We didn’t realise it then, but on our second day in Chapada we committed probably the greatest error a hiker can commit: we started our trail extremely late. In addition to having woken up late, we somehow thought that, for example, getting ice cream (that wasn’t even good!) should be a priority, and, in general, we were in no hurry. So, around noon, equipped with lots of water, we started our trail that better-informed people start around 7 am.
And, let me tell you, it didn’t take us long to realise why it’s much much better to leave Andaraí early. In the burning sun, even the relatively flat areas of what then looked like a 6-hour trail were pretty freakin’ tiring. Constantly adjusting the straps of my backpack, hoping it would somehow help with a considerable weight I was carrying (I still mean the backpack here), I was stopping by every stream we encountered, slowing down Luca but, hey, enjoying all those dramatic “Ah, I just need to wash my face with mountain stream water” moments. Every major stream was also terrifying: we crossed one and thought that OK, this is the one marked on the map, so we’ve walked this many kilometres. So each new stream we would see made us wonder with horror: “Wait. What if what we crossed before is nothing, and actually this one is the stream on the map? Maybe we’re actually still really close???” Yeah, we had many hours of that joke/panic.
But let me skip five ours into our hike. No, we weren’t done, we weren’t even close to being done, and maaaan I’m happy we didn’t know that then. The hope of reaching some pousada (something like a hostel) by sunset was being replaced by another hope: of just reaching something, today. It became dark, and so we were descending a mountain using our super-flashlight which, I’m sure is the only reason why I didn’t get any serious injuries that day. Picking up a dangerous pace, we finally reached some flatland and started looking for a river and a bridge that, according to our map, would lead us to some pousada.
This is where the trail became all blurry, and, long story short, we ended up wandering along the river, jumping stones, getting bruised by tree branches, hoping to find that damn bridge somewhere finally. We were running out of water, and the idea of just camping somewhere, no matter where, was becoming more and more real (even though camping anywhere close to the river is highly dangerous, as its water level tends to rise quickly). “But…but…there must be a bridge somewhere”, desperation (and logic – I mean, we were by a river…) was talking, yet curiosity led us to something that looked like it could be some kind of a trail. Some minutes later, we noticed some abandoned building, and then a glimpse of hope appeared: we saw a shadow of something that could potentially be a house.
We walked closer, and then, after hours of just listening to running water, we heard a sound that brought us so much hope that it almost brought me to tears: it was a dog barking. “A dog…must have an owner…There must be someone here!” Luca and I joyfully agreed, and started our “Boa noite, tem alguém aqui?” calls. After a minute Luca was ready to turn around and continue our search of that mysterious bridge, but then we heard someone’s kind and fragile voice greeting us back. It was a tiny old lady, opening the gates to her farm slowly.
“Ah, thank God, so nice to see someone” this and other expressions of pure happiness followed, also followed by us asking her if we could get some water. She invited us to her house, where we saw a couple of younger girls, who asked about our situation. “Yeah, so we just need some water, because we’re looking for a bridge after which there should be some place to stay,” we explained to them while refilling our water bottles. “You’re looking for a pousada?”, one of them asked with an intonation that implied more was coming. “Well, look no more – this is a pousada, you can stay here.” I looked at Luca, Luca looked at me. After around 9 hours of hiking, we didn’t need to think twice about this.
After having put up our tent in a scenic valley lit by an incredibly beautiful full moon, we had some delicious home-made food, chatted with a couple of fellow travellers (one of whom looked like young Daniem Rice!), and crashed. I think we did around 18 km that day, which made that rest very much-deserved. And, now knowing what was awaiting us the next day, that rest was very much needed.