Leaving Chapada Diamantina

We had one more night in Lençois and it happened to be the town’s birthday. We settled in again at Villa Serano and sorted our dirty washing, because everything we took was filthy from rain and mud. After a rest and some relaxation, we headed into the town of Lençois for our last evening in Chapada Diamantina.

We dropped off our laundry at the only laundry place in town, then watched two marching bands, who were there for the town’s birthday. They matched down to the main square, while drumming and trumpeting up a storm. Both marching bands had their own unique style and were highly entertaining.

Next, we met Mona and Tye at the Nas Alturas travel agency office, before heading off to have dinner together. We ended up having dinner in the same street as our first night in Lençois. Shortly after sitting down, we had a pleasant surprise, Myriam from the first 2 days of our trek found us and joined us in a festive dinner.

The 5 of us sat around drinking Caipirinhas and sharing stories. Barbs and I had a local dish called Filé Mignon, which turned out to be one of the best fillet steaks we had ever had. Loving the food, loving the vibe, loving life… After a festive evening and swapping contact details, we walked back to Villa Serano for a much deserved night of rest.

Our morning consisted of a relaxed and short walk up a nearby trail with Myriam, then we headed down into to town to fetch our laundry and grab a juice. Our flight back to Salvador was at 2pm, so we needed to be at the airport by 1pm. We arrived on time, checked in, but the plane was delayed for some 3 hrs. Nothing that we could do but make the most of the time by reading and chatting.

Our flight back to Salvador was pretty bumpy due to the storms, but we made it back fine and our driver Paulo picked us us despite the fact that we were 3 hours later than expect.

Paulo took us right back to Bahia Cafe where we had stayed the week before. We could now shower and rest. We had a fairly early start on the morning of the 20th December, we had catamaran boat tickets from Salvador to Morro de Sao Paulo. Exciting prospects, change mountain life for beach life.

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Chapada Diamantina National Park and Vale de Capao & Pati

In the morning of the 13th December we were fetched by the tour company Nas Alturas, there was another lady joining us called Myriam from Brazil and then we fetched Mona who was staying down the road. We were all introduced to our guide Tye, who was a Frenchman. We were transported to a small dirt road where our trekking adventures would start at the foot of Morro do Pai Inacio, one of the flat topped chapadas in the Chapada Diamantina nation park.

We started the walk with a view of Vale do Cercado and the Tres Imaos (three brothers) mountains. The hike was largely flat and took us past Morrao, another picturesque chapada. The 5 of us stopped at the Aguas Claras swimming for a swim and some lunch. The break was cut short by rain, so we started a brisk walk.

Along the way I noticed quartz crystal and managed to find some incredible clear crystals with amazing symmetric shapes. I spent the majority of the last part of the hike looking for crystals and managed to collect quite a few little beauties! At the end of the hike we found the Nas Alturas vehicle waiting for us, Barbs, Myriam and Mona got into the vehicle while the guide Tye and I ran back to the small quiet village of Capao.

Charming Capao

We arrived in Capao and I was immediately taken by this village’s rustic nature. We were staying in a beautiful little Pousada with the most amazing garden. I took a shower and left Barbara reading while I headed into town to buy a beer and scope out something to do or a place to eat for dinner.

I found two places for dinner, the first was a pizza place that sold pizza by the slice and the second a vegetarian restaurant. I continued to explore the little village to see what else was happening. Capao is a quiet village with mostly hippy or simply alternative people living there. Shops and restaurants were very affordable and people friendly.

Barbara, Mona and I headed into town together much later after having a rest and relaxation session. We went over to the pizza joint first, they served devine pizza slices, the base was just perfect and for 6 slices we paid only R$15. Next we went for some veggie food around the corner where i proceeded to stuff down loads more yummy food.

The highest waterfall in Brazil

Our first morning in Capao we woke up around 5am, it seemed like our body clocks had still not fully adapted to the time zone. We lay in bed reading and chatting, it was so good to be on holiday. Around 8am we headed off to the breakfast table and had some interesting food for breakfast, so delicious.

The plan for the day was to hike up to the top of the Cachoeira dos Fumaça, which is the highest waterfall in Brazil. A driver picked us up from the Pousada after breakfast and shuttled us a few kilometers to the start of the trail. We checked in at an office at the bottom and we all made a donation. 20000 people per year hiked the Fumaça, each donation goes towards preserving and protecting the mountain and especially fires that break out periodically during the dry seasons.

