Lençois - walks, caves... and custard slices!
Trip Start May 10, 2009
48Trip End Nov 02, 2009
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We had a pretty uneventful 6 hour bus trip here (food disasters are no longer an event but just an accepted part of everyday life here) however, over the last 4 or 5 weeks in Brazil have discovered a new national sport - staring at gringos. Not a quiet glance, not a peek over the shoulder but a full-on-gaping-mouth-drop-what-you-are-doing-stop-blinking and STARE as if there is no tomorrow! Anything a gringo does obviously deserves a stare - walking, talking, opening backpacks, making ham rolls in a bus station, brushing teeth in a public bathroom, washing feet with wet-wipes... you know, normal stuff like that.
No rip-off taxis and our hardened attitudes got us a room in a posada for half price! Also including a much needed nap as we arrived at 5am (having had little sleep on the bus in case we gave them something else to stare at) which didn't count as a night - so that was a great start!
We took a couple of day trips to some local sights which were great. We got to see some beautiful waterfalls where we swam, massive caves with incredible stalactite and stalagmite formations and climbed up mountains to see spectacular views of the national park. We had the chance to snorkel deep into caves filled with rain water (they give you waterproof torches as its pitch dark). It was pretty wierd to see fish swim right at you as they have no eyes due to living in the dark! Also in this cave the 'sand' is white but on closer inspection its not sand at all but each granule is a perfectly formed micro-shell, probably a millimeter in size (see pics).
One particular cave that will stick in our mind forever was Poço Azul. This cave was hidden for years and used as a well for the local farmer until eventually being discovered in the 1990's. The subsequent explorations revealed an amazing collection of fossils (43 different species including 6 meter tall sloths and sabre-tooth tigers). Unfortunately these aren't on display... We swam in the water which is so incredibly clear (see the photos) that it looks as if you are floating in space!
After our little paddle around we went back to the pool (12:30pm exactly) to witness a spectacle that was something we never expected. At this time, during this month only, the sun shines directly into the cave creating an unbelievable blue reflection, almost like a laser beam shining out of the water, due to the combination of minerals and the refraction of the water. The photos are not doctored and there were no special settings used on the camera - what you see in the pictures is exactly what it looks like in real life. Has to be seen to be believed.
As we said, this image will be printed in our minds forever.
We did a couple of walks to various waterfalls and swimming spots including a fantastic natural waterslide in the middle of a waterfall! Also on one of these walks was a rocky area where artists scrape the different coloured powder from the rock faces and use it for painting.
Was a bit annoying that one of these walks that you are meant to be able to do alone, had a slightly difficult path and no maps available... However, as luck or convenience would have it, there are 'guides' waiting just at the exact point where the trail gets complicated and asking for directions gets you even more lost until you pay the 10 Reals per person for the correct directions... But I guess everyone needs a chance to milk the tourists and its all part of the package. Didn't take away from what was a great experience though!
We also met a few really great people on our tours (an Israeli couple, a French girl and some Sao Paolo-ites touring their country). The per-kilo restaurants were regularly frequented and we are now skilled at making the most of the value for money chow here, after realising (to our wallets dismay) that its not an all you can eat buffet!
Lençois is also home to one of the best bakeries on the planet. Really. At about 3pm the smells come wafting through town signalling the arrival of the most unbelievable buns and pastries. For 1 Real you can get a big, fat, custard stuffed danish with custard and guava jam swirled on top, sprinkled with glazed coconut and still warm from the oven... A certain Mrs Blake couldn't wait the 3 minute walk back to the posada so promptly squatted on the pavement to munch away with great enjoyment. I'm still working out who had the most fun, her, or the chorus of starers that gathered within seconds!
Its also very festive in Lençois - the town is gearing up for a big party this weekend and there are flags and decorations all over the town. One afternoon we found ourselves in the middle of a horse parade, the rhyme or reason for this completely and utterly random event will remain with those who understood the portuguese blaring from the massive speakers on the back of a truck leading the parade - much to the horses displeasure.
Tonight its off to Brasilia, the 49 year old, man-made capital of Brazil. Also need to get to a big city to extend our visas (30 days goes really quickly!) and hopefully find a sportsbar/hotel/internet cafe to watch the Boks v the Lions on Saturday.
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Where I stayed
Posada Sao Jose