On Thursday we arrive in Lençóis at 6 in the morning. We really don’t have a clue what the plan is now. Marcelo, our Couchsurfing host in Salvador, told us we should come here for the beautiful nature. From all sides we’re getting harassed by people who want to sell their hostel beds and tours, quite annoying if you just woke up from your coma. Although, that’s just Riny, because I didn’t sleep much on the bus. Of course I was afraid that we would miss our stop, and it was so cold in the bus that I couldn’t sleep.
At the bus station, we meet an Italian backpacker, Alessio, and together we go find a hostel. He speaks Spanish quite well, which apparently almost everybody understands here. Unfortunately we arrived at the village 2 hours too early, because everything is still closed. At 8 am we get some breakfast in a nice, small place that has WiFi, so we can try to find a cheap hostel. The WiFi here isn’t as we’re used to, we can only find a signal all the way in the back of the shop, halfway down the stairs. So this is where we’re all standing.
Luckily, the staff is really nice, and they don’t mind if we stand there. One of them starts showing us pictures of her youth, and immediately adds us on Facebook. She makes the most delicious breakfast fruit bowls, like the acai bowl, which is very famous here and we will probably encounter a lot more in Brazil. In Holland this fancy snack costs you half a fortune, but here it’s a common daily dish.
Online we can only find very expensive hostels, so we decide to take our very heavy backpacks up the hills of this small village, and go ask for the prices in several pousadas. After about 2 hours, I’ve had it. I’m done dragging all our belongings through the streets in this bloody heat. I really feel like we’re walking in circles. That in combination with my lack of sleep makes me very cranky. Eventually we find a nice hostel with breakfast included and warm showers! That last one isn’t common here at all. When the shower head is plugged into a power plug, there’s a slight chance of warm water, but it also feels like there’s a slight chance of being electrocuted…
In this hostel the water keeps shifting from very hot to very cold, so I’m spending more time on adjusting the temperature than I am on actually showering. The mattresses on the beds are so thin, that you’re basically sleeping on the wood. And we’ll have to sleep under a woollen blanket, because the mosquitoes sting right through the sheets. But hey, we shouldn’t complain, because we’ve found a cheap hostel.
In the afternoon we go on a nice, but tough and warm hike to a waterfall. It’s raining season here at the moment, but so far we haven’t seen any rain. This is the reason that the biggest waterfall of Brazil, which is also in this park, is completely dry. The waterfall where we’re going should still have some water, so let’s hope this is true. On the way up we walk through dry river beds, and every once in a while we find a natural pool with still some water in it, where we can plunge ourselves and cool down a bit. When we reach the top of the mountain and the waterfall, there is indeed some water left. But it’s more a shower than a waterfall. Luckily for us, it’s just enough water to stand in and fresh up.
In the evening Riny and I go out for dinner. This only costs about 10 euros each, but because we’re not very hungry we share a plate and save 10 euros. I know it seems weird, but at this point we think that 10 euros for a plate is quite a lot. It also seems a lot more because in Brazilian Real the price is 30. During our meal we find out that today is Valentines Day! Isn’t that romantic. So we order a cocktail to celebrate, with the amount of alcohol of about 10 cocktails… Then it’s off to bed.
The next day we’re searching for the best way to explore the near (but too far to walk) sights. They have plenty of tours, but they cost like 150 euro a day. That’s a little bit too much for us. We decide to rent a car for 24 hours, a Volkswagen Goal for 60 euros. We inspect the car really well for damage, and even film it, because in our experience car rental companies just try to screw you over as much as they can. Luckily this guy doesn’t seem to care that much and we put as many crosses on the paper as possible.
Then it’s off to Poço Encantado. This turns out to be a beautiful cave with a very clear, blue lake. It’s the one you see in Google Images when you Google for Chapada Diamantina. The admission is quite expensive, but it’s still a lot cheaper than the day tour, with the rental car included. We’re guided down a long stairs into the cave. At some point we need our headlights to see where we’re going. In the cave there’s an opening, so the sunlight gives a very nice view on the very blue and very deep lake. It’s so clear that you can’t even see where the water starts. Very, very beautiful. Unfortunately it’s pretty dark so it’s very hard to make pictures. We just try to absorb this moment and keep the memories of the silence, the bats and the beautiful image forever in our minds.
On the way back up, which is by the way very hot and sweaty, we see some very cute, little monkeys. First time ever that we see any monkey in their natural habitat!
