Exploring the Caves of Chapada Diamantina

Lencois Travel Blog

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After our intense hike the day before, we awoke to sore, stiff muscles. We were thankful that we signed up for a van tour instead of another trek. We were the first to be picked up and then the van continued from hotel to hotel to pick up more passengers. Sarah and I were the only non-Brazilians and the tour guide only spoke Portuguese. One of the nice things about Lencois is that it seems to be a getaway that is mainly for Brazilians. The only other Americans (or gringos for that matter) we met were the group of volunteers. I think foreign tourists in Brazil tend to stick to the Amazon and/or coastal party cities such as Rio and Salvador, so the less known spots in between are full of Brazilians taking advantage of their numerous long holiday weekends. The guide most likely was giving an overview of the day and after that he made a big deal of getting everyone's opinion on which CD to listen to. Once an album was chosen, everyone sang along. We didn't understand anything the guide said, but it's sometimes nice not to be catered to and it forced us to practice our Portuguese.

We drove forever through the wilderness and eventually reached what looked like a ranch-- dusty open spaces, cowboys, etc. It was our first destination, Poco Encantado or "Enchanted Well". There was a limited amount of people who could be in the cave at once and a long line of people in front of us, so we had a long wait. People bought food and were drinking beer which seemed to me like and odd beverage choice for the excursion. We sat down at a table with a guy named Rodrigo, originally from Porto Alegre but living and working in Salvador for a few months. He was taking advantage of his time in Bahia to explore all of the sights there. He had spent a lot of time abroad and spoke English. We chatted with him for awhile until it was our turn to go. We had to put on hard hats... and people who were coming back from the cave looked exhausted. Everyone clapped for the people returning from the cave as if it was a major accomplishment making it back up. These signs diminished our hopes for a low-impact day. Rodrigo had worn flip flops and the staff refused to let him wear them in the cave. So they made him put on a pair of dirty used women's Keds that were missing the laces. I tried not to, but I had to laugh and I wondered how those shoes would be any better than flip flops.

We walked down hundreds of tiny steps to the entrance of the cave. There was a big sign that said "SILENCIO." Our group completely ignored the sign. All the Brazilians were making fun of the way their companions looked in their hard hats. Sarah and I were laughing in anticipation, I think we were a bit delirious at that point. The guide was slightly annoyed with our noise. I think he told everyone to be quiet because people calmed down, and then he probably gave instructions. Once again we had no idea what he was saying so we just followed the crowd. Inside the cave there was a rope to hold on to and a steep, rocky entrance. Sarah and I laughed and stumbled down to the water, once again hoping not to loose a limb or fall down the side.

When we reached the water, it was gorgeous... clear and bright blue. There was sort of a eerieness about it because it was hard to tell wear the water began and cave ended and you could see the bottom of the lake. The guide explain the formation and history of Poco Encantado and Rodrigo was nice enough to translate for us. We stayed there for awhile and observed. Many people tried to get good pictures of the water which can be hard unless you have a decent camera and know something about photography. Eventually we grabbed the rope and went back up, which was fairly easy at that point. The hundreds of tiny steps were much more challenging. We got back in the van and drove to our next destination, Poco Azul or "Blue Well."

We stopped at a river and there was a lot of chatter about something that we didn't understand. Rodrigo told us we were waiting for a boat that would take us across the river. We stood there for a few minutes and then another announcement was made and then people started to take off their shoes and socks. And then everyone started walking across the river... ??? So we took off our shoes and followed them. There were sand bags at the bottom of the rocky river that were supposed to be stepping stones. The problem was that they were really slippery and not always where they should be. A taller older couple saw my difficulties balancing on the sandbags and were nice enough hold onto my stuff and guide me across so I could avoid falling completely into the water. But of course when we reached the other side, I was soaked up to my hips in my denim capris. Luckily, we were at a cave where we would go swimming so I had time to let my pants dry.

We had to rinse off in some outdoor showers before we could go in the water because they wanted to keep the water clean and free of our dirt. We walked down to the cave and then down wobbly wooden ladder-like steps to a wooden platform in cave. It was much like the other cave, with blue transparent water, but we could go snorkeling in this one. We put on the gear and went into the water. There were no fish or other living things, but it was gorgeous and amazing to see the bottom of the lake and the rock formations.

After snorkeling, we ate a family style lunch with our tour group while the cowboys rode by on their horses. There were basics like chicken and rice and plenty of other things that we had never seen before. We sampled different foods and attempted to make conversation with the older couple and Rodrigo. Our clothes were still soaking wet when it was time to head back across the river. By then, someone had discovered that a few yards from the sandbags, the river was much more shallow. It was painfully rocky but much better than getting all of our things wet.

Back in the van, we were all like family at that point. The guide played some music that sounded really cool and got the entire van moving and singing along. The older couple was sitting next to us and I tried to ask what it was. "Musica?" I pointed to the CD player and they told me something I didn't understand. They wrote it down- it was Seu George, I had heard of him before, but it was first time I got a chance to listen to his music. We made another less interesting stop at a river. They had beautiful handicrafts and jewelry made with gemstones presumably from the area. Nice, but it definitely seemed a bit like a tourist trap.

We got back on the road and reached a small lively town full of people. All of a sudden we stopped on a narrow street barely wide enough for our van. There was a lot of commotion and shouting and laughter and locals coming to watch the scene. In front of us it looked like some sort of festival was taking place. I had no idea what was going on but I assume the regular route we were supposed to take was blocked by the festival and getting out was a difficult task because of the narrow street and the people and other vehicles building up behind us. Eventually we had to drive back down the road in reverse and we eventually made it back to Lencois.

For dinner that night we went to what I think was just an extension of Cozinha Aberta from the night before. We were enticed by the sign in front that said "Slow Food". The restaurant was a bit larger than the other one and had seating outside in the back. It was a beautiful night. I ordered ravioli and got great handmade pasta and the freshest marinara sauce I've ever had. We were totally ready to try dessert, but by that time, we only had enough cash left for the cab ride when we got back to Salvador.

After dinner, Sarah and I wandered around town a bit more. We had heard of some parties and concerts that were happening that night, but we had to leave at 11pm and were pretty wiped out from the weekend. We boarded our bus and everyone reclined their seats all the way back. I slept for most of the 6 hour drive and woke up only a few times to see that we were in the middle of nowhere. The sun was beginning to rise as we arrived to Salvador. We took a taxi back to our house and went straight to bed!

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Lencois Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
We made the trip to Lencois and Chapada Diamantina for the nature, beauty and hiking. We weren't expecting to be blown away by exceptional cuisine, mu… read entire review
photo by: worldcitizen