Saturday, January 7, 2012

LAST BRASIL POST!! (Just took me 4 months to post it, isn't suspense beautiful?)

You can only go to the beach so many times. FALSE. Being able to walk to the beach after class was a luxury that I could definitely could have gotten used to, and I don't think I ever would have gotten sick of it.

All that aside, I was happy to change up the pace a bit on our last excursion to the interior Lencois. A group of 14 Northeastern adventurers made the six hour trek west late on our last Brasilian Tuesday. After battling sleep and stiff bus seats for what seemed like an eternity, I finally gave up and settled for the sunrise (not my last one) as we rolled into Lencois. Because it had been dark our entire trip we hadn't seen any of the landscape changes, so it almost felt as if we'd been dropped in this other world. Busy roads, buildings and sand were replaced with quiet cobblestone alleys, stucco and rocky hillside.
Still groggy, our pack climbed the hill to our pousada and immediately prepped for our upcoming jaunts into Mother Nature's playground. And even though I'm just fooling around with the words, Lencois and the surrounding area really is an outdoors playground. Our first day we hiked up a river valley over and under boulders until we made it to a 60m waterfall and pool for swimming. Our guides Puma and (Thomas) Edison dove off high rocks into the dark pool under the waterfall and were quickly followed by half of our group. We even got a chance to jump from a 15m (~45ft) cliff and there were enough cameras there to prove it!

On our hike down, our guides brought us to a natural slide aka water flowing down some slippery rocks. In all honesty it looked less than enticing and pretty rough, but I figured foi agora ou nunca (it was now or never) and I went for it. Despite the next day's bunda bruise, it was pretty wild to slide down the rock into the pool at the bottom carrying some solid speed. Definitely a good end to a long day of hiking.

The next day was a bit more expensive, as it included four destinations wrapped into one whirlwind trip. I thought about it for a second, but glad I took that leap of faith. We traveled a bit further out from Lencois and got a much broader perspective of the surrounding landscape. Mesas, plateaus, semi-arid desert, rift valleys, rivers, waterfalls, caves, it was like a 4th grade geography lesson in the flesh. Finally seeing what previously you only read about is an amazing feeling. The landscape was very similar to that of southern Utah, but much greener, unbelievable that we were only six hours from our beachy Salvador. After another waterfall and cliff jumping excursion we went to Lapa Doce, the largest cave in South America. It's so big in fact that half of it has yet to be explored! It's been a while since I've felt that small, but yeah, it was pretty intense. After the cave we hit up a tourist trap area called Pratinha. It boasted a beautiful lake/lagoon, but after all of the excitement of the past two days, it really didn't hold a candle. That and the fact that everything cost money (nothing's free in Brazil). I came as close to being a pirate as I may ever be when I started away on 'free' paddleboats across the lagoon just to learn from the boat's owner that I owed him 10 reals for 15 minutes. Nao obrigado amigo, woops.

The real highlight was our final stop: the sunset atop one of the morros (hills, more like mesas, but hey). The view from the top was UNREAL. I could not believe we were in Brasil. I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for sunsets, but this one was just a perfect end to an eventful day. You could feel the contentment of the entire group, it was a really peaceful snapshot with some good people, que legal.

That night we were able to enjoy the fruits of being in a backpacking town, eating at this AMAZING Brasilian kitchen on a tip from a fellow nature junkie. The best part about the backpacking culture is that it forms this very complex web of communication that is dedicated to helping travelers find the next cool (and usually affordable) spot. In our case we lucked out, as we had an old angel cook enough food to feed 10 of us for a mere 7 reals each! Arroz, feijao, ensalada, frango, carne, peixe, pimenta, you name it, she cooked it. A satisfying end to a great day.

Lencois rounded out our whole Brasilian experience, adding a different element to the whole trip. We were able to satiate our craving for adventure on a backpacker's budget and also see a new side to the ever-active Brasil. i understood the active beach culture, but had no idea it extended to the interior. Lencois sponsors a rich backpacking tradition with hikers, travelers and thrill-seekers alike gathering to enjoy nature's bounty. In conclusion, it seems I've unintentionally created an ending catchphrase through the rest of my posts, so here it goes: It was truly an experience I'll never forget.

But really, I won't.

Ate mais tarde Brasil..

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