Ibicoara is the southernmost town in the Chapada Diamantina national park, and was to be our last stop in the state of Bahia. We stayed at the Ibicoara hostel (R$40 / €10 per Hostel Ibicoaranight), which is extremely well signposted, so you won’t miss it no matter where you enter the town. The hostel is run by Fabio – he’s a character! By the way, it’s the only hostel in town. Your other options for accommodation are all between R$120… to R$270. (€30 – €70) per night.

Ibicoara isn’t like the other towns we’d visited in the area. It doesn’t have much of a tourist industry, although one is developing. It’s mainly a town centred around the region’s agriculture, with the various industries that supports. We arrived on a Sunday night – coincidentally the best possible time. Monday in Ibicoara is market day, and the night before the whole town is out in their finery, meeting in the square to drink, eat and boom ear-splitting music from their modified cars. It’s quite a sight! We sampled the local cachaça of course, it goes down well, if your body is ready for it.

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Hardcore.

Next morning, with minimal hangovers, we woke early to meet our guide, Dorielson, and our two fellow hostel guests, Jorge and Clelia, who would be joining us for the first of 2 days hiking here. They’d come here by motorbike, a 3-day journey from São Paulo. A long time to sit on a bike!

Day 1: Licuri

The landscape around here is rugged, and you never know what’s going to be around the next corner. A 45 minute drive from Ibicoara, and a short walk through scrubland, and before you know it, you’re at Licuri. Only a 100m waterfall, and a perfectly formed swimming pool! (A small fee of R$5 / €1 must be paid at the entrance hut). If lifejackets are needed to make swimming easier, the guide will provide them, for no extra charge.

After a swim, we followed the river downstream, over several further cascades and sharp drops, ending with a panoramic view across the plains below.

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The walk back ended at the entrance hut, where we drank some Caldo de Cana for energy – and chatted with the owner, a 70-something year old part-time minister at the local church, and the infectious energy of a late-night TV show host. A local legend.

A great day out – but nothing to compare to what followed.

Day 2: Fumacinha

Fumacinha, meaning “little smoky” in Portuguese, is a masterclass in understatement. We woke at 5am to start our trip at 6. We needed the whole day, and then some. Over an hour of driving brought us deep into the back of an isolated valley, the last stop at a farm, with space for a few cars to pull in.

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Dorielson led us along a leafy farm trail, before the trail disappeared and we followed the river bed upstream. The conditions vary between flat slabs you can jog across (when it’s dry!), and car-sized boulders you carefully negotiate, lest you want to spoil the day with a twisted ankle. At times, we crouched and crawled on all fours, or clung to some narrow path along a pool edge. Thankfully the rock is full of handholds – it’s easier than it looks from a distance.

Our reward was towering canyon walls, closing at the back, ominously darkening in the midday sun.

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That gaping hole is an enormous cave. It draws you in – it’s hard to leave.

And it will make you feel *epic*

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And as if that wasn’t enough, it has a pool – no, almost a lake, inside. The water looks black. It’s not black. It’s blood red, stained with Iron.

We sat in the semi-darkness, taking in the view for the best part of an hour, before the cold set in – direct sunlight never reaches this far. The long walk back was interrupted by the start of a very heavy, but warm, rain shower. On the way, one of the local dogs adopted us, and followed us all the way back.

Our hike ended back at the farm, where we were refreshed with another cup of Caldo de Cana. It’s sweet like honey, but with the consistency of lemonade. Very good after a day outside.1ed3badc48a7672fdfcdf09b04d50bf7

After the day’s heavy rain, there was a break in the clouds while we enjoyed our drinks, but it bucketed down again as soon as we got moving. (You can see this in the video above). The dirt roads turned to muck, with huge holes churned up by the trucks and buses that had passed by. Not so easy! We made it back, eventually, after much wheelspin.

Our time in Ibicoara was short, but it’s a place we won’t soon forget. There’s plenty more we didn’t have the chance to visit, including the famous Buracão waterfall. Lots of reasons to return. Until next time!

PS: Our guide, Dorielson, normally charges R$100 (€25) per person for Fumacinha, but he did R$150 (€38) for the two of us since we had our own car. For Licuri it was R$30 (€8) per person plus R$70 (€18) for the group as he used his car that time.

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