Into the desert

“In the desert, you can forget your swimsuit. ‘Cause there ain’t no one there to give you no pain”: My version of “Horse with No Name”!
Just as there are 50 words for snow in the Eskimo language, I’m sure there are at least that number of different kinds of sand in the desert. They ALL feel great on the bare feet (except when it’s too hot :-). I’ve done a LOT of hiking in my life. If my feet had an odometer, it would have rolled over a few times. Never before barefoot the whole trip. LOVED IT! It was like getting a 5 hours deep foot massage. We typically think of deserts as dead places: far from the truth. Not only are there reptiles, rodents, birds and sometimes humans, but also the sand dunes are very alive and ever changing. Lagoons appear and disappear and the clouds! It’s a beautiful live painting drawn by Mother Nature.
It’s summer in Brazil with temperatures from 27°C to 35°C (80-95°F). I thought we were going to chill by a lagoon till after 3pm when the temperature cools down before hiking. Nope! Hiked from 11am to 3pm in the desert sun.
“How do you find your way around?”, I asked the guide who was leading me from Lagoa Azul to Lagoa Bonita in Lençóis Maranhenses, “It’s hard to explain”, he said. “There are many signs if you know how to read them, including the direction of the wind”. There was, indeed, a constant tail wind from the ocean, 35km away, that kept us cool. With a hat, sunshades, the occasional nude bathing in the lagoons, catching fish with a stick, living in the moment and drinking lots of water, it was very enjoyable. Every time we climbed a dune, we were rewarded by beautiful scenery, the anticipation of sliding down and a lagoon on the other side. Sometimes dry, sometimes ankle deep, waist deep or chest deep. Some have fish, some have vegetation, some potable water, some not. No two lagoons are the same. I loved sliding down the hills and sinking knee deep in the sand with every step. It felt like the earth was hugging me. Made going up totally worth it! We stopped for lunch at Lagoa Bonita oasis, more hiking and swimming, sunset watching then back to town, Barrereinhas, after dark.
It rains for 2 months a year in this area of northern Brazil, March and April. The lagoons last till the next rainy season, albeit shallow. Then the rain comes to replenish them. As a natural reserve, Lençóis Maranhenses is protected from human development, except for the handful of indigenous families who have been living there for hundreds of years. They have cattle, donkeys, farm around some of the lagoons, and tourism is a big source of income for them.

Hala in Lancois Maranheses, Brazil

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