Friday, July 22, 2011

Lençóis: Day 2

I was collected bright and early on Day 2 by an empty jeep for a tour of the Rio Preguiça (lazy river), which would be a full day event. We collected other passengers around the village, though none were the friends I made on the Day 1 tour. I eyed passing tour boats now and then, hoping to catch up with my buddies along the way. I saw one boat (well, heard a bunch of yelping from one boat) that, I was convinced, carried my companheiros: alas, I never did find them.

My new companions were far more tame, though friendly enough, and whatever disappointment I had melted away once aboard the speedboat, rushing along the river on the gorgeous, sunny Thursday morning.

The day's agenda was to travel to the sea via the river, stopping along the way at Vassouras, at the penninsula of Caburé where the Rio Preguiças meets the Atlantic, and at Mandacarú, where there's a lighthouse offering spectacular views of the river, the sea, a village, miles of lush terrain, and even a bit of Lençóis.

Side note: at sixteen (and the years that followed), I loved to be in the driver's seat. Now, driving is ok now and then--I don't mind. But being a passenger is the best. I like to stare out the window and contemplate the scenery and whatever thoughts are dominating the day. I love taxi rides. Friends with cars. I love plane rides. And, I discovered, I really love mad jeeps and boats!

After about an hour on the wide river we veered onto a side street, if you will.

TREES! Spectacular trees, with thousands of arching branches that curved back into the river seeking muddy, watery roots! Our guide taught us a lot about the vegetation and I have an entirely new respect for the many different varieties of palm trees. I never gave much thought to the different sizes and shapes before, but ever since, I notice them more. And now I know, for example, that the buriti has the most durable palms and is typically used to roof shelters and to make goods like placemats, purses, etc.

Some of them even grow yellow coconuts. Perhaps all coconuts begin yellow, but if that's the case, then I never saw them so young.

Out of the tree tunnel, we saw a hut across the water where the dunes meet the forest. This is Vassouras, our first stop.

At first I thought the makeshift bench and tree branches ruined an otherwise perfectly vacant sandscape. I came to like it though, finding it kinda artsy. Perhaps the purpose is to create a visual landmark so that when you're wandering the sandy hills, you know where you need to aim on the return. Just an uneducated city-girl hypothesis.

The entire area is an environmental preserve, and Vassouras is simply a hut tucked away there where tourists and local fisherman can stop to stretch, laze in a hammock, take in the views atop the dunes (where the sea is visible, unlike our stop in Lençóis where the sea was 50km of sand dunes away), and refresh with an água de coco or a light snack.

They keep lots of animals too, who are very accustomed to, and hospitable toward, visitors--mostly in the name of earning scraps like leftover coconuts.

Monkeys! They are fickle though. Hard to photograph. Always on the move and if you're not offering the goods, they have no time for you. (I know some people like that too!)

This is the bartenders pet... raccoon (type...thing...)? Same rule applies.

I'm sorry, I forgot your name, pretty bird.

Our next stop, a quick one to order our lunch, was in Caburé. Then we bolted off for a swim where the mouth of the river opens to the sea. Luxo total. Total luxury, floating in shallow, warm, clear water and collecting seashells along the shore.

This is the life.

It's so pretty here: so humble, so natural, so undeveloped, so pristine. Even the speed boats of tourists were few and far between and there was no trace of pollution from us, or them.

I enjoyed that, despite my intention to use this trip to put all my thoughts about moving in order, to reflect on everything I've done and seen in three-plus years in Brazil, I didn't think at all. I just existed and enjoyed. I was simply carried along on an amazing journey, away from noise and choices, philosophizing amid disturbances. What calm--and what fun! (So this is what They mean when They advise us to "live in the moment"--huh.) What was I saying? Oh, yeah. It was so sunny.

Back on the boat on another "side street" that our guide chose in order to show us something. If you click on the picture, perhaps you can see the bubbles in the shady part of the water.

Those aren't bubbles. Those are eyes!

They belong to dozens (we saw hundreds, actually) of fish that jump like frogs across the water. Close up to follow.

We returned to Caburé to eat lunch and had some extra time to swim, again, this time in the open sea just across the dune. There were 4-wheel mini-buggies for rent if one was inclined to go racing along the shoreline. I was happy to play in the waves...

...and with the dead fish. Look! It was one of those frog-like jumping fish who had obviously lost his way and paid the price. I thank him, posthumously, for giving me a chance to investigate and learn.


Look at the teeth! Too late for the orthodontist.
He looks like he had something left to say in this life, no? "But... I... uuggghhh"--dead.
He's cute though, in that last-picked-for-the-team kinda way.

As I was playing, err, conducting my scientific study, a bird circled. We eyed each other. I don't speak bird so I couldn't advise him that I had already eaten, so he was welcome to depart with his lunch. I'm sure he figured it out later. But first, The Staredown... a triangle of nature: human (sneaking in off screen), bird (left), and defenseless fish (right).

Then it was off to the Farol de Mandacarú (the lighthouse).

Not to be missed views, as advertised.

On the way back to the boat for the last ride, we stopped for ice cream. I thought this little boy was adorable, though he seemed agitated that the Guaraná Jesus can was empty, and he scowled at me for not sharing my ice cream.

I also admired the locals' resourcefulness, crafting a walkway out of empty bottles stuck neck-down in the sand. Clever.

Another hour on the speedboat and we were back in Barreirinhas, where I enjoyed a few beers and a rising full moon along the riverfront, surrounded by quirky, relaxed, unpretentious locals. This is my kind of night.

Another brilliant day in Maranhão. One more, em seguida...

Paulistinha Maranhense