Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Brazil Day 5: Lencois
It was a good thing I mostly slept through the bus ride from Salvador to Lencois, because on the basis of the swerving feelings, the road was narrow and the bus was going fast. I didn't need to see that. Sam did wake me up once to view what might be the starriest night sky I have ever seen. I recognized the Milky Way immediately, but the rest of the stars of the southern hemisphere were a mystery to me.
We arrived at the little bus station in Lencois at 5am. Our host said he "might be able to meet us," so we hung around a little awhile and then started walking in what we thought was the right direction. A nice guy from a hostel saw us walking away and asked us where we were headed. When we mentioned that Ito was our host, he knew exactly where we were going. We were soon to find out that Ito is the sort of guy that everyone knows.
Ito actually met us about halfway. He is a 60-year old man with long dreadlocks, and he has lived in Lencois all of his life. He and his wife, Simone, have built Surya Chapada, which is what they call the little enclave of the family house and two little chalets that they rent out. It is cozy, quiet, and very welcoming. We went into our chalet and took a nap for a couple of hours. When we got up, Simone had left us some delicious watermelon juice and bananas.
We relaxed in hammocks and chased lizards for a bit, and then went into town for lunch and to see what the tour options were for hiking in Chapada Diamantina National Park. Ito, who is also a licensed guide, had agreed to take us on one hike the following day, but in order to see some of the other sites, we needed to hire a guide with a car. We found a reasonable-seeming company and a reasonable-seeming trip, and booked it for the day after next. Then we tried to have lunch.
It seems that nothing in Lencois is really open until after 12 noon. The tour companies open early because they start their tours early, but since all the tourists are gone in the morning, nothing else opens until later. We sat down for beers until the kitchen opened up at a little restaurant on the square. Stray dogs wandered in and out, sniffing for food, or just lying down in the shade. We watched one lying down in the middle of the street and not even flinching as cars swerved around it.
We finally ate a light lunch of soup and salad, and started exploring the little shops and markets. I bought a necklace handcarved from a coconut shell. I chose one with a lizard because I love to watch all the lizards scurrying around. After some more shopping, we tried our hand at reading the Lonely Planet's directions for a short hike along the Lencois river. In hindsight, I would suggest not trying to figure them out. Just go up.
We walked through town and up the riverbed where families were out washing their clothes in the pools of water formed in the rocky bed. Ito had said it was the dry season and it was particularly dry, so while there was water flowing, it was also very easy to walk through areas that would be covered in water in the rainy season. We hiked to the top looking for a promised waterfall, but found nothing.
At this point, we were approached by a guy who made it his goal to get us to hire him to take us to that waterfall. He would not take no for an answer, and while we didn't really need to find the waterfall, we eventually caved and agreed to pay him $R15 for guiding us. The waterfall wasn't that impressive due to the lack of rain, but he also took us through a sand cave that local artisans use for paintings and such. The rock in this is area is composite, which means that there are lots of different kinds all stuck together naturally. In the sand cave, you can rub away at one section, and the sand will be blue. In another, it will be red. It was nifty.
When we got back to the trailhead, the guide told us that no, it was $R15 per person, not $R15 for the group. You must have misunderstood! No amount of arguing would change anything, so we finally just paid him, and chalked it up to our one time of being ripped off. It could have been worse.
We headed back to Surya Chapada for showers and then back into town for dinner. We stopped at "Burritos e Taquitos," where we were met by the chef/owner, Joseph, who apologized that his waiter hadn't shown up and he would be doing both the serving and the cooking. We weren't in a hurry, so we sat down and watched lizards, and helped Joseph out whenever possible with setting tables and greeting other customers. Dinner was fantastic. Sam and I split nopalitos (cactus) burritos and bean tacos with three different salsas.
On the way home we picked up some Fanta and juice from the little gas station to go with the local organic cane-sugar liquor we'd picked up earlier, and spent the rest of the evening playing euchre and finishing off the bottle. A fine ending to fine day.
Travel tip: The juice in Brazil is fantastic. Watermelon juice, lime juice, pineapple juice, whatever juice. It's usually freshly blended and perfectly thirst-quenching. Try it all, with and without alcohol.