Climbing and Adventures in Chapada Diamantina
Trip Start Mar 21, 2012
24Trip End Mar 25, 2013
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Chapada Diamantina National Park
Lots of big boulders, rock faces, climbing routes and waterfalls!
The peaks and terrain of the higher Chapada Diamantina
Climbing in Chapada
In researching rock climbing areas of Brazil, we found limited information on Chapada Diamantina, the diamond plateau. We had read that "the Chapada Diamantina has a dramatic landscape with high plains, table-top mesas, and steep cliffs or towers." Sounded good, but we really were stabbing in the dark whether this place would render much actual, logistically practical climbing for us!
Lindsey crushing in the Primavera area just 30 minutes walk from Lencois, called such for the Primavera waterfall many tourists walk to. Just ask anyone on the trail for Primavera and they'll point you in the right direction! With no guidebook, we just walked around until we found rock that looked climbable and then checked to see if there were any bolted lines. We were in luck! This climb Lindsey is on is in the Corridor sector, we later found out, and is a fantastic climb! Maybe graded hard 5.10 or easy 5.11?
Ben enjoying the steep moves on toprope after a somewhat spicy lead in the Bloco de Mirante sector. The quartzite forms beautiful lines like this one that are quite overhanging! This climb is maybe hard 5.11.
Lindsey climbing up So File, a 5.11B that starts on a ledge up a scramble behind the prior pink quartzite climb
Ben on a fabulous classic of the Chapada Diamantina
Ben rappelling from a beautiful arete climb on the Diamond Rock itself! This steep, juggy, with a powerful crux was awesome!
Ben reclimbing the classic mentioned above
Lindsey enjoying a stroll up one of the area classics!
After about a week of climbing, we ran into a few locals who are responsible for many of the area's routes: Luan (a very tough and inspiring climber!), her husband Gironho, and Rogario. Sorry for any misspelling of names, guys! It was great to learn from them about the area and the climbs we've been on or wanted to try! The area still doesn't have a guidebook, so being with a local who knows the climbs makes a big difference! Luan owns a guiding shop in Lencois called Fora da Trilha and has posted the names, sectors, and grades of 119 of the routes put up in this area so far, though they are adding new routes all the time! Check it out on her website and stop by if you are in town as she loves to meet new climbers:
Fun and Adventure on Rest Days
Chapada Diamontina is a 1,520 square kilometer park in the middle of the state of Bahia. Chapada became a national park in the 1980's in response to growing ecotourism and also in efforts to protect that area's natural beauty from the diamond mining that once occurred in this area.
Since the formation of the national park, the locals have found many activities and excursions for toursists, many of which come from Salvador. We took advantage of a few of these sites, and the park's beauty, during rest days!
The waterslide of the Sossego valley! That slick rock provides a super fun, natural slide into the deep pool below!
Lindsey high on Morro da Pai Inacio - the icon peak of the Chapada Diamantina highlands. You can get to Pai Inacio by taking a tour with others at any one of the many tourist agencies in Lencois, or rent your own ride and travel at your own pace. We opted for the latter, though renting a car from Lencois is expensive (about 150 reais or $80USD), so we rented a motorbike from a local guy named Mateos for 75 reais instead.
Awe the freedom a motorbike brings!
Crazy trees of the drier parts of the Chapada Diamantina
Another good reminder that we all lose our hair someday. Ben perhaps a little earlier! Summit of Morro da Pai Iniaco
A typical house in the drier parts of the Chapada Diamantina
Gruta Azul (Blue Cave), one of a few caves in Chapada with the phenomenon that brings the appearance of brightly colored pools when the sun's rays hit the water at a certain time of day
Between climbs and on rest days, swimming was fun and on many days with midday temperatures rising well into the 30s (mid 90s F), was an absolute! Lindsey chilling in the famous Serrano pools just a short stroll above the typically Bahian town of Lencois.
The town of Lencois has three grocery stores (though some close at bizzarre and often unannounced times), a couple panderias (bakeries), a fruits and veggie market, and a town market that happens on Monday mornings where most the locals do their produce shopping for the week. We bought bagsful for just a few reais there!
There are also loads of good restaurants to choose from, from basic places that serve prato freito (the typical rice, beans, and meat dish), burgers and pizza, to the more classy places that serve salmon, nice steaks, fish, and great pasta. But many places close for a couple days of the week, so if you find a place you like, ask them ahead of time if they close on certain days!
Some of our favorite restaurants included El Jamiro, a restobar that served a delicious Argentine steak and held good deals for two people (steak, salad, rice, desert crepe and a Caiparina for example).
For the best pasta in the area, go to Maria Bonita. We had a huge plate of lasagna and a plate of fettucini noodles with a file steak and gogonzola cream sauce. It seems like the secret to this place is that they must make their own noodles.
We also found this super kitchy desert place next to Maria Bonita that had the best deserts in town! Each wall is made of a different material: brick, stucco, rock, etc.. We can't remember the name, but if you ask near the main tourist street for Doces, they are likely to bring you here.
Here's an example of the desert we ordered: chocolate cake smothered in real chocolate sauce and homemade ice cream (you can get passion fruit or peanut butter ice cream with crunchy peanuts inside!). Thank goodness we found this place at the end of our trip!
The Story of Cashorro Quente (ca-sho-ho ken-chee)
During one of our final rest days, we decided to visit the neighboring valley of Sossego, and we thought to solicit a guide to take us. Cashorro Quente (Hot Dog) came highly recommended by other foreigners and locals alike back in the town of Lencois. A long-time local, he has in depth knowledge of the landscape and history of the diamond miners. Plus, his English was excellent.
Ben and Cashorro Quente in Lencois at the local guide hangout
But Cashorro Quente was already booked the same day to Sossego with another couple, so we worked out a deal that we'd meet him at the hike's destination (the Sossego waterfall) and hire him for the way back to Lencois.