I ran up the trail ahead of the rest of the group and it felt great to get a rush of endorphins going. I waited for the rest of the group higher up on the hiking trail and absorbed the incredible views that were in front of me. Once the group caught up, we all walked to the waterfall together.

The waterfall was so high that the water disappeared into vapour, I crawled to the edge of an overhang viewpoint and looked down to see an unnervingly high drop down to the bottom. We walked down to a nearby rock pool and had some lunch for the next hour or so. Before leaving we snapped some more photos from a different viewpoint, the spray that the waterfall produced was amazing.

After our photo session we walked back down the same route we walked up, so I ran ahead and pushed some speed on the trails, bouncing from rock to rock and splashing through the streams. We headed back to our Pousada in Capao for a rest, then went into town for pizza at a different place. OMG, some of the best pizza I have ever had. Bed time after all that food and beer.

Valley vistas of Pati valley

At breakfast we found out that Myriam would not be joining us due to an injury, so the rest of the trek was set to be just the 4 of us – Barbara, Ashley, Mona and Tye. After breakfast we were shuttled to the start of the our longest hike during the week of trekking, it would be a distance of 22km when we were done. We walked out of Vale do Capao up the Bomba trail, at the head of the valley we were presented with stunning views all the way down Vale do Capao with verdant chapadas up on either side.

After traversing the meadows of Gerais do Viera and the Rio Preto, we stopped for lunch at a rock pool. With some lunch to fuel us along the remaining hike we marched on eventually getting a good view point that looked down the Vale do Pati, giving us a glimpse of where our final destination would be for the day.

We walked down a steep rocky trail and then I ran up a steep incline on the path ahead. That was our last climb for the day, after which we headed down into the Pati Valley. We arrived at some simple local accommodation and were welcomed by the family that lived there with some wholesome delicious food and even some cold beers.

Terrenrial downpours and a day of rest

That night we heard some rain started, all was still fine, but suddenly we started hearing thunder, seeing lightening and then it started…. The rain poured down harder than it had rained in that region in many years, it rained so hard that the roof leaked a fine mist onto our beds. Barbara struggled to sleep as the frightening weather beat down on the little cottage we were sleeping in!

The next morning we found out that all the rivers had flooded and there was no chance of us walking anywhere. Our hike up to some near by caves had been cancelled, so we all sat around reading and relaxing, which was quite pleasant with the beautiful birds, kitties getting scratches and plants around where we were staying.

We packed up in the late part of the afternoon and headed to a new house about 10min walk down the path. We could move earlier in the day because all the streams had merged into a raging river, which blocked our path. The new house had panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. Early to bed for everyone after a tasty dinner together.

Above the big waterfall

Barbs and I had a pretty bad night’s rest, so we woke up feeling stiff and miff… It had rained all night and the double mattress was too big for the bed frame, nothing a bit of Brazilian coffee couldn’t sort out!

We started off on our walk fairly early, first we took our bags to a new house about another 10 min walk up the path from where we were staying. On arrival, we realized the new place was a big upgrade on the previous two places. The family running the accommodation was much bigger, so there were more people to work on the buildings and garden. The garden was especially beautiful with a host of flowers, the cosmos flowers specifically made the gardens light up with incredible color.

All we did was drop our bags off at the new house, then start off on a hike up to the Cachoeira big waterfall, which was approximately a 9km walk one way and same distance back. The first part of the path was foreign to us, but then Tye said we had walked a stretch already, I didn’t recognize the path, but then I clicked, we walked the path as we entered the Pati Valley.

I took a run up ahead and chased down some mules with their owners, I love chasing down people ahead, it’s great fun. When I got on top of the chapada I waited for Mona, Barbs and Tye, then we walked the rest of the route together. After a few kilometers we headed down another path which lead us toward the forest surrounding the waterfall. The forest was incredible, it was a mash up of trees, ferns, roots and moss, making a beautiful wonderland.

We popped out of the forest a the perfect rock pool and mini waterfall where we would have lunch and take a swim. We dropped our bags and head to the big waterfall, what an incredible site, we saw what few people normally get to see and that was a raging mass of water exploding out of the rock. The waterfall was not created by a river or stream, it was pouring out of the rocks in many different locations. In some cases the water made it to the valley below, but the main waterfall disappeared into a fine mist like the Fumaça. Tye took us to one more view point to see another perspective of the raging waterfalls.

