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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Brumado to Mucugé - Stop #1 - Gruta da Mangabeira

On Wednesday, April 12 we left Brumado, Bahia after a good, hearty breakfast and with a bag full of snacks and fruits.  After many hugs and kisses we hit the road.  First we looked for a bank in the downtown area.  This was a little harder than we'd first thought with confusing one-way roads.  But we finally found a Bradesco and got some more cold cash to make it through our last days.  We stopped and got some more soft drinks and juices to load up the ac/dc cooler and off we went looking for adventure in the Chapada Diamantina of southern Bahia. 

As we headed north on state route BA-142 for the city of Mucugé, we quickly noted that the road wasn't in as good as shape as we head been lead to believe.  I think GPS's should have a setting to send info back to a central office to advise of bad roads.  Nonetheless on we went passing a large cement factory and lots of banana plantations.

Our plans for the day were not well defined.  We just wanted to get into Mucugé and see a diamond mind museum and find a good place to sleep.  We had plenty of time and lots of snacks, when we saw this entrance to a city called Ituaçu.  The lower part of the sign said - Visit the Cave of Mangabeira, The Most Beautiful Work of Nature. 

A little bit later there was another sign with an arrow to turn and "5 km."  I said, "Hey, let's go see it." And we turned, only to find the road was blocked by some contruction another.  We had to turn here and turn there and ask quite a few people on corners to find our way out the back side of the city to hit the road to the cave, but we did not give up. 

I had wanted to visit some caves along our route but hadn't found one that was close enough to where we were going and cheap enough to afford to see.  We had even stopped at some other signs for caves along the beginning of our route, but had given up after finding out the entrance fees were outrageous. 

Arriving in the little villa where the entrance to the cave was located we found out that it only cost BR$50 for a group of 1 - 20 to have a guided tour of the 3.5 km long system.  The "kind" man who gave us all this information was also a taxi driver.  For a mere BR$40 he would come after us at the end of the tour as the exit from the cave was 4 km out of town.  Byron declined the taxi ride, but paid for a necessary guide.

Our guide explained that the first part of the cave closest to the entrance also functions as a Catholic chapel with regular church services and special events.  Apparently years ago a cowboy had found the cave after falling into this hole above.  He survived the fall and was able to find his way out.  To thank God for sparing his life, the place was made into a sacred memorial.

The first and second parts of the long cave hike have electric lighting.  Any visitor can enter into the chapel in the first section, but only visitors accompanied by a guide can take the rest of the tour.  The last section had no lighting and our guide carried several flashlights and a small gas lantern.

The cave has some active dripping formations but for the most part the path is level and easy for any age.  There are about 275 steps at the end to climb out which left me a little winded.  There is some insect and animal life.  We saw this interesting spider near the end.

Amblypygi Charinus troglobius - Whip Spider

They don't have any venom, but look rather scary.  We also saw some crickets and the guide indicated that there are bats from time to time inspite.  The cave was not entirely cool as you might think it should be.  And overall was rather dry even though there was some dripping and wet areas.  Most of the cave has been explored.

Byron concluded at the end of our tour that it had been the "highlight" of our trip for him.  Greyson commented that it had also been the "low point."

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