The hike the next day to the Sossego waterfall was beautiful and varied. A wide, packed dirt path lead us through forested land to a series of shady, well manicured rest stops, where vacationers could kick back and enjoy a fresh juice or coconut drink.
Beyond, a slightly less friendly trail split off, making its way upward and into the Sossego Valley. Every few minutes of walking brought new terrain and views--dry, broad rock slabs, forested hillsides covered in vines and strewn with boulders, and steep and bouldery riverbeds. We couldn't wait for our walk back so Cashorro Quente could describe to us everything we were looking at!
Looking up the Sossego Valley
Hiking up the Sossego valley is really more like boulder hopping and staring dumbfounded at the potential for fun climbs on the horizontal cracks of the overhanging quartzite walls!
When we arrived at the Sossego waterfall, we were the only ones there--Cashorro's group had taken a later start. This was great us as it provided more time to enjoy this paradise in seclusion!
The Sossego Valley waterfall! Not only was the swimming great, the rock surrounding the pool was perfect for barefoot deep water soloing!
Lindsey liberating herself with some cliff jumping in the deep Sossego pool!
Ben making the "guides traverse" that spans nearly half the pool. Hey, I thought we were taking a rest day from climbing!
Where did his head go?
Another group arrived at the waterfall, and Ben made friends with their guide despite the language barrier to climb together to the top of the waterfall to look over into the next valley.
Ben and the other guide meeting up after climbing via separate routes
Made it to the top of the waterfall so now what? Ben and the guide deciding to continue up to the top of the valley
Ben and the guide at the top of the valley
While we were waiting for Cashorro Quente's group to arrive, we witnessed the most spectacular thing. A flock of birds who had made a home behind the waterfall decided to suddenly and in unison fly in circular swirls around the pool, then shoot just inches past our heads and disappear! We caught some of this bizarre activity on video. Check it out:
Cashorro Quente and his group finally arrived. Cashorro Quente, whom we also nicknamed Stinky, was not in great form. He had torn a ligament on his front right leg, which was exposed, and he had come down with a bad case of the fleas. These two things slowed their party down significantly.
After Cashorro Quente had a chance to rest, take a swim in the pools, and deal with his fleas, we set off again for the return trip. I have to admit the going was slow through the boulder riverbed. With his torn ligament, Cashorro Quente was not the most graceful and he frequently bailed climbing over the boulders. In fact, we initially were questioning his guiding skills as he would sometimes fall behind and start whimpering until we encouraged him across the rocks.
His spirit and skills improved, however, once we returned to the wooded and vine forest. Stinky knew all the spots where snakes could be and took the lead in these areas, sniffing out all the suspicious areas.
He told us of the diamond mining days: showed us remnants of old mines and pointed out caves where miners lived, including one across the river where it is told one miner still lives!
He showed us what used to be the old church and how slaves were banned from practicing religion, so when they came to this area to mine, they brought with them their own version of Christianity with dark-skinned gods and voodoo and witchcraft undertones. Some believe the remains of the old church is haunted!
Cashorro Quente also told us all about the beautiful rocks and how they tell the history of this landscape, dating back millions of years. The conglomerate boulders contained layers of pebbles, this is when there were riverbeds. Other layers of pink quartzite were dryer times when the ground was mostly sand. The different striations in the rock told of the different flow directions of the river during different periods.
Our final stop on the way back led us to a popular swimming hole. Deep pools for cliff diving and deep water soloing were perfect for ending the hike at the hottest part of the day. The rock even formed about a 100ft-long natural water slide into the pool!
Ben going for a slide
Check out this great video of Lindsey taking a slide!
While there, a man with the most peculiar mix of vanity and raw talent was showing off for spectators. This somewhat tribal-looking man had such an acute sense of body awareness and was built of pure muscle. He walked along the cliffed shore barefooted and without a moment's hesitation, springboarded himself off the cliffs with twists and flips into the pools. As he surfaced, each time without fail, he would toss his head around, throwing his tightly curled locks in the air, with a confidence and vanity that demanded an audience. This activity started to bother Lindsey after a while because his locks would often dowse Lindsey with the same spray as that of a dog just exiting the water. Let's face it, this man was Beauty, and he knew it. So much so that he tattooed an image of himself across his torso!
All this commotion didn't shock or phase Cashorro Quente. He was used to this act. You see, Cashorro Quente was not your typical young buck for a guide. He's been exploring these valleys with people for years, and after a while, the typical tourist stops along the way are his time to relax. So instead of getting all caught up in the excitement, Cashorro Quente found a nice, shady boulder to lie under and took a nap until we were ready to move on.
Cashorro Quente was also a guide with a very loyal character. When we arrived back in Lencois, he walked us all the way back to our hostel and even napped outside our doorstep until evening time when we were ready to eat. To thank Cashorro Quente for his services, we tipped him with a nice, Argentinian steak! From that point onward, we became inseparable friends for the duration of our stay at Chapada Diamantina!
Thanks to Friends
We were lucky to share part of our time in Lencois with Bruno and his wife, Nicole from our time in Boipeba. They were enjoying part two of their honeymoon in Chapada since Bruno's job at a travel agency in Sao Paulo afforded them many excursions to this destination they frequently book travelers on. It was great getting to enjoy dinners, talks, climbs and hikes with them!
Bruno and Mel boulder hopping up the Sossego River under the beautiful and tempting walls quartzite!
Also, a special thanks to Luan, her husband, Henrique, and all the others in Lencois and from other parts of Brazil such as Rio who have taken the time to develop the climbing here. You've done a great thing for the tourism here!
More Photos and Videos
More photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benkunz/sets/72157629484084140/