We headed back to our bags to munch some lunch and swim a little. While doing this it felt like a Steven King story as the mist started creeping through the forest around us and spreading around the area we were sitting. Next the rain started and it was kind of cold, so we packed up and headed out at a brisk pace.

I decided to run the last 7km or so, so I took off and ran like wind. The trails were sodden with water, which made running tricky, but I kept pushing. The rain had subsided a little once we got back onto the chapada, but soon it started to pour down again making the clay paths like slippery snot. I arrived back at the little cottages about 1 hour ahead of the others, so I took a shower and started reading.

That afternoon we all relaxed whiled appreciating the beautiful surroundings. Tye had suggested we watch TV, I thought this was a bit odd until I saw what he meant, there was a bench with a view of the mountains that was like a high definition infitinite sized LED TV screen. I made a new feline friend, this kitty sat on my lap and drooled on my for ages, cutest little creature.

In the evening after dinner, Tye joined the family in a music session. There were 5 men and 2 young boys all making music in harmony with one another. Barbara, Mona and I watched in awe as the 7 of them made what Tye dubbed peasant dance music, we felt quite honored that they were comfortable playing with us present. Bed time after the music session.

Out of the Pati Valley

The morning of the 18th December, we hiked out of the Pati Valley away from the beautiful chapadas we had grown accustomed to seeing for the previous few days. The hike took us back up the path we took down into the valley and up the steep rocky decent. When we had hiked into the valley, the path was not quite as damaged and wet, leaving was a different story.

As we got to the top of the chapada and walked across the Rio do Preto meadows the rain started up again. At first it was a fine drizzle, but over time this increased and so did the water flowing in the streams around us. We could not cross the river, which was normally the route, due to the river being raging torrent of water.

Luckily there was a bridge further up the trail that we could use to cross the river, this is also what the local families used when they crossed with their mules. We had lunch on the bridge, but this was cut short by a downpour, so we started hiking on the trail again.

We walked down the Morro do Beco towards a small farming town of Guine. The steep trail down had become a stream, it was great fun running down the rocky & watery decent. We had little to no visibility going down the trail due to heavy cloud, which was unfortunate because we would usually have incredible views.

Due to us pushing along quite fast, we finished the hike back in about an hour faster than expected, which meant that the driver had not arrived. We decided to into the town of Guine and find the driver there. We were lucky as we quickly found the driver, who then drove us back to Lençois. The journey back was nearly 2 hrs, so we were super happy to arrive at the Pousada we stayed in 6 days earlier called Villa Serano.

Historical mining town of Lençois

Barbs and I woke up after a solid night of sleep at Bahia Cafe, Paulo picked us up shortly after breakfast and shuttled us to the Salvador airport for our domestic flight to Lençois. The Salvador airport was much more attractive than the Sao Paulo airport that was ugly as sin. We didn’t mind hanging around the Salvador airport while waiting for our flight and managed to do a little shopping as well as grab some Bob’s burger.

We boarded the small 2 propeller plane and took of to our next destination, Lençois, all very exciting. The flight was only 45min and we travelled about 450km to a tiny little airport, by far the smallest airport I have ever seen. As we were waiting for our luggage, we met a young French woman called Mona, who was also being fetched by the same driver and it turned out she was doing the same trek as us.

Our driver was picked us up and drove us 22km from the airport to the small diamond mining town of Lençois, as we drove in we could see this town had maintained its heritage and the old architecture, this immediately caught our attention. Mona was staying in a small Pousada near to us and we were staying at Villa Serano up on a hill overlooking the town.

The weather was not very good, it was raining, which meant it was not possible to do the planned walk up to some nearby waterfalls, we were not phased as we were still jet lagged. That evening Mona, Barbara and I met up with a guide who took us on a walking tour around the town. Our guide explained the history of the town and show us all the highlights in under an hour, which illustrates how small this little town really is.

After the tour the 3 of us were free to find a restaurant for dinner, we decided on a small place that had chairs set out on the cobbled streets, in the evenings these streets were blocked off to vehicles. We tasted some local dishes, local drinks and swapped stories about France and South Africa. The 3 of us really enjoyed our evening together and felt like we had got off to a good start. Barbs and I were pretty tired still from jet lag, so we decided to head home after dinner for a much deserved sleep. We needed to prepare ourselves for the impending trek…

Salvador and the start of our Brazil 2013/2014 trip

It was Tuesday 10 December at approximately 3am and our alarm went off. We had a taxi picking us up just before 4am, so we slowly got ready. The taxi arrived and left, he didn’t see us waiting outside, so he drove off, what’s the chance we are going to wait outside on the street in Woodstock at 4am. Anyways, he came back, fetched us and took is to the Cape Town International Airport.

