Friday, January 30, 2015

Eco Tourism Part 1

So, we wake up in Seabra, have breakfast at the little hotel,  and we are on the road by 8:00.  Down the same tree lines road with pot holes and oversize trucks to maneuver.  As we drive along we get our first views of Chapada Diamantina National Park which our destination Lencious sit on the edge of.  A beautiful park approximately 15,000 square miles in size filled with natural beauty just waiting to explore.. OK... time to learn... Chapada means "a region of steep cliffs" in Brazilian Portuguese and soon we begin to see these cliffs  with plateaus above as we drive down into the valleys. Unfortunately on our journey we did not encounter any Diamantina which refers to diamonds found here in the mid 19th century.  
Around 8:30 we stop at an abandoned gas station next to Pai Inácio Hill.  1150 meters above sea level this massive rock structure protrudes high above the  forest-covered valley.  Folklore says it is named for Inacio,  a slave who fell in love with a might colonel's wife.  When the colonel found out about this love,  he contracted hit men to dispose of Inacio and they ended up chasing him through the forest until he was trapped on top of this rock formation.  Instead of coming down and being killed,  Inacio decided to jump using his lovers umbrella to pass by the hit men.  People say he was seen running through the valley after his great leap but he never came back for his love.  Well,  on today's journey we do not see Inacio, but we do see a peace bus parked at the
abandoned gas station and its inhabitants walking around enjoying the day.  They are traveling through Brazil and invite us to take photos,  We ask them about hiking up the Pai Inacio Hill and they inform us we just missed the driveway leading to the path going to top.  After a few photos of the landscape with and without the bus.  We hop back into the car and retrace our journey the 1/3 mile to the dirt path with a local vendor setting up shop at the point where it connects with the asphalt.  We don't get far up the little dirt road and we come to a closed gate.  The sign states the path is closed until 9:00 which is actually just right around the corner.  Do we wait or do we head out.  I guess the view above is simply spectacular, but
when we ask the vendor about details,  he states that you never know when they will come to unlock the gates.. It could be 9 or it could be 11,  you just never know.  We decide there are other things to see so we move on passing the idle bus once again.  In hind site, I wish we would have waited around a while.  I have seen photos of the view from the top and I think the day would have been perfect for a climb.  It is however, one of those things that cannot be changed now and I have added it to my must do next time list for this area.     

We arrive in Lencois (with an accent under the c and above the o . Len-soys..) and lodging is our first venture of the day, but before I write about this I will learn a little about this city of approximately 10,000 residence.  Referred to as the gateway to the Chapada Diamantina because of its location it was once known as the Capital of Diamonds.  As you can guess, this region was settled after the discovery of diamonds in the area.  People flocked to this small mining town in search of fortune.  Once a wealthy area,  the economy was stagnant for many years as the diamond boom ended and the soil around was not very rich.  Fortunately over the last several years,  eco-tourism has brought this area alive again as many visitors from all over the world come to explore the amazing waterfalls,  long winding trails, deep canyons, crystal blue water pools and complex of limestone caves.  Well,  back to our journey.  It seems when we travel we do not make advanced reservations and end up sleeping where we can find room. In Lencois we travel up the cobblestone streets where it dead ends into the Hotel de Lencois  We stop to take a look and
although we think it is not in our budget we decide to ask anyway.  As we wait for assistance I have to admit that I am hopeful it is something we can manage.  A beautiful pool, courtyard and dining area seem to complete the hotel overlooking the town.  To our surprise we hear about a wonderful eco room (ceiling fan - no air conditioning) which would fit the budget, but before we are able to book, they needs to see if the current guest who is supposed to check out today will be staying additional time or not.  It may be a while so we take the opportunity to look at a couple more hotels and then venture back as we find nothing else to our liking.   Excited about the possible room we make our way back only to be disappointed as the current guest has decided to stay.  Back on our quest,  we travel back down to the main market area where we saw a guide post for tours early and decide to stop.  Luiz inquires about cost and ends up booking a guide for the day.   His name is Sergio and he will join us for the day. Although we are still searching for our hotel he squeezes into the car and informs us he knows a good hotel.  Down the bumpy streets we drive and soon we turn onto a narrow car lined street.  Ok, the hotel is not quite as nice as the one we had found but the price is good and we are anxious to get the rest of our day going so we unload our bags and set out for an adventure under the direction of Sergio...
Tour Guide Sergio
Peace bus - Brazil
Ants made of rocks.. Hotel of our dream!
Old City Hall - Lencois Bahia
Inside the dream hotel..

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