Chapada Diamantina Series No. 1: “Life is a Journey, Not a Destination”

“According to Hitchwiki, you can catch a truck from the port area”, my friend told me as we met in the morning of one of Semana Santa days, both with rather heavy backpacks, ready to start our adventure. Destination: Chapada Diamantina, the most famous national park in Bahia (a state here, in Brazil). Hitchhiking to there and back was the vague plan that we had, and not much of what would happen in between was known, because, simply, nothing could be predicted.

What happened during those “screw the city” days was pretty freakin’ awesome, and definitely worthy of several blog entries. Man, if I had blogged about basically nothing, I must blog about this. So here it is.

on the way to Chapada

And here we were, having stopped our first truck, slowly heading to Chapada. Out of five drivers, the second and the last one were the most memorable. The second one was memorable due to his lovely chattiness, weird southern accent and the fact that he bought us some beers before saying goodbye. The last ones (two of them, actually) were also memorable, but I must come back to them later.

To skip more than 10 hours of our efforts to catch rides (you’re welcome!) and me trying to find vegetarian food (“well, do you see any vegetables around?” was a comment that was equally sarcastic and accurate), we were at our (almost) last stop. Having said goodbye to a driver with whom we romantically gazed into the sunset, we decided to try our luck and hitchhike our last kilometres at night. “Even if no-one stops, we could technically just walk to Andaraí, right?”, I asked my friend (OK, he has a name – Luca; this will save me some pronouns). “Yeah, it’s supposed to be 12-15 km” – his answer implied a potential long but manageable walk, and only 15 km after having done more than 500 km seemed OK.

Having a full moon showing us the way wasn’t the worst scenario, and so we were slowly making our way towards Andaraí, sharing life stories that didn’t require any “long story short” since time was that one resource we definitely had. And then a truly cinematic situation followed. We saw a road sign. I remember there were other towns and their distances indicated, and the first one, Andaraí (our town), was the one whose distance seemed to be covered by a huge plant, or a branch of a bush that was sticking out into the road itself. As I was slowly approaching the sign, about to move that branch and reveal the true distance, Luca said carefully: “Actually, I’m not sure now if it’s really 15kms, it might have been more…” I moved that branch, turned to Luca, and laughed as loudly as our empty road allowed: “It’s not 15, you idiot, it’s 50!”

gazing into the sunset, yesWe both continued to laugh for a whole minute or so, Luca adding that it looked like less on a map, and me thinking that this would definitely go into my blog. Our laughter wasn’t even a panicky one: in the end, it made no difference. If we catch a ride on this road, we must get to Andaraí because it’s the only town here. So if it’s 15 km or 50 km, we just needed to stop someone.

Surprisingly many cars (one in 7-10 mins) would pass, and I would raise my thumb while Luca would shed some light on me – potentially making it all look even more suspicious – with our supermega flashlight (the same flashlight saved our lives the next day). In the end, a small truck with two older men stopped. They were nice enough not to mind having four people in that front seat instead of two, proving the stereotype of people from the inside of Bahia (do interior) being extremely helpful and nice. After half an hour of extremely uncomfortable ride (which didn’t matter), we reached Andaraí, had some proper soup (yes), found a camping place, and crashed. That concluded our trip to the area, but was only the beginning of some great – and ridiculous – adventures.

hitchhiking joys

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