Our flight was only at 6am, so we arrived with plenty of time. The SAA check-in counters were not even open yet, so we queued with all the rest of the people. The first leg of our flight was to OL Thambo International Airport in Johannesburg, from there we checked our luggage through to Sao Paulo and waited for our flight to start board.

Barbara and I have a tradition of buying some goodies at duty free, we bought our usual 2 liter bottles of hard tack, 2 bottles of perfume and some M&Ms. This always signifies the start of one of our epic overseas trips, this would be a special trip as it was our first trip to Brazil and our first Universo Parralello festival.

Our flight to Sao Paulo went without a hitch, we landed and got our bags, then we headed to the domestic part of the airport to check-in for our last flight to Salvador. While we waited, we tried our first Brazilian beer and I bought some Havaianas. We had a fairly long wait before our Salvador flight and it was slightly delayed, which after a long journey felt like an eternity.

We eventually boarded the plane, it was a 2 hour flight to Salvador. The day really felt like it was lagging, but it was probably because we were tired. We had arranged for somebody to fetch us, we were concerned because our flight was late and when we walked out nobody was waiting for us… It turned out that our driver was waiting at the wrong side of the airport, so once we found him we packed our stuff into the car and headed to our hotel called Bahia Cafe. The drive from the airport was about 50 minutes, so along the way our driver Paulo filled us in about the history of Salvador and some tips on what not to do.

We only checked in around 11:30pm at Bahia Cafe, but that was no problem, we were glad to be settled. We both took a quick shower and hit the town, because Tuesday nights were party night. We took to the streets and bought a famous local drink called Caiparinha made with lime, sugar and Cachasa. We kept walking, the streets were fairly quiet, but we could hear music, so we decided to sniff out the party.

The buildings all looked so old, but had beautiful architecture. Drink number one died quickly, but around about the same time we found where the music was coming from and where to buy another Caiparinha. Feeling festive, we decided head into one of the houses where there was live music, try our hand at dancing to local tunes, at the same time we ordered our last Caiparinha, which was the cheapest and strongest drink of the night.

While tring to dance to the music, I realized I was failing badly when a local guy tried to show me the moves, it was a slow leg shaking movement, either I was too drunk or incapable of moving that way… Anyways, it was fun to watch the local people dance and have a good time. The last drink was however the nail in the coffin, Barbs and I stumbled back to the hotel with little memory of the walk back and passed out solidly.

Afro Brazilian Cultural Capital

After an incredible breakfast at Bahia Cafe and some much needed Brazilian coffee we were picked up by our driver from the night before, Paulo. He took us on a tour by car to see some of the highlights of Salvador. It was hot and humid, so we were great full to be in an air conditioned vehicle.

The tour started at the Lighthouse and the fort of the All Saints Bay, we then headed through the streets towards the market of the Lower City close to the port that brought in boats from Africa. We ascended to the Upper City and stopped at the Lecerda elevator to take in the incredible views of the bay amongst the impressive colonial structures.

Next we headed to the squares and narrow streets lined with the colorful buildings around the Pelourinho, which is considers to be the heart of Salvador and historical centre. This square still contains the whipping post where Africans were sold as slaves. Paulo filled us in with as much of the history as we could absorb. During our walk around Paulo warned us constantly not to walk down certain side alleys, actually most side alleys were a no go…

We spent the afternoon relaxing back at Bahia Cafe, our body clocks were not yet in tune with the time zone and we were extremely hungover from our Caipirinha escapades the night before. In the evening we headed out for a buffet dinner and a Capoeira show, but we faded really early and decided to sleep in preparation for our journey to Lençois the next day.

Cryptic Symmetry High Tech Gwaing Party

Drove to the party from the end of the Cape Pioneer, the organisers were the Cryptic Symmetry Records crew and the name of the party was Phantasmagory V4, very appropriate name.

Put up tent

Bike on back of car

Neighbors were rad

Sunset as amazing

Decor was dark

River amazing

Best sets for me were on Sunday morning, Killawatt (Byron), then Higherwattska (Byron and Corbin) and then Highstyle (Corbin), amazing music