Photos for this blog
These blog images don´t really have any relevance to my blog but still not had a chance to download any photos and I have been clicking away like a Japanese tourist. Anyway, I wrote this blog at 6am on the back of a samba singalong sheet in Salvador bus station so apologies if it´s not the best. Just had a chance to type it up now as we are at a hostel where you have to pay an obligatory 3 quid to use the internet during your stay ánd since we´re only here for 2 nights and it´sd raining I´m pretty much hogging the computer.
I´m now back in Rio again after another ridiculously long journey (6 hours from Lencois to Salvador then a 6 hr wait then 27 hrs to Rio). My feet swelled up like an old grannies and they still haven´t gone down! I look like I´ve got trotters ha ha! We only stopped off here so we could buy some more havainas and have a manicure and pedicure after our week of trekking and cos it´s so cheap! Surprised they didn´t charge me double for mydisgusting feet though -unsurprisingly to most of you my feet now stink and I´ve gassed out the entire hostel dorm with my sweaty trainers (I have washed them honest!)
So back to this last week -we´ve been in an old mining town called Lencois in the Chapada Diamantina National Park and it´s been yet another amazing week. The town itself is very pretty and the scenery is stunning; We arrived at 6.30am last sunday morning and a guy called Henrique was waiting to pick us up and take us to the pousada we had booked. We went back to bed for a couple of hours and then woke up to a really good breakfast Brazilian style -fried bananas, couscous corn bread thing, pumpkin jam, fresh bread and juice etc. (Not like me to go on about food -see this is becoming a recurring theme!) The room we have is ensuite and including brekkie costs about 8 quid each a night. The pousada is run by a really lovely girl called Luan and her mum and then there is Val who does the cleaning and cooking (she rattles on in portuguese at us and we just have to nod and smile at her). Luan´s boyfriend is Henrique and he runs a local guide company for trekking and climbing so we got stuck in striaght away and went climbing that day with a guy called Jorge. I´ve never climbed before but I loved it and it´s definitely something I want to do again -maybe in New Zealand. Jorge was really lovely and kept laughing at us asking, "are all english girls as crazy as you two?!" We must have made a good impression though as when we asked Luan about trekking he wanted to take us. So we organised a 4 day trek into the Chapada Diamantina. That night we went for dinner at a really good Italian restaurant recommended by Jorge (apparently the same family runs a Brazilian restaurant in Italy!) We sat outside on the cobbled streets and were only midly surprised to see a mule galloping through the street, there are a lot around here.
The next morning we set off on our trek with Jorge and his 5 month old puppy Manga -the first time Manga had gone with him on a trek so we were honoured. Luan and Henrique took us to the starting point of the trek 2 hours away by car. It was also the first time Manga had been in a car, she sat in the front seat with Henrique and was subsequently sick all over Henrique´s feet (who was only wearing flipflops). The dog ate most of it but it stank the car out for the rest of the journey. It wasn´t the best journey for any of us -Luan has a Fiat Panda and you can´t even call the tracks we went down roads, it´s probably the only time a 4x4 was definitely needed.
The first day trekking was spent getting to the hut whichb was to be our home for the next 4 days. We only did 10km but with heavy rucksacks, a temperature of around 28 and climbing up mountains this was enough to begin with! The hut we stayed in belongs to John who lives there on his own. His family have been there for 300 years but now the Chapada is a National Park there is constant debate as to whether he should be allowed to still live there. There is one building with a big empty room for backpackers to stay in and a `kitchen`with a wood burning stove for cooking on; 2 outside toilets with showers in (not too dissimilar to the modern wet room!) and a building to sleep in. Oh and randomnly a small church!! The room we stayed in was luxury -we had mattresses and it was pretty comfy although I got rained on inb the night and Manga took to trying to sleep with us. We kept having to push her off as she´d picked up ticks along the way -not the best present.
In total we trekked about 56km which may not sound much but most of it was scrambling up rocks clinging onto trees -the views were definitely worth it though. On the third day we hiked up 1400metres and went through these huge old caves to see the most incredible views over the 1520 sq km of park. It was pith black but with our torches you could see the quartz shining in the rock (Kate and Jorge were getting a bit fed up with me as I had to keep winding my torch up and it makes a really annoying noise -tis very useful though thanks Dad!) There are amazing waterfalls and swimming holes and there is still evidence of the mining done there as well as the subsequent coffee plantations from when diamond mining was made illegal there. The forests are home to lots of plants and animals but we didn´t see any of the jaguars Jorge told us lived there. In fact we didn´t see too much wildlife -apart from humming birds and loads of really annoying horse flies, although Jorge did put his hand in his rucksack and pulled out a massive spider -not posionous but still.
We were extremely well looked after during the trek -Jorge is an amazing cook and this wasn´t any supernoodle job -we had all sorts of stuff including sweet potato gnocchi, thai chicken curry eith red rice and bananas, caiprinhas made from limes picked off the tree outside and water infused with lemongrass fresh from the park. Bedtime was about 8pm as it was pitch black outside, we were shattered and there was nothing else to do. On one of the nights another group of guys arrived with 3 french and 1 english and a brazilian so we stayed up and chatted to them although Jorge went and had a bit of a sulk! He told me he didn´t like it when there were other groups there and disappeared to bed! The other groups guide was a very cool rastafarian dude who is married to the English woman who runs the local hostel. In fact there seems to be a lot of European women here who are with rastafarians and the whole place has a very bohemian feel. This guide sold bracelets in his spare time, did the mountain treks in flip flops and smoked copious amounts of weed (probably how he manages to do the treks in flip flops).
Typically it rained and was rubbish weather for 2 days, which apparently is not normal for winter but Jorge obviously doesn´t know about the little rain cloud that seems to follow me around (did I mention its currently raining in Rio -the first time for about 3 weeks). The last day was beautiful and as this was a mostly flat walk across the huge open spaces it was perfect. Luan came to pick us up on the last day at a different point but we had to trek up part of the ´road´ as she couldn´t get the car down. We were a bit nervous when Jorge casually informed us she´d only just passed her test and was ´practising.´Not great when these roads were even worse than on the way there. It was pretty funny in a ridiculous kind of way; Luan trying to reverse on a narrow track on the side of a mountain and me nervously shouting stop when we were about to go over the edge; Manga running alongside the car so as not to be sick; Kate closing her eyes terrified when we had to make several attempts to get up some of these steep mountains and Luan telling us, through the smell of burning rubber that this was the first time she had come along these roads in her Fiat and wouldn´t be doing it again!
When we got back we were just in time for the annual Lencois music festival and considering the size of the town the stage was huge! There was some really interesting stuff and we met up with the English and French guys we met on the trek (its a very small town) aswell as another French guy we had met in Salvador. We had a few caiprinhas and left after the reggae at about 1am definitely ready for bed!
Friday was our last day as we decided to get the coach that evening back to Salvador to save money on a bed for the night. In the daytime we went over to Henrique´s house for a bbq to celebrate his birthday. We stayed there all day drinking beer and eating steak and chatting to some really cool people. Luan let us keep our bags at the pousada so when we eventually left the bbq at around 8 we hung around the main square for a couple of hours til the bus was due. I´ve loved it here and was definitely in my element -George you would have hated it!
Tomorrow we´re heading south to an island called Ilha Grande for a couple of nights and really hope the weather picks up and the little cloud decides to go and pester someone else.
Hope everone is ok, please email - would love to know what you all up to and if there´s anything interesting news from England?!
Lots of love Ellie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx