TRAVEL DIARY – the Dartmouth College Fall 2004 Portuguese LSA + Program in Salvador, Brazil.
– Dartmouth 2004 Students: Brent Clayton, Jessica Elfstrom, Jordan A. Garrow, Shaina Landau, Amy Shaw.
– Dartmouth 2004 Director. Professor Piers Armstrong. <Piers.Armstrong@Dartmouth.EDU>. Tel. Office (Vitória Campus) 71-336-4411. Cell: (71) 9918 2536.
– ACBEU Portuguese Program Coordinator and Family Placer: Professor Clara Ramos. Email: <email@example.com>. Tel. Office (Vitória Campus) 71-336-4411. Cell: (71) 9982-3524
Technical note regarding the pictures ... we are experimenting with formats to send these pictures back to Dartmouth.. if you are looking via the web and it is hard to see, please let us know by email to Piers (<Piers.Armstrong@Dartmouth.EDU>). If you are looking at them in a Word document, use Normal View mode rather than Print Layout (both in the “View” drop-down menu). Remember you can enlarge or reduce the photos as you look at them by clicking and dragging...
October 12 is a Brazilian national holiday honoring the national Patron Saint, Nossa Senhora de Aparecida. The long weekend gives us enough time to head off on another expedition. Just in time! Our intrepid students are recovering from reading an entire book in Portuguese – Jočo Ubaldo Ribeiro’s A Brazilian in Berlin, and their first long written assignment... Anyway, off we go!
We visit the region called Chapada Diamantina, in the interior of Bahia. The region is special for several reasons. First, is a tropical oasis in the middle of the desert-like backlands of the Brazilian Northeast which are called the sertčo. Chapada means high-plane. Around the town we stay in, Lenćóis, there are several low mountain ranges which create a series of distinct eco-systems. Trails traversing forests and rocky streams make for excellent hiking and in recent years eco-tourism has become the mainstay of the area. It was first developped in the late Nineteenth Century for its mineral riches; mining continues, but generally in small-scale and using traditional methods. Unlike other mining areas, many geological features here are visible at the surface. The abundance of crystals and semi-precious stones stones in the dry river beds have fomented a “New Age” culture which complements the trekking eco-tourism with organic foods, meditation centers and esoterica. As for the esoterica, we’ll just “scratch the surface;” idyllic waterfalls emerge as the prime natural feature for our sun-loving students... but even here there may be a surprise, as our pictures reveal.....
We leave Salvador and the Bay of All Saints, and the landscape turns steadily dryer..
.. honing their New Age skills, our students disregard the bumps and use the travel time to practise telepathy...
We arrive in Lenćóis. First things first.. as Bruce Springsteen said, ”The River” – but not the same one... we’re in Brazil, see?
Here we see the humungous river bed with the town in the distance, downstream...
Lenćóis means “sheets” – but no-one is sure whether this is a reference to geology or to laundry. The local women use the mountain streams to wash clothes (and sheets!), then lay them out to dry on the rock-bed...
The little kids pretend to help Mum for a few minutes, but a career in fashion is more ą propos for the modern woman
... as for Dad, he is probably working in the fields right now, despite the heat... ah, the sweetness of childhood!
OK, enough philosophy, let’s take a closer look at rocks... remember the pet rock craze?
The river bed is a sedimentary mass which captures pebbles of different stones, and sometimes slices them open. After a few milennia, the surface is perfectly smooth and a delight to the foot.
The overall perspective mixes plants, flowers and rocks and the source of all things good, water:
We settle in for the evening.. at our hotel, which use materials and themes consistent with the local environment...
The next day starts with an outing to the drylands beyond the Lenćóis valley, to see a huge pre-historic cave called Caverna da Lapa Doce. True, most caves are “pre-historic” ...
but as we leave behind a bone dry, flat landscape,
and descend a steep entry through a gorge with strange trees and rocks, and the temperature cools steadily, an eery Jurassic vibe grows stronger and stronger... .. fortunately our guide is wearing a bright yellow hard-hat, so he should be OK if there is an earthquake...
It gets hard to take a picture without getting dizzy and a bit confusing about which way is up and which way is sideways..
but the issue for us is simple: ever downwards..
getting warmer, or cooler that is...
and finally into the belly of the beast..
It’s hard to take pictures by gaslight, but here a few of the things we saw as we walked the length of this a half-mile cave...
Stalgtites, or is that stalgnites... ?
a sedimentary crystaline flow creats the illusion of a waterfall similar to the Trevi Fountain in Rome...
another piece is divided between the part exposed to clay-infiltrated water and the part not exposed.
amazing grace...a piece known as the angel wings..
still, it does get a little spooky down here...
Light at the end of the tunnel... and away we go.
