After two days in Salvador, we took a seven-hour bus bound for Lençois, the base for exploring the Chapada Diamantina National Park. We were here for our four-day hike of Paty Valley.

Paty Valley
Paty Valley

Unlike the Inca Trail (mountains, clouds, ruins, rent-a-crowd) and the W Trek (mountains, snow, glaciers, lakes), this hike would take us through lush green valleys, dramatic cliffs, hidden caves and natural swimming holes.

The path is largely unmarked so we formed a group with two German girls and hired a private guide. Mil, not only guided us, he also cooked, cleaned and arranged home stays with local families.

The hike was long. The trail was rugged with steep climbs and sharp descents but it was the most rewarding. The best part was the lack of other people. The Paty Valley is not on the international tourist map. And while attracting some domestic tourists, Brazilians don’t tend to do multi-day hikes, preferring day hikes or Jeep tours. Therefore, we pretty much had the valley to ourselves.

A swim in Chapada Diamantina
A swim in Chapada Diamantina
Looking for the meaning of life
Looking for the meaning of life while trying not to fall

After recovering from our hike, we flew south to Belo Horizonte, a city of two million people. Besides being the city where THAT game against Germany was played, Belo isn’t well known on the tourist circuit. That’s probably a good thing because I cannot remember what we did there.

However, FROM there, we went to two great places. The first was Inhotim, an outdoor contemporary art gallery some 50km west of Belo. There are some obligatory wanky descriptors of the artworks but there are also cool things to see like a disco swimming pool where you can dip your feet in.

Making art at Inhotim
Making art at Inhotim

The second hotspot accessible from Belo is Ouro Preto, a former mining town with beautifully preserved colonial houses and two dozens of Brazil’s most opulent 18th and 19th century churches, one of them showcasing over 400kg of gold and silver.

To be continued… (last stops: Rio and São Paulo)

Houses in Ouro Preto
Houses in Ouro Preto
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