Chapada Diamantina – the cap of diamonds?!?!

28 August, 2009

Driving inland to Lencois and Chapada Diamantina National Park.

So, in order to do this section justice, I must explain the fundamental rules of the Cath and Greg Adventuring Partnership:

  1. The Driver drives the car, the navigator makes no comment about his driving, choice of rental car, the state of the car, his choice of gear (for example when overtaking over a speed bump) etc…
  2. The Navigator makes all decisions relating to the route, roads, music (except if “Foo Fighters” are playing), lunch stops, lollies and direction of travel (in consultation with the GPS). However at any point of time, She, may overrule the GPS.

Roads in north east of Brasil are notorious for not being maintained, badly sign posted and in this particular stretch, even known to have “bandits” on the road.

It was not uncommon to see police vehicles with their automatic rifles already loaded on their laps so we approached this stint of driving with a little more care than what we normally do.

Progress so far:

1,300km so far to get here…

We wanted to head West from Salvador to Lencois at the edge of the Chapada Diamantina national park, which involved finding a mischievous road called the BR 116. This road may sound innocent to you, but it was extremely good at hiding. Anyway, to cut a long story (a story that went on for 140km), I had serious words with the GPS and we managed to get our directions right and we drove back to where we needed to be. Greg was very gracious and only gloated a couple times before I reminded me him of the before-mentioned rules.

And then, the following conversation happened:

SCENE: 300km from Salvador, about to turn on to the BR 242 from the BR 116. The BR 242 is described in our guidebook as “one of the worst roads in Brasil, poorly maintained and littered with potholes”. And don’t forget about the bandits!

Cath: Hey, there’s a cleanish looking petrol station over there, should we get some more petrol. It’s been a while.

Greg: Oh no, its OK, we’ve got a quarter of a tank left.

*** 60 km passes ***

Cath: Hey, there’s another petrol station, do you reckon we should get petrol now?

Greg: Nah, don’t worry, the light hasn’t even come on yet, we just got onto red.

**** 5 km passes ***

Cath: So it looks like the light has come on, do you think we should turn around and get some petrol?

Greg: Seriously, you don’t need to worry until the light is permanently on. And anyway, we’ll come to another town.

Cath: Well, it is true we will come to another town, but I don’t know how far away it is.

**** 20km passes

Cath: It looks like the light has stopped flashing

Greg: Yeah, it has. But don’t worry, we’ve got at least 60km left in the tank before it will run out

**** 2 minutes passes ***

Cath: Hang on, when did you have time to read the owner’s manual of our GM 1.4L Prisma, in Portuguese? How do you know how many km’s we have left.

**** Laughter, OK, nervous laughter

**** Cath pulls out the sat nav and figures out we have 20 km to go until we get to the nearest town. Air con gets turned off.

Cath: Don’t worry babe, you’ll only have 20km to walk to find petrol.

**** More nervous laughter

*** 10km later, Greg pulls off another master overtaking manoeuvre and then, yep, we loose power…. Luckily we were on the crest of a hill and we were able to coast down the hill, which saved us another 500m, until we face the grim reality that…

We had run out of petrol!!!!

So, Greg went hitchhiking along the bandit stretch of highway to try and find the next fuel station. Luckily the slightly scary truck driver who Greg had just overtaken took pity on the stupid Gringos and picked him up after only a couple of kilometres, while Cath stayed with the Car. Then the guys at the Shell garage 10km further down the highway found the whole incident very amusing and even offered him a lift back to our car!


Chapada Diamantina

So after filling up the car and providing the petrol station staff with some light engertainment, we headed to Lencois, but more specifically we headed to Chapada Diamantina National Park for 3 days of nature lovin… its OK, Greg stayed clothed this time.

First stop was the hotel, “Cantos das Aguas” which was literally situated next to a waterfall, and with an outdoor restaurant, massage tents, a 50m pool, and a foyer that smelt fresh jasmine, it was difficult to find something wrong with life.

The view from our room

However, we couldn’t wait for the next morning to arrive to get amongst it. So we got up early, yes, 7am! Outrageous I know, but we managed to buy a map and headed straight for what we thought was a 10km walk, thinking, yeah that will take us 3 hours. First step however was to find the start of our walk. The four locals that we spoke to shook their heads earnestly and said “you need a guide”.

Now, as an observation, Brasilians need a “guide” or “help” to do ANYTHING, unless it involves orientation to a shopping centre or a “pay by the kilo” restaurant so we were sceptical. We explained that we were from Australia/NZ, we had a compass, we had a map, we could see the sun, we understood a topography map, now show us the start… we eventually found a man who did, and we set off.

