Vale do Pati: inside a fairy tale

Chapada Diamantina is like “a kingdom behind thirty-nine lands” in Russian fairy tales. You need to cross mountain ranges, walk turbulent rivers, overcome tiredness of rocky ascends and leave behind many kilometers of plateau, burnt by ruthless sun.

The plateau ends up in a precipice. Beneath - the Valleu of Pati, which rocks we can see from far away.

The reward for that will be an oasis deep into shadowy valley that lays among centuries old giants, unreachable and severe like ancient wise men. Life streams there in tranquility and no hurry, filled with simple and natural joys: singing of birds, gentle chatter of creeks and whispering of wind in high tree tops of wise forest.

There we went one summer day, to Vale do Pati.

The dusty road brings us from a tiny town Guine (that is on the south-west border of Chapada) to the base of a mountain range. There we leave the car and start ascent.

Little wonders of the plateau

It’s morning, and the first climb is easy. Soon we observe a huge plateau in front of us. Behind this vast space – the valley of incredible beauty. But we can only guess about it now, keeping in sight whimsical rocks far away.

Here we go for the next 1.5 hours – across shallow rivers, among low bushes and sea of grass, trying to keep our feet away from mud pools that have appeared after the rain. The water in streams doesn’t reach higher than our ancles, and it pleasantly chills our hot feet.

Finally, we reach the edge. Last steps towards the abyss – and Vale do Pati lays right under our tired feet. From the top like on a map we can see all trails that cross the valley. On the left of it there’s a church (Igrejinha) with camping nearby.

But we plan to go further – deeper to the valley, where in solemnity of wild nature lives Dona Rachel, Wilson, Dona Le and some other very few locals.

Road to Dona Rachel.

Before we get there we need to go down. Straight from a place we stand there’s a path down the grand rock. Or better say – a steep. It’s not hiking anymore, but rock climbing. We descend from stone to stone, trying to keep safe our knees. And entertain ourselves with idea that on way back we need to climb this mountain up.

Wild orchids of Pati

The next hour we walk by a dusty road (the next day, when we’ll go back this dust will turn into thick layer of mud) into the depth of the forest that is crossed by a river. There’s plenty of waterfalls around, and, probably, this stream gives birth to some of them.

This photo we think of selling to Coca-Cola : )

Finally, there’s a white house among trees – Casa de Dona Le. In a backyard a guy is cutting wood. A cock hisses on us, staying in fronts of his hens. Kittens stare at strangers from behind of a huge pot.

We pass Dona Le and go further, passing lazy burros – a mix of a horse with a donkeys.

These animals are slow but resistant and strong and used by locals to bring supplies from Guine. They choose long way, around the range. It takes them 3 hours to pass the route that would take a pedestrian 2 days.

There’s many people in hospitable house of Dona Rachel (almost all locals recieve guests): mostly Brazilians who have escaped frenzy of Carnaval but also Spanish travelers. Photos on walls are from gratefull guests. Some of them return here to the magnificent valley again and again. Hope, I will too – one day.

At the entrance to the plateau from a side of Guine

Deep into the Canal da Itaparica

They say: “There’re more than 300 islands in Baia dos Todos os Santos (the bay of Salvador, Bahia)”. Well, if to count all minor rocks and reefs that almost disappear under water durinhigh tide, probably, there’re.

Anyway, the bay of Bahia is the second biggest in Brazil after Guanabara in Rio de Janeiro.

The biggest island is Ilha da Itaparica. It is well-populated and lays on the south-west of the bay. Its beaches on side of Itaparica are famous among tourists and vacationers. But we go to less crowded and more virgin places – inside the Canal da Itaparica.

From Marina Bahia in Salvador we first go in northern direction. A bit later turn to the north-west and make around the northern cape of the island. On the other side we enter a narrow straight (between Itaparica and the continent), where there’re no touristic boats with drunk youth and hysterically shouting music. Either very few motor boats, who hurry somewhere on the full speed, rising 1.5 meter wave.

We reach shallow part, and depth indicator turned on an alarm. Now depth won’t drop more than 3 meters.

 Many of beaches and even islands here are private. People slowly occupy every piece of wild nature, making it serve for their comfort.

The nearest point to stop after the shallow part is Itororo – deserted place with a waterfall right on a beach. The only inhabitants of this piece of earth are crabs, and there’s many of them! We scared the hell of them, going after dawn to take a shower under the waterfall.

Our previous attempt to pass till Itororo was unsuccessful. The straight is very shallow, and with a boat of 1.8 meters draft you need to know the way for sure.

For this time from dusty depths of the boat we digged out old maps of Bahia dos Todos os Santos.

