If you are flying from São Paulo, buy a ticket to São Luis, the capital of Maranhão. Then, rent a car or hire a tour operator to go to Barreirinhas, a city that is located in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (northeastern of Btazil). The highway there is smooth as smooth can be. The driver explained the reason: “Roseanna Sarney (the Governon) invests here because it attracts a lot of tourists, the joke is the rest of Maranhão is all bumpy”
On the road São Luís / Barreirinhas
The houses near the highway are made of bricks and covered with cement, others were made with bamboo and straw. The ones made with clay have roofs covered with coconut trees leaves. The outdoor toilet doesn’t even have a ceiling. Residents dry their clothes in front of houses or on the wire line. Half naked children play in the dirt yard. This is a typical Brazilian portrait: a gigantic country full of very poor people. On the road people sell fake DVDs, bacuri pulp, dried shrimp and dried beef meat.
Day 1 – Barreirinhas
I chose a hotel with a pool and air-conditioning. I went with a group in a car/truck called Bandeirantes to the edge of Preguiças River to cross on a raft that was followed by a kind of rally to the park entrance. To my surprise, the ponds are next to each other. The sand is low, flat, with large discrete sand dunes and easy to walk.
First you see/swim/relax on Preguiça (Lazy) Lagoon which has this name because of lazy people who stop there and do not follow up to the others lagoons. There is the Emerald Lagoon, Blue Lagoon and Fish Lagoon, which is further away (20 min walk) with a mixture of water and vegetation. Swimming in the lakes is a delightful experience, the water is a mix of light blue, turquoise, dark blue and green.
During the tour, take a bottle of water and something to snack because you will not find a shop for miles. On the way back, before taking the ferry, there is a small kiosk selling tapioca, coffee, water and beer. At night, take a walk to the centre of town where there is a small market selling local products. For dinner I chose a tiny bistro. As starter I had shrimp broth and for main course dried meat with melted cheese sauce, rice and beans. To drink I sank two cashew caipirinhas and the bill came to a very reasonable R$ 66 (£15).
Day 2 – Barreirinhas
At 8:30am I walked down to the river to catch a speedboat to ride to the Preguiças River. The first stop is in Vassouras. This place is overrun with monkeys and the dunes and lagoons are beautiful. Next stop of the journey is Mandacaru, a small fishing community, where there is a Lighthouse and a Brazilian navy base. From the top you can see the meeting between the Atlantic Ocean with the Preguiças river. The last stop is in Caburé for lunch. I had a grilled sea bass (£15/2people) and a caipirinha (£1). In the evening I went back to the centre (yes, this is the night tour) and had an aromatic rice (£3 – taste weird) and fried chicken (£4).
Day 3 – São Luís
Today I woke up and had some breakfast in the hotel and tasted the Buriti juice (really weird). I checked out and went back to São Luís with a couple that I met during the trip. We passed the Povoado dos Morros, ate a crab on the road for £0.50 and headed back to the capital which was a bit of a let down as it is dirty and poorly maintained, especially the historic center. The main church is beautiful, but deteriorated. Some houses were filled with plants and infiltration. The seaside is beautiful, has kiosks and good service. We stopped at the Coastal beach and ate a wonderful fried fish (£10/3people).
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