By Joshua Rapp Learn, Contributing Reporter

The author perched above the Cachoeira da Fumaça, photo by Adrian Adams.
The author perched above the Cachoeira da Fumaça, photo by Adrian Adams.

BAHIA – “A guided tour?! If that’s what we wanted we would be in Lençóis right now piling into a bus with a pack of sheep,” I declared as I studied a map of the Chapada Diamantina, compass in hand. “Anyway, all we have to do is walk around that hill – nothing could be easier.”

The path was easy, as long as we followed it. It was marked with signposts just outside the town and except for a few minor forks, the going was fairly straightforward. So straightforward in fact, that we decided to complicate matters by finding an alternate route back.

“The river valley is beautiful – if we follow it down we can cut back up on the river anyway,” I reasoned, looking at the map. “Great! Let’s split up.”

It had all the elements of a B-rated horror movie. We waded through the tinted rapids of the Rio Preto and climbed down small waterfalls as the shadows of the hills surrounding us grew long across the tree-covered valley.

After overshooting our turnoff and backtracking for half an hour, we were busy climbing straight up a creek branch as fast as our tiring limbs allowed. The sun had long since disappeared as we waded through pools of water and scaled slippery rocks gushing with water. We arrived at the top of the hill and the end of our river bed just as it officially became too dark to see.

“We’re screwed,” I noted in a moment of panic as I squinted at the dense bush surrounding us in search of some clue as to our whereabouts. We sloshed across a pool of water to see what was on the other side and stumbled upon the path. It hadn’t happened a minute too soon – it was well after nightfall when we arrived back in Capão.

“We decided not to camp in the bush tonight for your sakes,” we boasted to the others over some beers in a local drinking hole by the town square. “Otherwise we would have been happy enough in the bush. Who needs the luxury of a bed when you have Mother Nature and the stars?”

Nonetheless we played it safe on our trek to the Cachoeira da Fumaça. After waking early to the high-pitched whistle of squirrel-like monkeys, we picked our way up rocks covered with scurrying lizards on a steep hillside complete with stunning views of the Chapada Diamantina. We hiked for nearly two hours under the blazing sun and only strayed from the path to look at a small creek near the waterfall.

Rural roads around Capão, photo by Joshua Rapp Learn.
Rural roads in Capão, photo by Joshua Rapp Learn.

We decided it was a perfect place to take a swim and before anyone thought about the impending direction of the stream we jumped into the shallow water. After a few splashes we peeked over the edge of the yawning abyss at the thin stream of water as it evaporated into mist. I decided it was not so much a waterfall as a vapor fall before crawling a safe distance from the edge.

“They ought to call this the Smoke Waterfall instead of the Cachoeira da Fumaça,” I observed self-importantly.

Well before the shadows began to lengthen, we decided to return to the village. This time we had learned our lesson – we followed the same path back and huddled close together in order not to lose the pack.

“My legs are sore today,” I mumbled in an attempt to justify my lack of a more adventurous course of action. “Otherwise…”

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