The smells, encounters, colors, and flavors of Lençóis Maranhenses. These will surely be guarded in my memory forever.
Three days of walking in the Lençóis made me took into an indescribable experience. It was the most sensory differentiating experience that I’ve ever had. I went up and down miles and miles of giant sand dunes. Sometimes soft white sand, sometimes so wet that they seemingly swallowed my tired feet while walking.
An oasis in the middle of nowhere, and lush beauty. Preserved nature painted by the hands of the creator. During the day the bright sun reflected off the clear water lagoons. These natural tanks of water form during the rainy season (January to June). At night the sky is so starry that you can see many shooting stars right before your eyes. That’s right, you can see shooting and streaking across the sky. This is one of those moments that you give thanks for being alive, and that’s what I did.
I found myself sometimes crying silently over tiredness and physical unpreparedness. But nothing shook my happiness and gratitude to be in such a magical place.
The invitation from Surfin Sem Fim was challenging. I have 3 herniated discs in my lower spine. Weeks before the expedition, my doctor advised me to be cautious. This is where the search for overcoming personal challenges began. I just wanted to make it to the end, certain that amazing things were about to happen to me and the group. And that’s what happened, and they were some beautiful days.
I do not intend to report here only my experience in the immersion of natural beauty of the region. This is an easy task, and many people have already done it. I want to talk the about people, feelings, encounters, mismatches, overcoming, gratitude, and the “taking care of others”.
Do you know that comforting feeling from your childhood memories? It was more or less that. A country home with a dirt floor, animals scattered in the pasture, clay pot bubbling with delights in the wood stove, the smell of fresh food, water in the tank, and cousins playing in the backyard. My affective memory of the Lençóis brought me back to decades ago. I returned to my childhood in the interior of São Paulo- at Grandma’s house, you know? I had a happy childhood. I made this connection and didn’t ask myself why. I just felt it. I closed my eyes and let myself be carried by the emotion. Describing sensations is personal and not transferable. Just living.
The memories took over the environment. Only I wasn’t at Grandma’s, I was at Dona Loza’s and Mazinho’s house. One of the 5 families allowed to live within the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.
The smell of clean clothes, home-cooked food, family together, animals scattered around the house, thatched roof, and a burnt cement floor.
Surfin Sem Fim’s expedition had just arrived on the scene. Still with our backpacks, very exhausted from the day of adventure and plenty of walking. The house of Dona Loza and Mazinho is the first stop for our group. The simple, but cozy, house is in the municipality of Baixa Grande. There, it is the fulcrum for adventurers who, like us, need to stop for a bath, eat a homemade meal, and rest for the next day of more hiking.
Right away we are greeted by Mrs. Loza. She was keen to welcome the SSF expedition. The matriarch received us one by one with a smile on her face, a tight hug and a hammocks for us to sleep. The smell of the hammock stands out in my memory of that place. What a fresh smelling net. Clean, fragrant, ironed and well folded fabric. I really need to rest. I was not worried about having a sleepless night. I just wanted to be happy and live that unique experience. My night was great. I rested well and woke up without back pain. Invigorated.
The smell of strained coffee through a fabric filter invaded the place. Mazinho was there preparing breakfast for the house. My curiosity, to understand how they managed to make everything so clean and organized for the arrival of backpackers, spoke up and I asked the question. The answer was quick and accurate: Love and dedication. I was touched by the purity of the couple. I felt that I was really being taken care of.
I soon understood the strong meaning of my childhood memories in that place.
I understood that Dona Loza is the “cute” grandmother of everyone who arrives from the dunes. She wants to please, welcome, care for them. She wants to hug you tight, rub your back, and say that her house is yours too. And how good it is for the soul. That smile on her face, which has the marks on her skin that show the difficulties of life she endured. A warrior woman, strong. Dona Loza has the gift of taking care of others. She took care of me.
The wind takes us everywhere! This time it surprised me. It carried me away. It wanted me to feel Dona Loza’s loving embrace.
This wind that we cannot touch, but feel strongly blowing in our faces and hair, makes me believe in a good humanity. It blows so hard on the dunes that few can keep up. This strong and loud wind, invisible to our eyes, just wants to show us empathy, simplicity, love, poetry and protection. How good to take care and to be taken care of. Luckily for me, the wind carried me very far away. Only then I had the honor of meeting some good people, who are often forgotten in the midst of this world of my God.
Written By: Patricia Calderon
Photos By; Patricia Calderon
Translation By: Hammond Sale Jr.