They contain exact coordinates that, if being uploaded to MaxSea or other navigation program, show exact way. Here I share them with you, friends. Hope it will make someones life easier. Our previous attempts to find them in the internet didn’t lead to any significant results.

First – way from the town da Itaparica (on the northern cape) to Itororo. Coordinates are taken from the book “Roteiro Nautico do Litoral da Bahia”.

Nome do waypoint (name of the waypoint)
MARINA S12 53.249 W38 41.231 0 ft
ACMARI S12 52.998 W38 41.446 0.327 nm 320º true
TUBARA S12 55.312 W38 42.530 2.88 nm 205º true
CARAP1 S12 56.496 W38 42.951 4.13 nm 199º true
CARAP2 S12 57.069 W38 43.340 4.82 nm 214º true
SARAIB S12 58.038 W38 44.737 6.49 nm 235º true
IDACAL S12 59.570 W38 46.066 8.50 nm 220º true
PRAIHA S13 00.741 W38 46.965 9.97 nm 217º true
ITOROR S13 01.318 W38 47.015 10.5 nm 185º tru

To pass from Itororo to Caixa Prego we need to wait for low tide. Otherwise, it’s not possible to cross under the lines of electric wires and the bridge that contact the continent and the island. In maps this route marked “red” and has caution note that warns to watch out shifts of the tide and – even then – if the height of the mast allow to pass under the lines (ours is around 11m high).

Table of tides can be found here:

From Caixa Prego there’s a way to cross from the Channel to the open ocean but the depths there are so little that we wouldn’t risk. If only with experience local on board.

But it’s possible to enter the river till the town of Jaguaripe – calm countryside place with an old church.

Nome do waypoint (name of the waypoint)
ITOROR S13 01.318 W38 47.015 0 ft
ITORO1 S13 01.797 W38 47.254 0.533 nm
FUNIL S13 02.659 W38 47.316 1.49 nm 184º true
JIRIB1 S13 02.798 W38 47.438 1.58 nm 221º true
JIRIB2 S13 03.220 W38 47.862 2.17 nm 224º true
JIRIB3 S13 03.470 W38 47.966 2.44 nm 202º true
JIRIB4 S13 03.997 W38 48.014 2.97 nm 185º true
CATU1 S13 05.310 W38 47.955 4.29 nm
CATU2 S13 05.716 W38 47.782 4.74 nm
CATU3 (Caixa Prego) S13 06.368 W38 47.981
JAG1 S13 06.834 W38 48.128 0.489 nm 197º true
JAG2 S13 07.718 W38 49.100 1.30 nm
JAG3 S13 07.450 W38 49.966 2.67 nm
JAG4 S13 06.774 W38 51.404 4.23 nm
JAG5 S13 06.782 W3851.753 269º true
JAG6 S13 06.372 W38 52.755 293º true
JAGUA S13 06.621 W38 53.488 6.39 nm 251º true

 P.S. I have maps and routes with waypoints of the whole Brazilian coast. So, if everyone is in need, I will be glad to share with you. Just drop me a message or a comment here in the blog : )

The river Paraguaçu: in search of pink dolphins

For one week my life had become implementation of ideals from “Emile” by Jean-Jaques Rousseau.

On Sunday we left the marina for search of pink dolphins that Amazon is also famous for. Here the place of their habitat is the estuary of the river Paraguaçu.

Around 1.5 hours took us to cross from Marina Bahia to the island Itaparica. The bay is not a sea and definitely not an ocean but even here there’s some wind. Weather forecasts claim winds up to 20 knots. But even 10 is  enough for good sailing.

From Ilha da Itaparica is close to the entrance to the river. By the way, Paraguaçu crosses the whole state Bahia, taking its origins in heights of the national park Chapada Diamantina.

The first night we spent in the estuary. The place carries the nameTubarão, which in portuguese means “a shark”. Probably, they inhabited this bay millions of years ago.

No sharks today tho, and the place is just charming: wrinkled brown rocks come close to the water of the river and are separated from it by narrow white ribbon of sand. The beach ends on one side with little village on the tip of a peninsula – just several houses. At early evening we didn’t meet anyone there.

Gold of the river Paraguaçu

The sunset reminded me of evenings in Atlantic, when the sky was overwhelmed by invisible battles, pouring clouds with scarlet fire. Idyllic picture was ruined by oil platform in the depth of the river.

“ If we build too much, we destroy”, – says the slogan of Greenpeace. Here’s an obvious example.

The next day we go deeper to the river, in direction of a town of Maragojipe. The regata Aratu – Maragojipe is well-known in Salvador. Then more than 300 boats in some years fill narrow river of Paraguaçu.

