Sunday, 1 March 2015

Lencois

We have been in Lencois now for three days, a city 9,000 strong around an eight hour drive west of Salvador. This area is known for its national parks and more specifically it's gold and diamond mining heritage. We are staying in a small shack in the forest with bare brick walls, open gables in the ceiling, a mezzanine sleeping area with draping mosquito nets and a relaxed hammock area outside; it's also wifi free which is great. 

On the first day we went to The Serrano, a short stretch of the Lencois River where the river bed is a smooth rock surface where nature has hollowed out some swimming holes, or Calderioes (cauldrons/pot-holes) which we jumped in. The water in this area is tinged brown and some deeper parts look totally black, a colour which comes from the plants by the river beds. According to the locals, the best colour is when it looks like black tea! We explored some sand caves which seem to defy gravity with the overhanging edges and preciously stacked structures. After a walk through the town which is all cobbled streets and brightly coloured buildings, we went back to our Casa with some friends and experimented making our own Caiprinha cocktails! 
Day 2 was more full on as we had organised a group guided tour. Six of us, all of whom had met in Salvador, and Levy our guide set off for a waterfall first. In comparison to the place we visited yesterday, this waterfall was more of your typical kind: a rock face which water cascading down into an open pool surrounding by huge boulders shaped by the weight of the falling water. Because of the depth of the pool the water was so black we couldn't see our hands infront of us - a very weird experience! Combine this with the spray from the waterfall and the overcast skies it had a prehistoric feel to it which was amazing. 

After here we drove to Gruta da Fumaca, a natural cave part of an underground system comprising of over 300 other caves. The six of us donned our hard hats and torches and made the steep descent underground until we were 50m below ground level.

After a great buffet lunch of local dishes served in a mud shack in the middle of nowhere, we headed to Pai Inacio Mountain which is another main tourist spot in the Chapada Diamontina Nacional Park. 
Translated as the Diamond Highlands, this vast area covers 15,000 square miles and is bigger than Holland. In the 1700's settlements became aware of the diamond and gold under the surface and the mining began. 

At one point there had been water in the gruta so where the stalactites and stalagmites had joined together there was a completely horizontal line severing the connection where the water had flowed. We were able to get up so close to these natural wonders which was so fascinating to see just how they formed so many millions of years ago. At one point Levy had us meditating in a circle in total darkness and as strange as it sounds, the silence was absolutely deafening! 

After we had climbed the 1150m to the top, we just sat and enjoyed the natural beauty of the surrounding area and also the unique flowers and plants growing atop the mountain. The surface was made up of small craters, one of which was naturally heart shaped - a great picture opportunity!