One of the most spectacular crossings for those looking for untouched landscapes is, without a doubt, the trekking in Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
Considered by many to be one of the most fascinating crossings in South America, the trekking in Lençóis Maranhenses National Park guarantees admirers around the world who fall in love with the region's charms. Discovering the natural beauties of Lençóis Maranhenses is a great overcoming, since the crossing requires some physical effort and can be difficult for some people, but we can say that in this scenario of contemplation all the effort is rewarding.
There are few agencies that have authorization to make the route, as it is a National Park with some of its own characteristics, for safety reasons, only those who were born in the communities of the Maranhão sheets can perform such a function. Some complexities require such care, since Lençóis has an immense territorial space – there are approximately 150,000 hectares of dunes full of lagoons in the months of May to August, and can go until September depending on the rains.
At one end, an immensity of sand bordered by a 70 km long coastline skirts the dunes that can reach 50 meters in height. The landscape is colossal, with a unique geographic format. In addition, with the strong wind in the region, the dunes move from place to place daily. In this way, only a native is able to locate himself in such an inhospitable environment with frequent changes in the scenery.
THE crossing the Lencois Maranhenses can be done in at least 4 days, and can be extended if you want to spend a few more days relaxing in one of the oases found in the middle of Lençóis. This second option can be good for those who have a longer period, believe me, when you arrive in the communities you will want to stay longer.
They are natural oases in small rustic villages without great luxuries, but with immeasurable natural wealth. But anyway, even if your crossing is 4 or 5 days, you will stay overnight in these communities and enjoy a little bit of this paradise.
As the flooding of the lakes occurs as a natural phenomenon, try to make the crossing right after the state's rainy season. This usually takes place between June and August, and it can go up to September depending on the year you visit. However, even in the dry season, the scenery is still incredible, but it is not possible to enjoy the baths that the destination offers. So, make sure you go in advance to go at the desired time.
1st Day – São Luís / Barreirinhas / Rio Preguiça / Atins / Canto de Atins
2nd Day – Canto de Atins / Baixa Grande – 32km
3rd Day – Baixa Grande / Queimada dos Britos – 9km
4th Day – Queimada dos Britos / Bethânia / Santo Amaro / São Luís – 13 km
Day 1 – São Luís x Canto de Atins
Leaving São Luís towards barriers, a municipality that is the gateway to the Lencois Maranhenses National Park, we boarded a “voadeira”, a small boat very common in the region, from the main pier. We cross part of the Preguiça River, a stream of calm waters surrounded by vegetation full of açaí, pequi and other local species, until reaching the other end, in the village of Atins.
Leaving the speedboat behind, we set off in a 4×4 around the dunes for a few minutes, following the path to the starting point of our crossing in Canto de Atins, a village with few houses, located in front of the dunes.
When we arrived, we were immediately recommended to try Luzia's shrimp, a specialty of the village's native cook, highly recommended in the region. The shrimp is seasoned with super secret ingredients that Luzia doesn't tell anyone. If you want advice, don't leave without trying this shrimp, you won't regret it! After a home-cooked meal with that unique Northeastern flavor, we went to contemplate the first sunset on the dunes, followed by one of the most impressive starry skies I've ever seen.
Day 2 – Canto de Atins x Baixa Grande
In the middle of the night we started the last preparations for the walk. It's 32 km straight until reaching the first support stop inside the park, the village of Baixa Grande, where we'll spend the night before continuing the walk the next day. Much of the distance covered on the first day is along the beach, with no climbs, which greatly facilitates the journey to reach the first dune.
After walking for some time, the landscape begins to change, and little by little, the beach and the small vegetation where we left begins to disappear into the horizon. Infinite mounds of white sand appear as far as the eye can see. It was approximately 4 am when we started walking.
In order not to be exposed to the sun for long periods, the crossing starts at dawn, ending the first day's walks at the end of the morning. The forecast for arrival at the first point varies from 11 hours and half a day, exact time to spare the adventurers of the sun at dawn.
Even walking at dawn, the moonlight and the starry sky guarantee minimal lighting, making it possible to walk without artificial light. Starting the route during this period also makes it possible to enjoy one of the highlights of the trip, which is to see the sunrise and sunset in the midst of the dunes, a spectacle on its own.
