After recovering from an ankle injury and ending the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series as runner-up, Colombian Orlando Duque explores Chapada Diamantina in Brazil and his expedition is captured in pictures here.
It all starts 27 metres above water. Three seconds later, the speed increases up to almost 90kph and the impact with the surface can reach 5Gs. For the Colombian, Orlando Duque, a former Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series Champion, this effect means an impact of 350kgs.
This year, after being away from diving in 2011 due to an ankle injury, Duque came back as if nothing had happened, finishing the season as runner-up in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, losing out on his second world title in the last dive to Britain's Gary Hunt.
Just after the end of the season in Oman, Orlando arrived in Chapada Diamantina, in the heart of Bahia, Brazil, to explore waterfalls and cliffs, searching for spots to dive.
In only three days, he was able to dive from two of the most dangerous places in the park: Poço do Diabo (Devil’s Well) and Buracão (Big Hole).
The beautiful surroundings and the food caught the athlete’s attention right away. Each step represented something new for Orlando and when he arrived in Poço do Diabo he didn't hesitate to grab his camera and take a few pictures. He then took a look at the diving spot, which was about 22 metres in height, changed his gear and jumped into water to check the depth at the point he would enter the pool. Certain he wouldn’t hit anything under water, the Colombian climbed to the point where he would get ready to dive.
Before his first dive, the tension could be felt. At 22 metres above the water line, Orlando performed his pre-dive ritual; repeatedly practising the tricks he would perform during the flight. He got to the edge of the cliff, made his signal that he was ready, started a countdown and then flew for his first dive in Brazil. Duque celebrated after returning to the surface. After the first one, he repeated the dive three times before leaving Poço do Diabo.
The next day, Orlando took a trip to one of the most iconic and famous places in Chapada Diamantina: Poço Azul (Blue Well). The flooded cave left him spellbound once again. As soon as he knew he could get into the water, he didn’t lose any time and took on another dive.
“When I get to a venue in which there is water, it seems it calls me. It doesn’t matter if there is a jump spot of 27, 30, 50 or two metres… the feeling I have is that I must jump”, said Orlando, who had to settle for just swimming in Poço Azul, without diving into the blue water.
On his third day in Chapada Diamantina, the Colombian faced a two-hour drive, one of those to traverse a dirty – and bumpy – 30km road to Buracão – a 95-metre waterfall that, once again, left Orlando awestruck.
“These venues are amazing! Buracão is unbelievable," Duque said. "Even from the top of the fall I felt that feeling I sensed in Poço Azul. My mind telling me ‘No way! It’s impossible to jump from here!’, there was something inside me saying: ‘Sure you can! Jump…’ (laughs)”, said the 38-year-old diver.
To get to the natural platform, about 20 metres above the water, Duque used a technique known by mountaineers as rope ascending with a jumar. This tiring way up was promptly rewarded with the dive. “Every time I go up, I say to myself: ‘I won’t go up again! This will be the last time’, but when I dive this thought goes away and I only think: ‘I want to do it again!’," said Orlando, who made the long way up on three occasions in Buracão, each time with a huge smile on his face!
For the former Red Bull Cliff Diving champion, the trip to Brazil was more than a search for diving spots, it was a reward after such a challenging year. “To have the opportunity to come to Brazil is the perfect reward after a season in which I had to overcome and regain my confidence (due to the ankle injury). That’s why coming to Brazil and being here, in Chapada Diamantina, and having the chance to vist such amazing places, for sure, is an experience that I’ll remember forever. I had an amazing time here in Bahia,” he said.