Saturday, January 28, 2012

Traveling with family members

Traveling with family is always a challenge.
My aunt and her boyfriend are coming with us and finding lodging that fit both our groups standards was hard, but we did without having to compromise much.
I hope she feels the same way.

As I have metioned before, Hubby and I don't believe in fancy 5-star lodging, but just something cheap, clean, and with a local feeling. Since this is Chapada Diamantina, a rich local breakfast table was also an important item.

Hammocks were also something I looked for, but not a deal breaker. Hammocks are just it! There's nothing above hammocks to a legitimate Baiana, like me. But I do sleep in beds on a regular basis and I have learned that life isn't made of hammocks. I could do without them, but I was lucky enough to find a place that has them.

My aunt and her boyfriend seemed to me to have a bit more of an upscale taste. Well, it turns out that we found a place that seems to have satisfied both our groups. It doesn't look too cheap, but it was not expensive either. It looks very local and it is home-run.

We are paying R$ 72 reais a day at the Corona de Pedra , in Lençois, and R$ 115 a day at the Sincorá  in Andaraí.

Now the issue is, to hire or not to hire a professional guide. Apparently the husband of the Crona's owner is a guide, so she has been pushing for us to pay a guide. The people from the Sincorá have already told me they can help me get around the area without a guide.

Why are we staying in two towns? Because the Chapada covers a large area with not awesome roads and more to do than we have the time for.

To get to Chapada, from Salvador you can either fly or drive. It's a 6 hour drive vs a 25-minute flight. However flights don't leave everyday.
Since our family is from Salvador we opted for driving in our own car.

If you have your own car, your guide will agree to ride in the car with you for a daily fee. The Corona guide will do a daily rate for R$80 reais.

If you don't have your own car, and either take a bus or fly there, the guide you hire will drive you in his own agency's car. I can't help with that, bc I did not do any research on that.

Planning 2012 part 1 - Chapada Diamantina, Bahia

The planning of our trip began by the planning of the Brazilian leg of it.
We were going to spend a week in the Amazon forest, in the state of Amazonas, and a week in the country side of Bahia, the beautiful Chapada Diamantina, a trip that has been cancelled twice already due to situations out of our control - my unexpected new job in 08 and my father's illness in 10. This year I did not want to cancel it. Nothing could be in our way. And so far, so good. We are finally going to Chapada.

Chapada is portuguese for Plateau. Chapada Diamantina is a place in the country side of Bahia that is famous for its hills, caves and natural pools, some of them inside caves. I have been there once. It had been my dream to go back again for many years now. Check out this website:

Planning the Amazon part of the trip was easy. There are plenty of websites out there promoting Amazon tours. However the Chapada trip was hard to plan because there are not many websites about the places to go in Chapada. Not many people there are connected and websites don't get updated regularly. The streets of the cities of the chapada aren't on Google Maps either. I didn't find a website for each attraction with distances, directions, COST (very important!) - these, you will notice, are virtually non existent in my search.

I had to get help from friends and family members who have been there a few times to get ideas of places and costs.

I did, however, find a few websites that were helpful. Websites with lists of B&Bs. Some are innactive. But some are very active and many of them even have suggestions of  places to go and daily itineraries. These websites helped figure out our itinerary. Two of those websites also ended up being the ones I chose for our B&B:

1- Corona de Pedra in the town of Lençois.

2- Sincorá in the town of Andaraí

I made a special deal with each of them (one of the reasons why I ended choosing them): we paid for the place in advance to hold the 2011 rates for 2012. I even got a 10% discount with the Corona de Pedra for paying in full.

What to look for in a B&B in Chapada Diamantina?
Well, Chapada is a place in the country side of Bahia, so the typical food is a unique experience. But it's also a place where you go to enjoy nature - a lot of hiking and diving, so fancy places to stay are a waste of time!
A good description of breakfast and rooms that looked clean but not fancy is what you want.
Also try a place that has a local look.
The last thing you need is an expensive hotel that looks just like any other place in the planet. For example, stay away from places like Portal de Lençois, with its international (expensive) standards. You want a place that looks like the place you're visiting.
And if you are going for a place to spend time outside, paying for fancy lodging is a waste of your hard earned money.

Go to the posting Chapada on the Web to find a complete list of  websites I used for the planning of this leg of the trip with a description of what each of them are.
Also posted is the suggested itinerary. Why Suggested? Well I have learned from previous trips that itineraries must always remain flexible. To prepare this itinerary I talked to local guides and researched the websites I have mentioned earlier. But when we are there, things might change. The important thing is to remain flexible and enjoy each second of the trip. Enjoy each second because you won't get a second chance to live those seconds.