After a couple days of poking around the quaint and pleasant town of Lençois — the principal access point into the Chapada Diamantina National Park — we wandered off into the woods for a four-day adventure of rocks, roots and waterfalls.
Thanks to other GPS-enthusiasts out there in the vast internet we had some trails to help guide us. We woke up to rain on the Sunday of our departure and, after about an hour on the trail, already took a detour! We made ourselves a cup of coffee under a stone shelter and Nick had a go at the Riberão do Meio natural rock slide (!). His words: “probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done in nature.”
Our day continued over the Veneno Mountain, a half-marsh-half-moonscape and back down into jungly stream crossings, eventually dumping us into the large Capivara River Valley which would more or less guide us the rest of the way. Another valley, the Palmital River Valley, joined from the North, and that’s where we found our campsite for the night.
A note about the coca-cola brown water: within the park there’s a specific plant that, acting as an organic tea ingredient, keeps all of the river water brown in color. It’s all perfectly safe to drink and a couple weeks later it even seemed strange to be drinking clear water from the tap again!
The second day we made little head way in lots of time! The GPS reception was poor deep in the river canyons and we made slow progress trying to rock hop upstream and cross the river several times against a strong current. It was a fun day, though, and we arrived at the <i>toca</i> — a cave used as a natural shelter previously by miners and now by hikers — just in time for a quick swim before sunset. Unfortunately the camping spaces were crowded, the other folks around not terribly kind, and we very literally slept between a rock and a hard place!
Our third day was a beautiful day hike through a thick jungle along a dried riverbed to reach the bottom of one of the tallest and most magnificient waterfalls in Brazil. The day was full of slinging from tree branches and hopping over streams and huge boulders. After managing our way through a larger-than-life rock garden, we reached the illustrious bottom of the Fumaça waterfall. Fumaça, meaning smoke, accurately describes the effect of the 400+m water drop, where wind resistance meets gravity and continually breaks up the water particles, ending in the visual effect of smoke. The view out of the slender, tall canyon to the top is simply dizzying and the immensity of the fall makes you feel tiny.
After a night of much more pleasant company and an outstanding campspot, the next day’s task was to climb out of the Capivara River Valley and up to the plain above. The trail was stupendous and challenging, and once again we were happy to have climbing experience as we scrambled up huge rocks and out of the valley. The reward was a break at the <i>top</i> of the Fumaça falls, where a flat rock jutting out into the abyss allowed the opportunity to have a vertigo-challenging view straight down to the bottom of the falls. The rest of the hike across the plain and down into the delightful Vale do Capão, was pretty uneventful but awfully tiring in the hot sun!