Sunday 31st August: Lencois
Hola! Sorry these blog photos don´t really have any relevance to my blog but still not been able to download any photos as most internet places don´t let you plug your camera or cd in, but will do as soon as i get chance!
Sunday 31st August: Brazilian breakfast, rock climbing and a loose mule!
After another overnight bus journey we arrived in in the old mining town of Lencois in the Chapada Diamantina National Park. We met a young British guy called Felix (yes Felix?!) in Salvador who recommended we go to Lencois to do some trekking. It is a really pretty town with lots of colourful, small buildings and a much more laidback and easy living vibe than Rio or Salvador - no street crime or beggars. The surrounding national park has a fantastic landscape - mountains, waterfalls, cliffs, valleys, rivers which makes it so popular for climbing and trekking.
So we arrived very early (5.30am-ish) Sunday morning, got picked up by a guy called Henrique and headed straight to the pousada (house which rents out rooms) for a couple of hours sleep. The pousada was run by a really lovely 23 year old girl called Luan and her mum, and the housekeeper Val. She rattled in Portuguese at us (we just nodded and smiled) and served us a hearty Brazilian breakfast - homemade bread and fruit juice, fresh fruit, eggs ("eggy?"- the Brazilians translate many words with "y" on the end - very amusing!), fried bananas, couscous corn bread, pumpkin jam, etc, oh and how can i forget - ham and cheese! (the 2 things i don´t like and they serve EVERYWHERE for breakfast!).
Luan´s boyfriend, Henrique, runs a local guide company for trekking and climbing so fully fuelled after breakfast, we decided to go rock climbing. We had a guide called Jorge (a skinny, Brazilian, Mexican looking guy in his late 30´s) who took us to a 30m then 40m red rock face - it is so much easier than it looks! The rocks are sharp to grip and tiny to put your feet on - much strength required! Despite my fear of heights and screaming several obscenities on the way up, I really enjoyed it and was chuffed i´d done it.
That night we went out for dinner and whilst sat outside on the cobbled streets (amused by a random mule galloping past!), we saw Jorge and decided to do a 4 day trek into the national park of Chapada Diamantina, which is rated as the 3rd best trek in the world!
Monday 1st Sept: Trekking, trekking and more trekking.
So Monday morning we packed our Berghaus´s and set off with Jorge and his mad 5 month old dog "Manga" who was coming on his first trek. Before we hit the hills, Luan and Henrique had to drive us 2 hours to the mountains in their beaten Fiat Panda. Luan was 'still learning' as she had just passed her test and it was Manga's first time in a car - hence, a rather 'rocky' ride and lots of dog sick - eugh!!
The last 45 minutes of the drive was pure off road, rocky tracks. The car served, crunched, banged, while me, Ellie and Jorge got thrown around in the back and Manga was repeatedly sick all over Henrique's feet. These tracks were definitely made for off-road jeeps and NOT battered fiat pandas.
Finally, we arrived at the foot of the hills and set off with Jorge, Manga and our rucksacks packed for 4 days trekking in the hills. It was a hot day (prob about 30 degrees) and we had to climb up the mountain side with our heavy rucksacks for 10km before arriving at camp where we would be sleeping for the next 3 nights. There was a random small white church and two white buildings with solar power. One building had a large room for backpackers to sleep in and a `kitchen`with a wood burning stove; 2 outside toilets with showers and another building to sleep in and where Juan lived. Juan and his mule had lived there all their lives and his family had owned it for over 300 years. Despite speaking NO English and jibbering at us in country bumpkin Brazilian Portuguese, Juan welcomed us and offered me some of his homemade 'banana rum' which was cachaca distilled with banana... and very strong!
Jorge cooked us dinner, not the typical camping food of super noodles but Thai chicken with red rice and banana (DELICIOUS!!) and i attempted to learn some Portuguese - finding out that i'd been pronouncing 'coco verde' wrong and asking for a 'green s***' everywhere in Brazil, instead of a green coconut, haha! By 9pm we were tucked up in bed on mattresses with blankets in one of the buildings (very comfy!) and looking forward to our 2nd day trekking.
Tuesday 2nd September: I decked it!
Tuesday we trekked about 16km and to a ledge 2000m high which Ellie had her photo taken on, but i refrained as rock climbing had definitely not cured my fear of heights! Despite all the steep uphill and downhill trekking, in typical Fearnley style I decked it on a flat rock - grazed knees, bandaged ankle, but nose still in tact thank god! We got back to the camp about 5pm, for cold showers and I scrubbed my mule sh*t covered shoes. We made some capirinhas with the limes we'd found growing there (with no ice we were drinking pure cachaca with lime and sugar but still good!) and Jorge made homemade sweet potato gnochhi pasta for dinner.
