Claires travel pages
Claires travel pages

Chapada Diamantina (Diamantina National Park): The trail of the Cachoeira da Fumaša (Smoke waterfall): A 3 day adventure in the wilderness!!!!

The town of Lenšˇis is a tiny colonial gem tucked away in the mountains to the West of Salvador. There are a number of excellent hikes in the area, leading either to waterfalls or mountaintop viewpoints. Some of these sights are far enough to require transportation, but quite a few you can find with your own two feet. It is possible to organise guided trecks along some of the more popular routes. Trecks can last as many days as you like. The most famous waterfall in the park is Cachoeira de Fumaša (Waterfall of Smoke), so called because the thin stream of water slipping over the 335m (1,100-foot) precipice fades into a thick, fine mist before it ever reaches the ground. This is the waterfall that I decided to treck out to during my stay in the area.From the bridge in Lenšˇis a trail leads up beside the Lenšˇis River to the Serrano swimming hole and Primavera Falls. An hour's walk south of town will lead you to the RiberŃo de Meio rock slide, a huge natural waterslide flanked by many natural swimming holes which are fantastic to bathe in after a long day hicking in the surrounding area.

The Diamantina park is also known for its mesalike mountain formations. The most famous are Morro do Pai Inßcio (located right next to BR-242 west of Lenšˇis), the 1,067m (3,500-ft.) Morro do Camelo, and the 1,403m (4,600-ft.) Monte Tabor (also called MarrŃo). All have trails to the top, and from the flat top of any one, you have the entire Chapada spread at your feet.Caves are a fascinating aspect of the Chapada Diamantina Park. Some of the best-known ones in the area include Gruta de LapŃo, a rare sandstone and quartzite cave over 1km (1/2 mile) long from end to end. It's located about 5km (3 miles) from Lenšˇis. Further afield one finds a number of the more traditional limestone caves, with rock flowers, stalagmites, and stalactites. The prettiest cavern may be Gruta da Lapa Doce, which extends 850m (2,788 ft.) underground. In the same area is Gruta da Pritinha, where an underground river emerges into the sun. Inside there's a large pool where you can dive and swim. Nearby is the small Gruta Azul. Late in the afternoon when the sun reaches into this cave, the water glows cobalt blue.

Cachoeira da Fumaša: My 3 day adventure

Having emptied my rucksack at Christineĺs (a French lady) house and sorted out what I needed for the trek (described as "a little easier than the Inca trail by the lonely planet") I walked out of the little mountain town of Lenšˇis with about 13kg on my back and a nice cheerful guide called Emerson. Right now I will tell you that he looks a little rough, unshaven etc, but is really good company, a fantastic guide, a certified paramedic, and member of a mountain rescue team as well as a member of a helicopter rescue squad and a volunteer in the local forest fire fighting team. Anyway, we set out, superman and I, nice and easy, along a sandy track. About an hour later we reached a river, which we crossed, jumping from stone to stone, before starting our first long climb up the first hill. Now before you go wondering, this trek was hard, maybe not quite as hard as the Andes, but definitely hard work, although maybe not in a difficulty wayů just the length of the climb more than anything. Our first climb was a long one and our rucksacks were heavy at this point. It took us quite a while to reach the top where we rested for lunch at a place called Toca da Onša (jaguar cave) with fantastic views over the surrounding valleys. After lunch we started a long descent into the first valley. This was very steep with huge boulders bigger than me, so it was a lot of clambering and jumping etc but I managed fine. In the evening we arrived in the valley, near a river, where we stopped for a swim before putting up our tent, making a fire and cooking dinner.

Next morning: Day 2. Having risen with the sun at around 6am, we first of all headed off for a freezing cold swim in the river, in a lake at the foot of a gorgeous waterfall. This was really refreshing and certainly woke us up ok. In fact it was magical, the waterfall was in a kind of glade and the pool was surrounded by eerie mists and plants. We then had breakfast and set off along the trail, up the riverbed. Now if you remember the film "Last of the Mohicans" and can picture the mohicans running up riverbeds in all their splendour and glory, that was exactly the kind of thing we were doing, in fact the whole idea, atmosphere and trail was very similar to the film, going up river beds and up high straight mountains along small hidden paths etc... Day 2 we walked up the valley to the bottom of the Cachoeira da Fumaca, had lunch and then headed back to camp for dinner, swim, tent sleep etc... I slept like a log and didnĺt here a sound of the 3-hour long downpour that apparently woke everyone else in the camp up (there were 38 peoples in camp that night with all groups put together. The camps are designated spots so as to not harm the environment and it is a good laugh in the evenings).

Day 3, today, we woke up, had another swim, and then, after a huge breakfast of porridge (funny how I always eat porridge on trails and how it actually seems to taste nice when your out of doors) we set off on what is described as the mighty climb! Straight up! UP, UP, UP!! Incredible.... the climb was steep, very very very steep and quite hard, we went straight up a vertical hillside to get out of a boxed valley. The views were amazing as we rose out and it was a relief to reach the nice flat sandy paths at the top. We climbed right above the Cachoeira da Fumaša, which incidentally happens to be the highest waterfall in Brazil with something between 350 and 400m of height.... the views from there were really incredible.... fantastic. We then walked nicely along an easy path on the top of a flat area before clambering down some more rocks to the village below. From the village we waited for a few other walkers before getting into the back of a pickup and heading off on the 2-hour pickup journey back to Lenšˇis. In the end it was a nice, satisfying and incredible 3-day walk that I thoroughly enjoyed. I certainly sweated enough!!! This is a trip that I would recommend very strongly to anyone who likes the outdoors and/or trekking. It was fantastic.

Where to stay and find a guide:

The easiest way to get to the Lenšˇis is to go by bus from Salvador de Bahia. The French lady I stayed with is called Kristine Nicouleau (email ). She can accommodate small numbers of people or can help you find both guides and hotels in Lenšois. She speaks French, English, Spanish and Brazilian. My guide, who comes highly recommended, was called Emerson Assis (email ). He can organise trips all around the area if you ask him nicely. He's a good laugh.

Getting Around Lenšˇis:

All parts of Lenšˇis can be reached by foot in less than 15 minutes. Excursions to the many caves and waterfalls can be arranged on site and usually include transport . Car rental is best done in Salvador.

Useful facts

The Banco do Brasil, Praša Horario de Matos 56 (main square), is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm. ATM is open 24 hours -- PLUS/Visa only. There's Internet access at Pede Trilha, Rua Miguel Calmon s/n, opposite the market hall (tel. 075/334-1124); it's open daily from 8am to 10pm. Connection costs R$0.90 (US30ó) per minute. For laundry, there's Lavandaria Brillante on Rua das Pedras s/n (tel. 075/334-1524). Cost is R$3/kg (about US45ó/lb) to wash, dry, and fold. For first-aid and medical supplies there's Pharmacia Maciel, Av. 7 de Setembro 50 (tel. 075/334-1224), open daily from 8am to 8:30pm (will close Sat-Sun afternoons if business is slow). The post office is at Av. Sete de Setembro 18. Open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Disclaimer: Opening times and prices may change


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