Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lençois
By Ricky Skelton
There are two amazing places in Brazil called Lençois. The first one is the old diamond mining town in the Parque Nacional da Chapada Diamantina, and what an oasis it is after Salvador! The chapadas are flat-topped mountains, similar in shape to Table Mountain in Cape Town or Monument Valley in the USA. But the chapadas are covered in trees, all lush and dark. They hide thousands of waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, taking the purest tea-coloured water to the bottom of the valleys.
There are some places where you can find yourself alone at an unnamed waterfall. I climbed up one with layers reaching further up than I could manage, all the time thinking 'Nature doesn't get any better than this and I've got it all to myself!'. That never happens back home. There are also plenty of incredibly photogenic caves in the area, with water as blue or as transparent (depending if the sun can hit it) as anything you can find. Those photos on postcards that you see in Lençois haven't been doctored. They really do look like that.
The largest of the waterfalls is Cachoeira de Fumaça (Waterfall of Smoke) which, at 400m, is the highest in Brazil. It is so high that the water doesn't reach the ground. I found it hard to work that one out too, but it is true. The small river of water separates into a fine spray somewhere near the bottom of a stunning vertical horseshoe cliff. The spray gets blown by the wind, making it possibly the only waterfall in the world where the water doesn't land below the spot that it falls from. It's a two day trek to get to the bottom, which involves rock-hopping up dried riverbeds, walking on the roots of monkey-forests, and sleeping on the rocky floor of 'caves' (overhanging rocks) next to rivers. It is quite difficult to have a shower there, as the water that comes from the tops is somehow so cold that it is difficult to get in. But once you do, that little waterfall dropping on your head is amazingly refreshing (for at least five seconds) and helps to wake you up properly after not-sleeping on rocks.
The top of Fumaça is as stunning as anywhere. The green valleys wind into the distance below, 420m down from the observation platform (a flat rock a little above the river) to the place where the water doesn't land. It is a perfect photo opp if you can look relaxed on the edge of a quarter mile sheer drop. I took one look at the bottom (with somebody holding my ankles) and I got so dizzy that I had to become official photographer. I spent longer in the waterfall shower that morning than on the edge.
The Vale do Pati on the other side of the chapada is just as beautiful, and you can kick back for a few days in Capão if you want, or trek more days up the valley. But there was a caipirinha with my name on it waiting on a table on the cobblestones, under the stars in Lençois.
You can visit Rickys blog at http://redmist-redmist.blogspot.com/
Previous articles by Ricky:
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praça Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil - The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo - always a bad thing?