Back in 2009, I did Ironman Brazil down in Florianopolis and I wanted to make a vacation of it, so I took a whole 3 weeks off from work (funny how that seemed like a lot back then, haha) and researched where I wanted to go. One of the places that greatly attracted me, but in the end was unable to visit, is Chapada Diamantina, or the Diamond Highlands.
Imagine the Grand Canyon, shrink it a little bit, and make it green and lush, and that's what it looks like. The area is about the size of Holland, and Brazil has gone so far as to make a national park out of a good chunk of it. As there were already several towns established before the park existed, the park borders are a bit torturous in areas to keep the towns outside the park.
We had GRAND plans to go on a multiple day hike inside the park, especially the much-vaunted Valley of Paty. Prior to arriving, I tried to do as much research as possible on routes, even going so far as to download GPS tracks and the like. I found the lack of information frustrating, and I kept coming across the advice that you "can't/shouldn't/would be stupid to hike without a guide" inside the park. This I most certainly wanted to avoid--how could I be a self-respecting lover of the outdoors and require a guide for some non-technical hiking on established trails??
When we got there, it quickly became apparent that:
--there is no place to rent gear, like sleeping bags, tents etc, unless yougo with a guide service, which for 2 people, was generally about $100-$150 per day
--The allocation of man power is very lop sided--not very many park rangers and wayyy too many guides.
-- The whole guide service is mis-matched. We heard stories of guides mis-marking trails and in general, making things difficult for folks who don't know the way, while at the same time, we heard that they don't actually receive all that much of the money charged for tours.
--Funds! There is no park entrance fee, yet you need to pay tons f
In short, we decided that it was not worth the $550 it would've been for a 3 day hiking trip. Instead, we did a one-day guided trip to see a few caves and crazy pools of water, with our soon to be Brazilian buddies, Pedro e Fernando, both of whom happened to speak pretty great English. Some memorable exchanges were:
-Fernando LOVES the germans and meditation. He finds them very strong. He invited us and Pedro to meditate with him.
We also did two short day trips to some easier to find places--including a way cool natural rock slide. Even though these places were barely even an hour's walk, there were no signs at all, which made for a lot of direction-asking.