King of Diamonds
18.08.2006 30 °C
Thursday 17 - Sunday 20 August
Our latest overnight bus journey ended in the pretty town of Lencois early on a sunny Thursday afternoon. The cobbled streets and brightly painted rustic houses seemed a million miles away from the shiny, retro-space-age rat-race of Brasilia. The last rush in Lencois - for diamonds - ended 100 years ago, leaving behind a picturesque, friendly and relaxed town.
As soon as we stepped onto the platform of the tiny bus station a man approached us and asked where we were staying. Accustomed to hotel touts at bus stations, we gave him the name of the hostel we'd booked. Immediately, our man made a phone call and gestured us to wait. Minutes later, another man materialised and guided us through a maze of winding backstreets to our hostel; what service!
After being cooped-up in Brasilia and spending more time on a cramped overnight bus it was time to stretch our legs again and so we booked a hike to the Cachoeira da Fumaca (Smoke Falls) - Brazil's highest waterfall - for the following day.
Friday 18 August
Our guide for the day, Jorge, arrived at the hostel bright and early and herded us into a minibus for the two-or-so-hour journey to the Vale do Capao, our starting point for a 12 kilometre round-trip walk into the hills outside Lencois to the waterfall.
Once again, the day was hot and sunny and despit Jorge explaining that the walk could be taken 'at our own pace' we ended up trying to keep up with the energetic few leading the way. But, as ever, the effort was rewarded by the wonderful scenery:
The waterfall itself is named 'Smoke Falls' because the water is dispersed into a fine mist by the wind as it falls over 1000 feet to the ground. As the sun catches this fine water mist, a beautiful rainbow appears...
Hot, bothered, dry and dusty, Jorge led us back down into the valley and on to one final stop; a large pool beneath yet more waterfalls where it was easy to cool down...
Back in Lencois, we rounded the day off with 'cooling down' of a different kind in one of the alfresco bars dotted around the cobbled town square.
Saturday 19 August
Something (hopefully) a bit more relaxing today. A nearby wetland area of the Chapada Diamantina region called Marimbus is reputed to resemble the Pantanal; having enjoyed that place so much we just had to take a look...
Today's guide was Eric, and he drove us and another couple 18 kilometres along a bouncy red-dirt road to our starting point at the river village of Remanso. Here we boarded canoes and took a leisurely two-hour paddle along the mirror-calm Marimbus River, passing through sections of dense vegetation and negotiating the occasional fork in the river until we reached what appeared to be a small beach.
On Eric's advice, we removed our sandals and stepped onto the sand; in the midday sun it was scalding! We quickly hopped to the water's edge and followed it.
A short walk along a wooded track eventually brought us to our next destination, a series of pools interconnected by waterfalls where the Rio Roncador and the Rio Sao Jose meet.
The noise generated by these falls has earned the Rio Roncador the nickname 'Snoring River'.
In the heat, no-one wasted time in stripping down to swimmers and enjoying the cool waters, with Eric giving an impromptu (and dangerous looking) diving demonstration.
The time came for our return, and Eric decided that he would show us an 'alternative' route back to the path that would eventually lead us back to the kayaks. Unfortunately, we didn't realise that Eric was making up this alternative route as he went along and thus we found ourselves clambering over high rocky promontories and slippery sections of river bed. Despite the grazed shins and battered feet, our enthusiasm peaked when Eric explained that we were in the midst of the diamond fields, and that tourists had been known to find decent-sized specimens. No such luck for us though...
Sunday 20 August
And so, a lazy Sunday. The idea of booking another tour crossed our minds, but the office in the hostel seemed shut for the day. As we sat in the communal area wondering how to spend our day, we started chatting to David, a fellow traveller who was (is?) motorbiking his way around the world. Being of a social nature, we cracked a few beers and began sharing anecdotes of our travels and travails. Before we knew it, a pile of cans had mounted before us, and the afternoon was wearing on for evening. Our last evening in Lencois; we´d had a great time here, and to finish off we returned to a restaurant that we´d discovered a couple of nights earlier which does a cracking Thai red curry. Tomorrow, we would move on to Salvador - a town that David and another traveller had warned us would be ¨in your face¨.