Monthly Archives: November 2012

House at the End of the World!

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Before I left Floripa, I had one more pretty spectacular solo ocean adventure, but this one was on the shore…

My destination in the distance on the right

In my time of less surfing, I decided I should pay some attention to the beach’s other delights, which I have overlooked in my single-minded obsession with catching waves.  So the other day I headed to Praia Mole on a sparkling clear, and wildly windy day with the objective of clamoring across the impressive rock formations that lined the south end of the beach.

Way in the distance, I could see a giant monolith of stone, almost flush with the water, sticking out into a wild white-capped ocean. It seemed that if I was clever about my route, I could make my way along the boulders lining the steep shore all the way out to

Making my way across rocks

the spot.  I decided this was the perfect destination for my afternoon rock climbing mini-adventure, so I spent the next couple hours scampered up scattered obelisks of stone, leaping across little crevasses, and creeping along ledges along the edge of crashing waves and a sparkling blue ocean, while my inner monkey giggled with glee.

But then something really cool happened!

The little house in the distance

Near to the giant rock in the distance, to which I was heading, there was a tiny little cottage and boat house.  Their remote location, at the end of a rocky headland, surrounded by scrub covered hills, led me to assume that they were abandoned, or used in the high season to ferry tourists to remote beaches.  But as I got closer, I noticed a person running up the hill to the neat little cottage, and then going in and out of it, in a way that seemed like he lived there.  I also noticed that the cottage was nicely painted, and looked much more like a home than an abandoned fishing shack.  Assuming that a person who lives in a house so far from civilization would want to be left alone, I tried to stay out of sight. I imagined I must have looked pretty nuts to this hermetic inhabitant, a lanky brown Gollum creeping and loping across boulders on an endless beach all the way to his house.  But in just a few moments, I saw a smiling face sticking out of the foliage above me, waving at me to come up and visit the house.  So I climbed up the hill and discovered what was pretty much the house of my dreams, as well as the amazing fisherman who lives there.   The house sat on a perfect bluff overlooking the ocean, with a beautiful outdoor kitchen, surrounded by plants, and replete with a friendly yellow dog.  My new

The indoor kitchen

friend proudly showed me his well-stocked kitchen and his “dining room table” which was a gorgeous slab of rock overlooking the ocean.  He invited me to come back for lunch on another day and then showed me the safest path for reaching the headland.

The outdoor kitchen

So I went off again, leaping and crawling across rocks, paying extra attention to the little piles of stones, the placements of slabs of wood, which made the path easier, imagining that they may have been placed by my new friend, and the other intrepid fishermen who love being out on these rocks as much as I do.  I finally reached the headland, and stood out on the end of it, full of the wild energy of the ocean that surrounded me on three sides, and feeling like an extremely blessed surf adventurer.

At my destination!

Looking down at the rock where I ended up, and the beach in the background where I started my day’s adventure.

A village in the sky!

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I loved my first hike in Chapada Diamantina so much that I decided to do another with another AMAZING guide, Marquinhos, who shares my love of rock climbing (I met him while exploring some boulders on a waterfall outside of Lencois).   I didn’t quite understand where we were going, so I was thrilled when after two days on the trail, we hiked right into the remote village of Igatu, on top of a mountain.

We started in the little town of Andarai, which is similar to Lencois, except it has much fewer tourists. Like most of the towns in Chapada Diamantina, it used to be a center for diamond mining and trading.

A church on the edge of the river that runs through Andarai

A perfect little waterfall in the hills of Andarai

Feeling awesome in the canyon of the Paraguacu River

We spent a couple hours walking across gorgeous smooth river rocks in shades of rose and tan

The valley is full of amazing hidden shelters, once used by diamond miners. We set up camp in this one, and I enjoyed the canyon view with my breakfast tea.

We climbed a steep ramp out of the canyon to reach this view!

