"Wait for the rain," they advised us.
We had initially planned on visiting Cachoeira da Fumaca ("Smoke Falls") on our very first day, but because of a few fortunate wrenches in the plan, we ended up waiting for just the right time.
Fumaca is called "smoke falls" because the water source is so high that before it gets the chance to touch the ground it turns to a massive cloud of mist which appears like a great puff of smoke.
Everybody we met and everything we read told us that Fumaca would surely be the highlight of our trip to Chapada if not one of the highlights of our lives. They were right.
Back to the coincidence of our arriving on the right day:
When we initially arrived at our Pousada (the place we stayed), Pablo (the manager and a seasoned guide) told us that Fumaca might be too challenging for Day 1. (He definitely underestimated Marina and my athleticism because the hike turned out to be no problem for us.) We weren't convinced by his argument and so we almost ignored him, but his next point actually convinced us to wait. Pablo explained that it had not rained in Chapada for nearly 2 months. If we were to go during this dry spell, there would be no water in the falls. The valley itself would still be a spectacular sight, but of course, it would be best with the water.
So we rearranged our plans and held off for Fumaca until day 4, hoping that we'd get lucky.
Sure enough, on the evening of our third night at Chapada, it rained and rained and rained. When we woke up on day 4, it was still raining ever so lightly. Perfect.
We hopped out of bed at 7 AM, ate breakfast, met up with our guide, and off we went to Brazil's second highest waterfall.
The day began with an hour drive through the highway and then the rough dirt roads of a few isolated towns. Our hike commenced around 9AM when the clouds were still heavy in the sky. This, we're told, was also lucky because usually the challenging part of the Fumaca hike is not the terrain but the heat of the beating sun. We were spared.
Part one of the hike is pictured below. You'll see lots of curious vegetation and some very smooth and beautiful rock formations which would be like stairs on the path.
While the hike itself was a lovely and odd combination of mountainside, views of a village, plateaus, forest and prairie, the peak of the experience was our arrival at the top of the falls.
We hung around for several hours, eating a picnic, taking photos, and sitting on the edge to stare out at the massive valley and forceful falls below. I've never seen anything like it and who knows if I ever will again.
The smell and sound were some of the best parts of the experience. Everything was so fresh, clean and untouched.
As the day went on, the clouds dispersed and out came the sun. We embraced this whole new view of the falls now offered to us with increased daylight and hiked over to another vantage point.
Finally, exhausted and very fulfilled, we hiked back down just in time to catch the sunset at another, much tinier waterfall, at which point I hardly bothered taking any more photos. Below you'll see that the last part of our hike was much sunnier and hotter than the way up. The sun is good to me.
I still cannot believe that I've seen what I've seen. As always, I feel grateful for this life and humbled by our mother earth.