With some mandatory breaks, we rested, taking advantage of the numerous freshwater lakes that we found along the way, until arriving at our first stop. When we arrived, lunch was practically ready for our reception.
Pé na sand, a simple house with a large coconut tree in front, which helps to identify the house in the midst of the horizon full of dunes. The food was homemade, prepared with great care, and the vegetables offered were planted in a garden suspended in the backyard of the house, a very common alternative adopted by families in the region.
Day 3 – Baixa Grande x Queimada dos Britos
already in the middle of Lencois Maranhenses National Park, we woke up in Baixa Grande, a small village nestled in the middle of a natural oasis. Right behind, large dunes and lagoons surround the few houses in the village, in all not 10 families inhabit this first stop, and on the way, you will hardly find other people. The surreal landscape and the immensity of Lençóis gives us an indescribable feeling. Rustic hospitality exempts itself from grand luxuries and amenities, but honestly, you won't miss any of that. The accommodations are also simple and travelers stay in hammocks, which does not provide much comfort to the less adapted, but the simplicity of an untouched setting like this can be an extra experience in your itinerary, not to mention the residents, who welcome us with a smile on their face, willing to show the best of the region.
After enjoying the last moments in the village, we said goodbye and continued our journey towards the next stop. Passing by a few more lagoons of different sizes, we begin to see a small green dot in the background, which little by little turns into vegetation covering all that white. The village Queimada dos Britos appeared a little later, also in an oasis separated by a distance of 9 km from the first stop. There, the movement is a little bigger, there are an average of 15 families inhabiting the village and it is the second stop for those who are doing the trekking.
While meals were being prepared, roasted cashew nuts were served in abundance. Every gesture was an attempt to please the travelers who had just arrived in paradise as much as possible. After a refreshing shower, we listened to the region's countless stories, learning more about the people who live in one of the most unique landscapes on the planet.
Day 4 – Queimada dos Britos x São Luís
Who guided us from start to finish was Jô, one of the funniest guides I've ever met walking around. He is the agency's guide Mangrove Brazil Tourism, headquartered in São Luís (MA). He was born in the village of Baixa Grande, and is the grandson of the first man to inhabit the Lençóis communities, arriving there around the 70s, originating the first community. The trajectory of the people from Ceará was motivated by the search for new lands, traveling from Ceará to Maranhão on foot, without any structure. When he found vegetation in Lençóis, he chose the place as a house, even though it is located in a “tropical desert” that is practically dry most of the year, the easy access to the beach and the possibility of making an artesian well to guarantee drinking water were enough reasons to inhabit the area. region. In the film Casa de Areia, filmed in Lençóis Maranhenses, the difficulty of adapting these people in the region is also portrayed. The families of the Baixa Grande and Queimada dos Britos villages also participated in the production of the film, supporting the entire cast and production.
Our last day of expedition ends leaving Queimada dos Britos village in the early hours of the day. After breakfast, we left for the last day of the crossing towards the village of Bethânia and then to the peaceful Santo Amaro do maranhão, an inland city also known for being another alternative for visiting Lençóis. There will be another 13 km of walking until the last stop, dawn is still contemplated on the walk, with a few more stops for bathing. At the end of the route, we pass by Lagoa da Gaivota, the largest in the region present in the landscape all year round. Arriving in the village of Bethânia, a small canoe is already waiting for us to cross the calm water river, then we continue the trip in a 4×4 returning to the capital São Luís. A little tired of the crossing, but in love, with a lot of story to tell.
Before making the crossing, we equip ourselves with some essential accessories to withstand the trekking in comfort AND safety. For those who are going to venture, below we list some items that we use during the trekking. For more specific accessories, I advise you to visit a point of sale. SHORT and guarantee utensils that will be indispensable during the trip.
What to take
- Medium-sized cargo backpack;
- Pre-softened sneakers or boots with spare socks;
- Light-colored clothing for walking;
- Hat or cap;
- Insect repellent;
- Light flashlight (with spare batteries);
- Plastic bag for garbage on the trail;
- Canteen or squeeze with water;
- Medicines taken regularly;
- Walking stick (optional);
- Photo camera (priority);
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