While crossing the table top of the mountain, Marquinhos spotted these “potatoes of the mountain” growing wild in a stream. They are a bit like jicama, and made for a tasty and crunchy salad with our dinner.

I could hardly believe it, when I spotted these soccer goal posts. I thought we were miles from civlization, but we had hiked right into a little remote village on top of a mountain. Here is their soccer field.

The village is surrounded by ruins of old stone houses from the diamond mining years.

The famous church of São Sebastão in Igatu, like most of the houses in the village, is made from beautiful rose-colored rock.

The Byzantine style cemetary of the church of São Sebastão

The “California Waterfall” in the Vale de California, heading back down the mountain

The Vale da California is a rock climbers paradise, with tons of bolted routes and bouldering possibilities. We ran into some climbers from Switzerland and England on our way down.

Go climber grrrrls!

Marquinhos, who is an incredibly talented climber, demonstrates some of the possibilities offered by the visually stunning conglomerate, made from thousands of smooth round, fist-sized rocks of rose and turquoise quartz cemented together in sedimentary rock.

We hiked down along gorgeous water carved rocks, speckled with perfect pools for swimming and relaxing. We drank our water straight from the river the whole time!

Climbing waterfalls in Chapada Diamantina!

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I have just returned from a glorious week in one of the most breath-taking places I have ever been, Chapada Diamantina national park in Brazil.  I experienced a totally different side of Brazil and enjoyed adventures of the non-surfing, non-shoulder straining kind.

Here’s a little photo journal of my trip!

The start of my first hike, with the little town of Lencois in the background. In Lencois, the roads that aren’t cobblestone are dirt, and no one uses cellphones. You just tell your friends that you will meet them on the street, and you are pretty much assured that you will find them in one of the colonial style plazas, lined with pretty pastel-painted houses.

Here’s our brave international team, with Germany, Denmark, the U.S.A. and Brazil all represented. Our awesome guides Marquinhos and Puma are on the ends.

Heading into the wild!

Puma’s name should already tell you something about him. This picture should tell you another thing. He is pretty much a ninja. (don’t worry, the snake doesn’t bite!)

We hiked a couple miles up this magical dry river bad, surrounded by canyon walls on either side. We had to keep our voices low so as not to provoke the killer bees who live in the trees. Yikes!! It was exciting…

The first of many enchanted waterfalls we encountered

We climbed this waterfall! Like monkeys, scrambling up trees and rocks, or like Puma said “puma style.” It was amazing, and at moments terrifying.

Puma has no fear, standing on the edge of the steep waterfall we just climbed, snapping pictures.

And at the top, another waterfall to climb!

Puma is not only a trail ninja, leading us through the unmarked and hidden byways of the Chapada, but also a kitchen ninja. Quite a treat to have someone cook you breakfast and dinner while camping! Thanks Puma…

Pretty posh breakfast on the trail!

Cooling off after a big climb

This spider walked out to great us as we were navigating some exposed rocky scrublands on the ridge. It was the size of my hand.

This is Fumaca Falls, a really really really tall waterfall!! 2nd tallest in Brazil. There’s a little overhanging ledge where you can lie on your tummy and look down – a mind-altering experience…

Me with Fumaca Falls in the background

Savoring the scenery

Hiking out at the prettiest time of day… Thank you Chapada Diamantina!

Adventures on land cont´d, a partial update from one of Brazil’s most spectacular parks

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Chapada Diamantina, where I have spent the last 3 days!

I was losing my mind a little bit by staying right next to the ocean and not being able to surf.  So…. I decided to head to Chapada Diamantina, one of Brazil’s crown jewels in terms of natural beauty.  Picture the land formations, mesas, and buttes of New Mexico, combined with tropical rain forests and waterfalls.