The town lives in its own pace, much different from its big neighbor. Along the pier went a horse carriage – it brought wood for a barge. On the square there’s old building titled Mercado. There was a meeting inside, lecturer reading something loudly, people holding paper booklets. Our first thought was that the old market was transformed in a church. Later we changed our minds to some professional meeting.

Brazil is very religious country. You can see the name of God mentioned everywhere: on shops, numerous churches that look more than ordinary houses, on walls and T-shirs. Even cargo cars carry banners, claiming “Deus e Fiel”.

Citizens of Maragojipe are not in a hurry. Everyone leaves his house in the evening to spend last hours before the sunset in relaxed and themeless chat with neighbors. Fishermen’ boats swing silently near the shore. In dawn turn to go home late saveiros – traditional boats of Bahia, used for sailing inside the bay.

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen pink dolphins – the main reason I wanted to make this trip. But, well, Amazon is waiting for me ; )

 For sailors here’s the information how to get safe to Maragaoipe. Coordinates are taken from the book “Roteiro Nautico do Litoral da Bahia”. Can be uploaded to any electronic navigation program a la MaxSea.

The bay of Paraguaçu (Barra do Paraguaçu – BRAPAG) to the town of Maragojipe (MJIPE)
Nome do waypoint (name of the waypoint)
BPARAG S12 50.155 W38 47.771 0 ft
BROQUE S12 51.070 W38 48.851 1.40 nm 229º true
PARAG1 S12 51.081 W38 49.580 2.11 nm 269º true
PARAG2 S12 49.728 W38 51.497 4.42 nm 306º true
PARAG3 S12 48.949 W38 51.860 5.28 nm 336º true
SALAMI S12 47.878 W38 51.559 6.39 nm 15º true
FRANCE S12 46.713 W38 52.442 7.84 nm 324º true
MJIPE1 S12 46.449 W38 53.076 8.52 nm 293º true
MJIPE S12 46.976 W38 54.339 9.86 nm 247º true

Chapada Diamantina: a step on a rainbow

Our new friend’s name was Jilson. Common business introduced us to each other. Crisa’s been looking for a land to buy, and we got several addresses in Chapada to check.

About the fact that Julson sells his land we learnt from a fence of his house. So we stopped to have a look. After some words about business and household in Chapada, he invited us for a cup of home-made juice. And then, learning about our escape from Carnaval, offered to take us to the wild spot of Montanha Estrela (Star Mountain). Surrounded by private lands from one side and by valley of the national park – from the other, its untouched nature is disturbed only by random cows and sheperds who from time to time ascent to check their charges.

Jilson shows us his huge land full of fruit trees and palms. Two young dogs- viralatas (from portuguese: vira – turn, lata – can = dogs that turn cans on a street) Dolita and Junior happily follow us, from time to time speeding up to lead the procession.

 The top of a mountain is a plataux, down – endless forest, bush and rocks. Here, on one of few meadows we set our tent. Few meters down air is ringing with song of water. Narrow mountain spring finds here the way out, creating a waterfall. Wild and virgin, it exists only for us…

Sun goes down.

Soon we discover that Junior stays with us, instead of following his host on the way down. Naive puppy mournfully cry and tries to find the trail by himself. But every time turn back to us, distrusting his intuition and memory.

 We create a kitchen on rocks of the waterfall. Make fire and cook our simple meals – pasta with cheese – on it. Junior gets his share. “You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed”, – wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupery. And we agree with him.

The sunset hid behind the neighbor mountain but still gifted us several magnificent colors. In its dying light rainbow in the waterfall shines even brighter. In this bath, where the stream falls from a protruding stone. Now I with full right can say that I stepped on a rainbow.

Night falls, and the sky sparkles with miriads of stars. This mountain is called “Estrela” not by occasion. On dark canvas Milky way unroll as a parade carpet. And so many stars that my head spans.

We try to find the Southern Cross, but only several guesses are born: there’re so many stars here that hard to define borders of canstellations.

 The night is filled with the sounds of concert. I make a walk along the stream to find performers. Here’s one – a little frog, sitting on a branch, he would easily fit my fist. Despise tiny size, he sings so loud, swelling the white bubble of his throut.

 Near the stream there’s another frog – the size of a doll. After my surprised exclamation she jumps in water and disappear in the dark under the stone.

In the morning we discover that Junior is still with us. The whole night he tried to find the way down, but, not sure in his memory and his nose, had returned back.

– Ah you, caçador! (hunter)

We go down to bring the dog home. But this time Junior…decides to stay. He lays on the earth and all attempts to wake him up donn’t lead to anything. So we take him on hands. With the puppy like a baby in our arms we leave. I am happy:

– At least we need to carry him down, not up!