Now quickly to the next cave, where we can swim! Poço Azul. The roads here are far from what we’re used to. 60% of the time we’re driving on sand and dirt roads, full of bumps, holes and rocks, so very slow. We arrive a little bit too late at the next cave, and on the wrong side of the river, whoops! Luckily, the water level is quite low and we can just walk through the river. There we meet a guy that seems to work at Poço Azul. He tells us that it just closed for the day, but he offers to go and ask if we can still have a quick swim. Of course, this will cost us a little bit more. Of course! Oh well, those 3 euros are totally worth it. We didn’t spend our whole day on slow dirt roads for nothing. We take a shower, put on a life jacket and walk down to the cave with our goggles and snorkel. It’s super quiet in the cave, and the guide tells us to calmly slide into the water, and also swim very calm. This is amazing! The rocks we see above the water, we can also see under the water, and there they are even bigger. It’s very surrealistic but so nice. It’s almost sundown, so sometimes we swim past very dark corners of the cave, it’s kind of creepy. Of course I can’t help myself and I have a quick look into one of these corners. Then a bat comes flying at me and scares the sh*t out of me! Whoops, apparently I disturbed him in his day sleep. For another 3 euros, the guide will take some pictures of us. We didn’t bring our camera for nothing, so we give this to him and he starts an excessive photoshoot. Luckily for us, he never dared to ask for the money. I think he knows that he’s exploited us more than enough.
When we get back to the car, we have a small problem. We want to cross the river, because we don’t want to go back this same, slow, bumpy road. It’s much faster to cross the river, on our way to Gruta Azul. A group of people pass us, and they even speak English! That is very rare here in Brazil. They tell us that a lot of normal cars have crossed the river here, but that they don’t dare to do it themselves. Riny has a different opinion about this… He jumps in the car, and off he goes, into the river. I’m very scared, because I wouldn’t know how to get back with a broken car and I don’t really feel like paying a 1000 euro fine for damaging the car. Although I think this piece of junk isn’t even worth that much. Luckily it all goes well and we can still drive all the way up north, to Gruta Azul, the same night. Here we find a dark spot to park and try to sleep in the car. Good night!
In the morning we get up at 8. We’ve already seen some people going towards the cave, so it should be open by now. It costs us 10 euros each to visit 2 caves and swim in a very clear river. It’s still very early, so not too hot, and when I put one foot down into the river, lots of small fishes start nibbling on my toes. So no swimming for me but later today we’re going to swim in a waterfall anyway. Sounds way more appealing! The first cave is very beautiful. It has an enormous opening so there’s lots of daylight. The cave that we actually came for is a little bit disappointing. It’s too early for the sun to reach the cave, so it’s still very dark. Luckily for us, the pictures turn out to be more beautiful than the actual image.
Quickly we drive to our last stop, Poço do Diablo. A waterfall in a lake you can swim in, not far from Lençóis. Lucky, because we have to be back at 11.53 am to return the car, and it’s already 10 am. We have just enough time to have a nice swim, all the way to the waterfall. Lovely! The sun is already quite present, so we don’t feel cold at all.
We stop for gas on the way back and at 11.43 am we’re back to return the car. It gets inspected, and they are unable to find any new damages, hurray! No extra costs, that’s a relief. At 1 pm we take the bus to our next destination in the National Park, Vale do Capão. But don’t expect the buses to be on time in Brazil… This one arrived one hour later than scheduled. But the seats are the most luxurious we’ve ever seen. It’s almost a mattress.
The bus takes us to Palmeiras, where we have to take another bus to Vale do Capão. This rusty, old van is far from comfortable, and we worry about our bags, that the driver put on the roof. The doors don’t close very well and the seats are broken.
In Capão we meet a Danish couple and a Brazilian girl. Together with the Italian guy we try to get a good deal for a hostel. Eventually, everyone is still in different accommodations, but we plan to meet up with the Danish couple in the evening. We’re staying in a cheap hostel in a 4 bed dorm, but we have to wait 2 hours until the previous guests have checked out. No such thing as check-out-times here. While we’re waiting, a Brazilian couple arrives, who just came back from a 3-day hike. They speak English very well and give us their whole itinerary for the hike. So now we have a map with all the sights on the track for Vale do Pati, which is where we wanted to go anyway! Our host at the hostel doesn’t speak one word of English, so he uses the Brazilian couple to find out how long we’re going to stay.
In the evening we drink some locally brewed beers with our new Danish friends, Peter and Matilde. We decide to do the hike with the 4 of us, leaving the day after tomorrow. The next day we’re busy packing and sorting out our things. What are we bringing, and more important, what are we not bringing. We want to leave as much weight behind as we possibly can. It’s possible to store our belongings at Peter and Matildes hostel. In the afternoon we see them again to arrange the last things.
I also try to find a white t-shirt in the small town, and some shorts. Unfortunately this town is so touristic that it’s impossible to find something affordable. The town is also full of hippies, so lots and lots of very nice wide pants and colourful accessories. We decide to give up the search and go to bed. Tomorrow we have to rise early to leave for Vale do Pati.