended up being so long. Thanks for making to the end and keep an eye out for more updates on my first month of class and a trip to Pipa in the near future! Beijos

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