The night bus ride from Salvador, Bahia, to the interior town of Lencois in Chapada Diamentina, went well. There was a big moon and the desert was lit with moonlight outlining the cactus and rugged rock hills as we headed inland. The bus climbed in elevation, and rocked us back and forth, much like being at sea. I finally slept and didn’t wake til we were pulling into Lencois at 5:30 a.m., with the inky night just barely giving way to the dim dawn around the edges.
Two young men got off the bus at Lencois also, and I walked with them into town. I decided to check at the Pousada they were booked at, to see if there were any available dorm beds. At the Pousada Daima Sono, I learned they had ONE LAST BED! Amazing! I took it, and slept for one hour before rising and joining the rest of the group of young people on an amazing day trip with a tour company that provided a new van and tour guide.
We all chose Tour #1, which took us first to Rio Mucugezinho, a river running red with tannic and iron. Even the rock substrate the river flows upon is a smooth marbled red and white stone – incredibly stunning! We were allowed to swim in the river’s pool alongside the trail. From there we walked the trail to a red water fall – Poco do Diablo.
From there, we went by van on to another part of the park to the north that offers expansive views of the land in all directions – Vista do Rei Inacio, in the Valley of Monuments. After stopping for photos, the guide drove us up one of the monuments itself, parked partway up the mountain, and we hiked the rest of the way to the top of Morro do Pai Inacio! Glorious views everywhere you looked!
The geology is stunning and I was glad that Brazil had put this section of its country into protection. The landscape is unusual in both formation and type of rocks. It is here in this corridor of jutting mountains and red rivers that diamonds were first mined and transported out of the country and back to Spain, back in the 1600s, if I remember correctly.
The next stop, a half hour’s drive to the northeast, was at Gruta da Pratinha. This was an stunning blue river emerging from a cave in the mountainside. We swam and sunbathed and watched the bat colony hanging against the cliff on the other side of the river. We had a buffet lunch that was served at the entrance station check-in building. Delicious food!
Our guide, Antonio, walked me down to the far side of the river to show me where it exited from the cave. Then we were off again, this time to Gruta Azul, much like a cenote in Mexico, which was clear blue cave water that goes under one side of the mountain and comes out the other side at Gruta da Pratinha. The river travels under the mountain about 27 kilometers before arriving at Gruta Azul.
Our last stop of the day was at Gruta da Lapa Doces, an amazingly large cavern system with stalactites, stalagmites, and large limestone formations that took eerie shapes in the flashlights’ beam. The cavern system reminded me very much of Carlsbad Caverns in Arizona, that my parents had taken my brothers and me to when we were very young and traveling across the country.
Our guide for the caverns was not Antonio, and this guide did not speak English as Antonia had. He carried a flashlight and a lantern, and at several stops throughout the caverns he would turn off the light and let us experience the total darkness.
It was a one-way trip, entering the cave at one end, and walking all the way through it to emerge out another end, which was where our van awaited us. I bought a fresh green coconut and drank the milk before we boarded for home – it was delicious and satisfying after a long hot day. The trip back took us through twilight to night, with stars and deep blue sky and upjutting mountainous formations all along the route silhouetted along the way.
Once back in Lencois, I walked around the town with Assaf, a young Israeli man, and purchased a map of Chapada Diamentina. Later joined a larger group of the Pousada folks at dinner in the street – we had steak and beer – the common meal here. There were 6 young men and myself, and they were all so dear! They were from Holland, Austria, Israel, Germany, Sweden and the United States. A lovely evening after a fantastic day! After dinner they continued to visit and drink, while I retired back to the dorm room for much needed sleep.