A backpack full of eggs: the bumpy beauty of Brazil's Chapada Diamantina
John’s Bar, William’s Inn, Bar at Edi’s - sounds like a pub crawl down your local high street right? Well, no. You are actually very busy crossing the incredibly remote valley of Pati, deep in the Chapada Diamantina National Park, in the heart of Brazil's Bahia state.
This trek is often considered as one of the most beautiful hikes in Brazil - and that’s quite a statement knowing the size and the variety of the country. Table top mountains, isolated peaks, limestone and quartz caves, crystal clear rivers and waterfalls - a lot of to take your breath away (combined with the challenging ascents).
Forget the wifi, hot showers, TV or anything about the somewhat complicated outside world. Forget the comfortable hotel beds, you are now guests of the valley and of the dozen families who call this remote part of the world their home.
Homestay with mountain backdrop
I don’t know how many hours I spent looking at pictures of the landscapes before visiting the Chapada but I felt like I prepared myself for the stunning scenery I was going to see. However, sometimes you can imagine every single day of your planned holiday and the moments that stay with you forever won’t be the ones that you have expected.
Let me paint the picture.
Imagine that you are sipping on a cold caipirinha, after completing a demanding 20 km walk, at the bottom of the valley with nothing but mountain peaks around you...
Now, throw into the mix the complete silence, devoid of artificial noise, and look up - you are gifted with a view of the milky way and a lunar eclipse. And to complete the picture, add a warm welcoming hug from your hosts and a wooden table covered with simple hearty food and the tired but happy voices of your fellow hikers.
Some moments really are better when shared...
Surprisingly elaborate food in simple surroundings at a Pati Valley homestay
It’s these moments that you cannot Google beforehand - there is no image that can portray the genuine excitement and friendliness of the families that you get to stay with.
It’s a simple room, with earth floors and open top walls and pretty floral pink bedding and towel swans that would probably make you laugh at the 5* hotel, but that now warms your heart. It’s the solar powered fridge that keep your beers cold and a wall covered in family photographs of the proudest moments of the generations that have lived in the house.
You are now probably wondering why on earth I started this article talking about John’s bar?
Well, to be completely honest with you, before my 5-day trek in the Pati I knew that I would be sleeping in incredibly simple accommodation - and I really did not expect that those nights spent with the local families in their homes would turn out to be the highlight of the hike.
Rarely is a cold beer more welcome than when hiking across the Pati Valley
But miles away from the closest village and with absolutely no car access, my hosts made sure to open a small bar area for everyone to have a drink and try one of the local Cachaças (some that can only be found in the area). It was so easy to forget that everything that we were served - from cold drinks to hearty rice and bean dishes had to be carried in by mules, for miles.
Except... eggs. The bloody eggs.
Turns out that bringing eggs to this tiny local community is one of the toughest challenges of all, as you cannot simply put these on the back of a mule (Ah the tricky nature of uncooked eggs!) so they have to be layered with sheets of cotton and carried in a large backpack.
I tried to carry the backpack myself and successfully did about 15 steps. The locals have hiked for over 20 miles... In flip flops.
Hey, who would have thought that the memory of carrying 100 eggs deep in the Chapada Diamantina would be the one that stays with me for the rest of my life?
I guess, that’s the beauty of travel - you never know what’s waiting for you round the corner or who you are going to meet. It’s the things that you did not even think of before stepping onto the plane that stay with you forever. The raw, the unpolished, sometimes even a little bit out of your comfort zone - yes, these are THE ones.
If you want to follow in my footsteps and make your own unexpected memories, our new Brazil Bahia Uncovered trip is a good place to start.
Loading up the mules in the Chapada
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