After climbing up out of the cave zone back to the dry table-land, these cows seem to be saying: you want a drink, kid..
The drylands present their own curiosities: by the refreshment stand is an ancient umbuzeiro, a single fruit-tree with a complex root-base and similarly complex branch system.
Much as we respect the drylands, the urge for water is strong... we head for a nearby river, Rio da Pratinha, which flows out of an open cave and into a small lake.
The mineral composition of the water preserves a azure tone which one would never expect for freshwater, far inland. It is Sunday and the locals are out to picnic.. it’s hard to capture the perfect bucolic charm of the scene with a little camera.. hopefully it will come through in the video...
Brent and Jordan decide to try what the Brazilians call a “Tyrolean Swing”, meaning this this wire-contraption... anyway, you slide down from on-high
and land in the water on the other side..
Meanwhile, Shaina and Jessica take care of business with their close friend Sol, the solar-power fellow.
OK, back home and time to rest and then eat some gigantic steaks served over a flame at table-side... the papparazzi get a compromising picture of vegetarian Jessica, who will later try to tell The National Enquirer that all she had that night was mashed potatoes and french fries... To her right, Amy just closes her eyes... but, one more over to the right, Shaina has that knowing look...
Meantime, proud mother Clara and daughter Luisa pose for a snapshot. Please note the mask on the pillar above them and not the writing on Luisa’s shirt.. it can be explained (more or less like Jessica’s dinner), says Clara – noting the perils of translating idioms without apppropriate supervision!
Next day begins with a quick tour of local market with our faithful guide Aércio.
arguing about the virtues of various local species of fish...
In case anyone gets indigestion, or any other illness for that matter, folk medicine provides remedies, using local plants
That’s all by the by, however.. because our breakfast of fruits, cereals, eggs, cakes and various juices was delicious..
and now we are ready to climb a mountain!
We head off to nearby Mt. Pai Inácio.
At the base, we look across the valley at some other peaks, and take a group shot of the students, Prof. Piers and Prof. Clara and family. OK, it’s not Everest, but hey..
Now here we go... the rock formations are ancient and weathered...
The flat top of Pai Inácio is yet another particular eco-system with a unique species of humming bird and various cacti..
We make it up and our guide Aércio rewards us with scientific explanations and some colorful stories..
After climbing a mountain, we deserve another waterfall.. Aércio leads us to the River Mucugezinho, another mountain stream with a beautiful rock bed.
Along the trail we find an abundance of naturally occurring orchids
then a natural pool into which descends a continuous sheet of rock with water flowing over it, and which Prof. Piers just might slip over on, ...
Nearby is a bar – carved out of the rocks, truly Flintstonian..
The river bed starts to get steeper... time for a pause...
The edge of the waterfall.. or almost the edge – don’t worry, there are several broad ledges below the one you see...
and the pool and waterfall seen from below ... together with another of those Tyrolean things
Time for Sol:
and now for a swim over to the waterfall and under the rainbow...
Now back to the smaller pool, which is more suitable for carefree jumping..
and where the usually water-shy Shaina is persuaded by the sheer fun of it all to take a dip.. OK, she may be only half way in, but coming from a New Yorker in the middle of the Brazilian backlands, that smile says everything!
The next day is our last in the Chapada Diamantina -we will now travel home to Salvador and get back to the books. There is enough time in the morning for another outing, however, and Aércio has a few things to show us in the upstream area around the river in Lenćóis.
Let’s take another close-up look at those rocks. Aércio leads us to another area alongside the river, where sands of different colors are extracted and used to make miniature pictures in little glass bottles, a technique mastered only by a few artisans. The sands are in pebbles which crumble when touched and the pebbles are found in huge rock sheets which stack against each other at various angles, creating a series of chambers (Salčo de Areia). They are so extensive that visitors can get completely lost.
Here is one entrance..
Aércio explains as students watch
Another view of the sand-pebbles..
Inside a large chamber
And through a crevasse... roots grow down from tropical plants in search of water
A quick learner, Aércio also takes us to another waterfall..
and this time Shaina gets completely wet... or is she just standing in front of the waterfall?... hmmm.
Anyway, Aércio has gathered various stones along the way, and now dips them in the pool, scrapes them and extracts a series of dyes, seen here applied to his arm..
The first person he calls to apply the war-paint is Jordan, who seems to know something about all this....
Followed by Shaina..
Brent isn’t too happy about being last, and after pushing Shaina off the cerimonial rock under the waterfall, expresses his ferociousness, Maori style. Bah-Humbug! says Aércio, who thinks he should get more in touch with his female side...
Eventually appeased, Brent joins in for a group photo..
Meanwhile Jessica and Amy have decided to spend their free time back at the hotel...
All in all, the group concludes, the Chapada Diamantina “rocks”!