That night another group arrived at the camp - a British guy, a French guy and a gay couple from Paris, with a Rastafarian tour guide - who was doing the whole trek, climbing, river walking, etc, in his flip flops!!! As well as carrying a HUGE rucksack with food and gear for five men and smoking copious amounts of weed (probably how he manages to trek in flip flops!). We chatted to the group over dinner, so Jorge went to the room having a bit of a sulk saying 'he didn't like other people being at the camp' - bit strange and very childish, but rather amusing
. As we had two more days trekking, we decided no more homemade capirinhas and sipped lemongrass tea made from the lemongrass growing at the camp for the rest of the evening and were tucked up in bed by 9pm again.
Wednesday 3rd September: the most incredible view!
Wednesday it was raining so it was very hardwork trekking on the VERY slippery clay ground - within half an hour i'd fallen again and had a soggy bum and dirty hands. We then climbed 10km and 1400m high up rocks (quite scary in the wet) to a cave which was pitch black. We walked through with our torches with the quartz shining in the light and arrived at the highlight of the trek: a view out over 1520 sq km of national park - amazing and clear to see why it is the 3rd best trek in the world! (I will upload photos soon as). We then had to climb back threw the cave and down the rocks and thankfully arrived back at camp with all my limbs (and nose!) in tact. Another cold shower and more mule sh*t shoe scrubbing, then Jorge cooked us rice, veg, lentil and donkey sausage stew for dinner (think it was salami but i picked it out and slyly fed it to Manga). By 8pm I was tucked up in bed for another early night - rock 'n' roll, or 'rocky rolly' as the Brazilians say, ha!
Thursday 4th August: last day trekking and another rocky panda ride.
Thursday the rain cleared up and we set off early to trek 20km out of the park. We stopped for lunch at a river and hut, where 3 Brazilian guys were hanging the intestine and other organs of a large animal (probably a mule) and cooking it over a fire - YUK!!! We sunbathed by the river for a couple of hours, Jorge found a large and poisonous spider in his bag, then we set off to complete our trek seeing even more the amazing views along the way.
Luan picked us up about 5.30pm for another 'eventful' fiat panda ride, telling us she had never drove this road before as she was manouvering a 3-point turn on a narrow road with a steep drop off the cliff. Ellie laughed nervously shouting "stop!" when we were about to go over the edge, whilst I couldn't speak or even look as she reversed several times against the edge of the road. An 11-point turn later, we set off hitting rocks and pot holes, whilst Jorge pointed Manga's head out the window to try stop her being sick. Several times we rolled back to the bottom of the hill as we couldn't make it first attempt, so Luan would rev the panda as hard as she could and screeeeech up the hills, telling us 'cars don't last long around here' - really?!?! 'Next time i'll hire a jeep' - next time would be too late for us though, so I just closed my eyes, held on best I could and hoped for the best, ha! We even encountered a herd of bulls on route and a rather rickety wooden bridge - I couldn´t wait to get back to the pousada.
In total we trekked about 56km which may not sound much but most of it was climbing up very steep rocks and using our hands to cling onto trees and pull ourselves up - the views were definitely worth it though. Along the way we saw beautiful waterfalls, spectacular mountains, massive valleys and evidence of the mining which once took place there and the subsequent coffee plantations after the diamond mining was made illegal.
When we got back Thursday night, we were just in time for the annual Lencois music festival. There was a huge stage in the square and it was packed with local people and a lot of European women with rastafarian men who appear to have visited and never left the hippy, bohemian town of Lencois. We saw the English and French guy from the trek, as well as another French guy we had met in Salvador, had a few caiprinhas from a street vendor and left after the reggae at about 1am ready for bed!
Friday 5th September: BBQ Brazilian style.
riday was our last day and Jorge invited to Henrique´s house for a bbq for his birthday, which was much appreciated as we had to check out our hostel at 12 noon, then had an 11 and a half hour wait for our 11.30pm overnight bus back to Salvador to save money on a bed for the night. We stayed at the bbq all day drinking beer and eating steak and chatting to some really cool people who made us feel so welcome (despite the language barrier with most!). We learnt how to bbq Brazilian style - cow, cow and more cow! No bread or ketchup, just a huge slab of red meat, flour seasoning, washed down with lots of cola, beer and red wine.
We left the bbq about 8pm, went to pick our rucksacks up from the pousada and killed the last couple of hours in an internet cafe. Finally, we boarded our bus back to Salvador, looking forward to an 7 hour wait at the bus station for another mammoth 27 hour bus journey back to Rio (presuming no delays this time!).
Another fantastic place in Brazil and despite the long bus journeys (and terrible car journeys!), the laidback vibe, friendly people and incredible landscapes of Lencois made it such a worthwhile and enjoyable trip... and good practice for when we do the world's number one trek - the Inca Trail and Macchu Picchu in Peru!