There be diamonds in them thar hills

Trip Start Sep 02, 2008
Trip End Dec 14, 2008

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Where I stayed
Pousada Candomba

Flag of Brazil  , State of Bahia,
Monday, November 3, 2008

Well, spending a couple of weeks with my mum and dad was always going to involve some hiking, and the best place to do this in Bahia is the Chapada Diamantina, a mountainous national park 5 hours drive west of Salvador, which used to be mined for diamonds, hence the name.

Mum and dad had arranged the accomodation, hire car etc so it was very relaxing not having to do any of the planning or worry about catching buses etc, although Nige heroically did most of the driving, which involved frequent overtaking of hundreds of trucks, driving through the smoke of bush fires, and over an hour of dirt roads in the dark plus far too many 'Quebra molas' = speed bumps, put in the road wherever there was a town/village, even on the main highway, as Brazilians are obviously not trusted to adhere to speed restriction signs!

We stayed the first few days in the Vale de Capao, a pretty steep-sided valley tucked away down the aforementioned dirt road, full of alternative types who were into self-sufficiency, vegetarianism and long beards, so Nige fitted right in there from the start!  Our Pousada was gorgeous - we had a little chalet with a terrace and hammock, looking out through a wood full of monkeys and pretty birds,to the field where the Pousada grew all their fruit and veg i.e. trees/palms full of bananas, mangos, coffee beans, and pineapple, pumpkin and lettuce plants. 

The done thing in the Chapada is to hire a guide to take you off into the hills to hike (due to the badly-marked/allegedly dangerous paths), but those of you that know my dad would realise that was never going to be acceptable, so we ventured off into the hills on our own, with dad as our guide, using a pretty rubbish map and some instructions squeezed out of our host at the Pousada, who quickly realised it was fruitless to attempt to get any money out of us for a guided trip, and that he should do his best to stop us getting lost by giving us clues as to how to find the various trilhas (trails) around.

We did a couple of walks, first of all to the highest waterfall in Brazil, which due to the length of time since it last rained, was completely non-existent, but the walk was pretty, if a little hot, and we saw some cool butterflies, birds, flowers and a snake!! and secondly up to the ridge above our Pousada, which involved an almost vertical climb up a cliff, but gave us fabulous views and was a fun rock climb!

Once we'd sampled all the vegetarian dinner options in the Vale de Capao, we moved on to Lencois, a 19th century diamond-mining town, with pretty painted houses, for a couple more days of trying to go walking without a guide, with varying success.  We successfully found the Ribeirao de Meio, a fabulous series of swimming holes in the river, with a great 30m water slide, where we spent the day swimming, sliding, sunbathing and chillin with the locals, but had to take a guide through the Gruta de Lapa Doce, fair enough as the guide brought the light to show us the way through the cave!, and on a sunset climb of Pai Inacio, not so fair enough as it was a 10 minute walk on an obvious path, but at least we didn't have to pay the guy to show us the way.

Lencois is a bustling little place where the locals never seem to do a great deal, that is until nightfall and they pack little pubs and houses full and play music really loudly..we met an old American woman who shares her time between New Mexico & Natal (where she's lived on and off since the early '60's) and she was heading out to party when we were on our way home at midnight! The next day she told us she'd been asked to leave as she'd ended up going to a private party that she mistook for a bar! Dad's geology knowledge came in handy though as she had some rocks that she'd bought off some local Rasta's needing the money..sounds dodgy but the Beryl was apparently a good specimen, although according to dad, the smoky quartz was way too common! She didn't disclose how much she paid, but we're guessing it might have been a little much!

Now we've had our fill of dust and exercise, we're headed back to the coast for some beach time :-)
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