Things were a little different in a Brasilian Park, no “routes”, no “markers” etc, sometimes we found an arrow etched into a rock, but generally it was hard work. We went to see “Sorrego” waterfall, and after 3 hours of pretty hard walking, climbing, scratching, cursing, we realised we didn’t know how far we had left to the waterfall and we had to turnaround now otherwise we would miss our massage sessions that we had booked prior to leaving! So we headed back …

One of the hiking trails

The locals surf down this waterfall standing up, we tourists on our bums

Cath makes a friend
(this picture is definitely not labeled:
Cath strokes her pussy)

The rocks are stunning, a mix of pinks, greys and greens – and maybe even diamonds!

We almost made it to Cachoeira da Fumaca

Hmmm… so on reflection, we ended up walking for over 6 hours, it was great, but, um, ergh, I would recommend getting a guide!

So the next day, that’s exactly what we did, and he was terrific. His name was Aide Andrade Souza or “Ari” ( He is local born and bred, speaks English, has a great sense of humour and has the remarkable ability to literally pull me up onto rocks, trees etc …. I never thought I would do rock climbing like we did, just amazing. We headed out for over seven hours, I am still “sore” four days later, so good!!!

Kids enjoying a waterslide beside another awesome swimming hole

Another day of hiking in the hills

Next day we headed north to see the “Blue Grotto”, unfortunately, we headed out too early. You really need to get there in the afternoon to get the true effect. Still we got to see Lapa Doce, a massive cave, and once again had a terrific guide, all in Portuguese though this time.

Inside the Lapa Doce, Iron oneside, Calcium the other (much like gregs mouth)

As an aside, it is really going to be interesting to see how Brasil copes with the World Cup in a few years time. There is so much to see and do, yet there are so few people who speak English and with the lack of investment in tourism… well, I’m a little nervous.

So, overall, a massive thumbs up for Chapada Diamantina. I think we could have stayed at least a week without too much trouble …

The view from Morro do Pai Inacio

The view from Morro do Pai Inacio looking West

Bye for now!


Down the coast to Salvador….

28 August, 2009

Hi All

We’ve had a super busy four days! The time is really flying now… can not believe that we only have 7 days remaining in this terrific country (is there a word “Brasilaphile”? if not I’m claiming it). Anyhow, it falls upon to me to summarise travels to Salvador:

So here is our map of progress so far:

850km down the coast


Smelly, dirty, rough, old and a little grim. That’s exactly how I imagined her and she delivered! With such an ill fated past, stemming right back to the 1500s, she has had a fairly rough time! Still, the anecdotes from travellers past keep it close to the top of any Brasil itinerary and we were glad we went.

We got in fairly late and, thus, in true Cath and Greg form, headed straight for a restaurant called “Amado” located on the harbourside. Bahia is famous in Brasil for having the best food in the country (which is an envious title to have) and this place was a real gem! One problem with Bahia is the VERY heavy focus on prawns, crabs and lobster, I have been caught a few times with this, luckily Greg has been around to clear my plate…

So next day we headed straight for the old town or the “Upper City”. In this small area of about 1km squared, there are OVER 800 dwellings from the 17th and 18th century. AMAZING! If this were Europe it would have been sealed off years ago and had a preservation order slapped on it and had millions of EU cash spent on it. But alas, the money just is not there to do this. I understand, public funding is always a matter of prioritisation, and with Brasil education and health should always come first, but in a very selfish, Gringo way, I really hope that there is investment soon.

There are some glimmers though, we stumbled upon eight different museums covering various areas of interest; tiles, postcards, pictures, 17th century religious artefacts, really cool, and of course a food museum with a cooking school attached, which served super cheap regional food — yum! We happily got lost in this little 1 km squared for the entire day. It was raining quite a lot, and we could still not be dragged away.

the old town

dirty old town – there has to be a song in that somewhere!

its not just a church, its a really old church

its not just an old church, its a really, really old church

its not just a…. oh heck you get the idea

cobbled streets and all

so pretty

and so much more potential

But now I need to confess something. Okay, I have been into this travelling gig now for over 15 years and through many countries I have always resisted the urge to braid my hair.

But I could resist this temptation no longer!

Like a henna tattoo, like a belly piercing, like trying Yoga, like buying worry beads, it was calling me! Luckily Greg was in a sensible mood (whilst I had obviously fallen into “smelly, backpacker, do I really have a job? cornrows do look as good on blonde hair as they do on afro hair” mode) but he was able to contain my hippie urges to just one braid, but it is so cool!

rasta white chick

Greg suggested that to join in the theme he should buy one of the “100% negro” t-shirts that were on sale everywhere – probably lucky for himself, he didnt!