If you’re fond of sand dunes then Parque Nacional Dos Lençóis Maranhenses is the place you want to be on account of the fact its pretty much made entirely of sand dunes with a few rain water swimming holes thrown in just to make you really happy. Upon rocking up to Barreirinhas, the gateway to the park, the minibus took us to São Paulo Tourist Agency who’ll help you find a pousada to match your needs (“mais barato, por favour.” Cheapest, please) then talk you into one or two of the trips they offer into the national park itself and the neighbouring vast expanse of sand, Pequenos Lençóis. Before I knew it I was booked onto the 2pm tour to the parque nacional and was given a full description of full day river tour which I could do the day after.
It’s very much worth it though, I had a fucking wicked time despite the fact I really really dislike sand. Tiny particles of evil hell bent on getting into every orifice you own. It’s not peaceful by any means, the 4WD takes you as far as it’s allowed to then you’re on foot as you move from Lagoa Azul to Lagoa Do Peixe and other swimming holes. You, and the rest of the tourists which will more than likely consist of scantily clad, older Brazilians. There were about 5 Toyotas lined up, each carrying a full group. But it’s still amazing. Lençóis Maranhenses is easily one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to ay. There’s something about water that makes me so happy, from lakes to rivers, the ocean to waterfalls, I love it. Maybe it’s a Pisces thing. I mean, I’m not the strongest swimmer but that’s due purely to my own laughable fitness level, my confidence in the water outweighs my ability. I’m pretty much destined to drown somewhere pretty.
Apparently there isn’t as much water in the lagoas as there has been in previous years because it hasn’t rained as much as usual. Ah, climate change. Has so much to answer for. The water is lovely even though everything wants a piece of me up here. If it’s not the mosquitoes its the fish. I’m no strangers to being nibbled on by little fishes and in the place we stopped for a dip, if you sit really still they’ll come up to see what you taste like. They were loving the scab on my knee, the little buggers. They did a better job than me of scab removal and I’m skilled in the art of making wounds worse. I watched them for a while until they got too brave and started trying to remove larger portions then I scarpered before they made off with a limb.
And the dunes are amazing to see, especially once the sun begins to set. The whole landscape looks unreal with the piles of sand broken up by the water. At one point we passed a couple of cows that looked so out of place, like they’d gotten lost on the way to milking and ended up in a Salvador Dali painting.
Ah shit… cultural reference… I really am getting old! So once we’d all been lead around the lagoas through the dunes, everyone congregated on top of a dune near the Toyotas to watch the sunset.
As for Barreirinhas, there are two reasons I like it here. One is Pousada Terral, R$15 a night for my own room. The other is Restaurante Terral just up the road. R$6 for a mean feed of meat, rice and beans which is a typical Brazilian meal. Apart from that it’s too hot to do anything. At all. Ever. Apart from be taken from place to place and shown cool things that involve immersion in water.
So I was pretty much sold on the full day river tour through Pequenos Lençóis an all because I’m easily parted with my cash when there’s a promise of pretty things and this tour promised many many pretty things from monkeys to beaches. And it was cheap. R$60 for 8 hours. Loves it. Just enough time to spot some caimans in the mangroves, be taken to another load of sand dunes, check out a monkey colony, climb a lighthouse, then sip a caipirinha on a beach and frolic in the ocean (and yes, you MUST frolic, mere swimming will not suffice) before crashing out in a hammock until you’re woken up because it’s time to go.
The monkey colony is wicked, they’ll come right up to you to grab food out of your hand if you offer it to them, I think I fell in love with monkeys that day. There’s probably something so ecologically wrong about feeding them but they’re sooo cute. And the balance of nature was clearly already upset, one more piece of banana wouldn’t make a difference… right? The ocean here is fabulous too, its so warm and I don’t mean It’s Alright Once You’re In kinda warm where you still squeal like a bitch when the water reaches your tender parts, it’s actually warm.
Anyway, for future reference the rest of my life will now be conducted from a hammock. My new address will be A Hammock, The Tropics, Somewhere Pretty and there will be vacancies opening for people to fan me with palm leaves and ply me with caipirinhas. In other news, I also managed to get my first sunburn of the trip on my stomach and lower back because I neglected to apply sunscreen to these areas on account of the fact “the sun just didn’t feel as hot there.” I await my medal for idiocy.
Barreirinhas, Maranhão, Brazil
Stayed at: Pousada Terral