By Ricky Skelton
Parque Nacional Lenois Maranhenses is a huge expanse of white wind-blown dunes with fresh water pools in the hollows between them. There is no more photogenic place in Brazil, and possibly on the planet. If you can catch the right day, with clear blue sky and a golden sun reflecting off the sand and the surfaces, the effect is mesmerising. The journey to the nearest corner of the huge park from Barreirinhas is much like the last part of the crazy overlander from Paulino Neves to Barreirinhas. Having been through it all before, we were now experienced North-East travellers, and the people who came on the real road from São Luis were juniors, amazed at how bouncy and wet the sandy road was. They knew nothing.

You arrive at a little clearing by a shallow river, with a dune looming over it. People come down from above with their eyes shining, shining like the tiny fish in the clear river catching the rays of the sun. One steep climb later and Ooooooohhhhh would you look at that! I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, waking up to find the presents he wanted in the distance! I wanted to run, run, down the powdery sand and throw myself into the aquamarine pools, one after the other. They stretch out ahead for miles and miles, smooth curves, defined lines, sculpted dunes, angled shadows and ornamental pools, sometimes with sand bridges between them (I’m the dot in the photo above).

You can be very creative with your photos: virgin sand with one set of footprints leading all around a pool to a figure in the distance; jumping down dunes silhouetted against the blue sky; endless, endless beautiful mother-shots. Lenois Maranhenses could make anybody photogenic, just look at my photo! Of course, you also have to try some classic model poses too – lying on the sand looking at the camera; walking away while looking over one shoulder; half in, half out of the pools. Oscar Niemeyer said that he found his inspiration for the curved designs of Brasilia in the hills of Brazil and the body of a loved one. He should have come here for his muse, it has both in one place. Every Brazilian model should have their calendar shoot done here, but none of them could match it for beauty. The sand is pure and white, and softer than any skin could be. The smooth curves of the dunes are sensuous and sultry, and the shadows they create alluring and mysterious. The pools are curved and shaped like the bluest eyes you could ever look into, and the water in them as clear and refreshing as a new-found love.

All poetic nonsense, but Lenois Maranhenses will have that effect on you too, and I only saw a tiny corner of it. What a place to spend my birthday! Think how stunning and romantic it would be to fly over. In fact, if I was offered the chance to fly over any place of my choosing in the world, I may well choose Lenois Maranhenses. I said, if I was offered… Just for an hour? Okay, half an hour then. Anybody?

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Previous articles by Ricky:

Understanding Brazil: The National Anthem
Around Brazil: Barreirinhas
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara to Barreirinhas
Understanding Brazil: Shopping Centres
Around Brazil: Jericoacoara
Around Brazil: Chapada da Diamantina/Lenois
Brazil vs. Argentina: Statues of Christ
Around Brazil: Salvador
Brazil vs. Argentina: The Buses
Around Brazil: Morro de São Paulo (& Itabuna)
Understanding Brazil: The Workmen
Around Brazil: Praa Pateo do Colegio
Around Brazil: Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Rio de Janeiro to Porto Seguro
Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?
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