I have been here 3 and a half days and love it so much that I changed my bus ticket to stay another 4 days.  I brought my camera to the internet cafe hoping to upload some pictures, but am experiencing technical difficulties – so the big download is going to have to wait.  Thus far I have scaled a water fall the way people in

Fumaca falls, which I sat at the top of yesterday!

movies sometimes do, laid on the edge of a 400 meter cliff and looked down at another water fall, encountered a real live tarantula-esque spider, and walked up a dry river bed for many many miles in a tropical forest where we had to be quiet so as not to attract the killer bees.  AWESOME!!   Signing off from a little hole in the wall internet cafe where local kids come to play x-box, on a cobble stone street, in a town of painted pastel houses in the middle of a giant national park.

Adventures on Land, part 1 – Urban Tree

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The other afternoon during a brief visit to the town center, I was walking back from the supermarket with my pandeiro slung across my shoulder and an overwhelming amount of groceries dangling from my person – bulging from my backpack, swinging from my wrists in shopping bags.

As I was heading to a friends house to drop off the groceries, and then to the gym for a class, I passed a little park in the middle of a busy street intersection.   The centerpiece of this park was a beautiful old broad meandering tree – a perfect beauty for climbing.  I imagined that at different times of day, the tree swarmed with frolicking little kids or served as a partially obscured hangout for transgressive teens.  But at this moment, its branches were bare.  Naked.  Inviting.  A monument of exploratory arboreal possibility.  To leave a tree like this unclimbed constituted a form of neglect.

But I was hurrying to get to a class at the gym.  It didn’t seem like the time to be dawdling.  The park was also public enough, and I am also grown enough, that a solo ascent of the tree with my bags of groceries and my pandeiro in tow, would designate me immediately as a public wierdo.

“You can come back and climb that tree later,” I told myself,  one evening when there is no one watching.

But as I walked by, I kept looking at that tree.  Not wanting to look like a weirdo seemed like a really bad reason not to climb such a beautiful tree.  Making it to my class at the gym was a noble goal, but did I really want to live in a universe where I couldn’t make time to stop and climb a tree, especially one as perfect as this?

I suddenly felt like if I walked by this tree, I would be killing a little part of my soul, and it seemed too early to start doing that.   “Screw it,” I thought – I am gonna be a weirdo and I am gonna be late.  And so I went back,  put my groceries at the foot of the tree, lodged my backpack and pandeiro in the first big crook, and headed up this sweeping grand dame of a tree.

This tree had sturdy thick branches, fat as telephone poles which extended almost horizontally out from her main trunk.  There were about 7 different routes you could take outwards from the central hub, walking on wide gray smooth branches, speckled with lichens and epiphytes.

For me climbing a tree is liking pushing a little reset button for my soul.  When I leave the ground, I leave my human self behind, and I can live for a moment as the spritely elfin monkey self of all my childhood dreams.  In the tree, there is only the feeling of branches under my hands and feet and the gauging of my movements to move through them.  The light is different, filtered through the crown of leaves that makes the tree a universe apart from the outside world.  When I am in the arms of a tree, it feels like the only worthwhile place to be.

I dawdled in the tree for a while, taking a couple snap shots to commemorate the experience, and no doubt providing some lively midday entertainment to the good people enjoying their lunches on the park benches surrounding me.

I landed back on the ground feeling lighter, with an extra kick in my step, relieved to know that I still had what it takes to be a wierdo, climb a tree in the middle of an intersection at midday, and keep my soul intact.

Confessions of a temporarily grounded surfer

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OK — so I have a confession.  I hurt my shoulder (slight strain to Infraspinatus and Teres Minor, pictured below).  I didn’t hurt it bad, but I hurt it enough that I have missed about 3 weeks of surfing and have had to take it pretty slow as I get back into the water.  It’s a bit frustrating to be on a surfing adventure and not be able to surf the way I like to, just as I was really starting to make a lot of improvements in my technique.  But the world keeps reminding me that there are numerous ways to have adventures – big and small. So instead of feeling sad that I don’t have any surfing stories for my blog – I shall share some land adventures for now…