My Nomadic Life: Finding Freedom in Nature

Before I reached Fortaleza, I was feeling a bit stuck in Barreirinhas, not feeling quite at home, dreaming of the beach and the Lençóis Maranhenses, a national park in Brazil’s state of Maranhão. The park is made up of 155,000 hectares of white sand desert, and during the rainy season, hallucinating lagoons fill up the spaces between the enormous dunes which can be up to 40 metres high. Sadly, I was there during the dry season and only one of the lagoons had a tiny bit of water. Determined to see this place, even without the water, I decided to walk there from Barreirinhas with one of the local guides, Maduro.

I wanted to connect with nature like I did in the Amazon; I wanted the freedom that I only seem to get from physical exercise in a natural setting. I was so excited to get there, I didn’t worry about getting there and didn’t really consider what walking there would entail when I agreed to go. I got up at 4:15 am when it was still dark and even a bit chilly, had a quick, cold shower to completely wake myself up, gulped down a huge cup of coffee and some bread, and by 5:00 am, Maduro and I were walking out of town.

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At about 5:20 am, we crossed the beautiful Preguiças River on a small ferry, and my struggle began as soon as we got off at the other side in Cantinho. The roads aren’t paved in Cantinho; in fact, they’re more like flowing rivers of sand than paths. And because it had rained overnight, the sand was wet on the surface but still loose underneath. This made what would already be difficult so much harder because a thick layer of sand got permanently stuck on my bare feet and grew heavier with every step, weighing me down and making me sink ankle-deep into the sand.

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Maduro wasn’t struggling, of course, having walked through the sand his whole life. I would lose him sometimes beyond a curve in the path, behind the shrubbery, and consider running back, giving up, escaping this endeavour that was requiring way more effort than I had originally intended to exert. But I kept my mind focused on the sand dunes, on the sheer magnitude of this place I was about to see, and my stubborn reluctance to give up persevered.

We walked for about four hours over the wet sand, surrounded by shrubs and cacti, a few caju (cashew) trees, and plants that breed all sorts of strange and delicious fruit, like the jatoba and guajiru, which I greedily gobbled up as I told myself to enjoy the journey and not worry about how long it was going to take… But, how much longer will it take, Maduro? All he’d answer was, “What, you tired?” smile, and effortlessly walk ahead.

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I was sweating so badly, I was licking the sweat off my own face to rehydrate. OK, catching the sweat with my tongue as it dripped down to my mouth was most likely just a reflex, but as I tasted the salty liquid that was mercilessly pouring down my face, I convinced myself it was probably a sustainable method of rehydration.

Just over half-way there, I looked up and saw a wooden bridge. I couldn’t believe it, firm land! I did my best to run toward it, sinking in the sand, blinded by the sweat, exhilarated at the thought of walking on solid ground for just a little bit. And it really ended up being a little bit—just over 4 metres to be exact. It was incredibly  satisfying, so we stopped to rest for a few minutes and drink some water (rather than sweat) before moving on.

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I kept telling myself, “You’ll make it, you’ll survive, don’t even think about the way back,” as I tried to keep up with Maduro. And then I saw them: dunes so big and white they looked like snow-capped mountains. I couldn’t believe it, we were there, I had made it to the Lençóis Maranhenses! At that moment, the exhaustion left my body, my legs were reenergised, my mind clear of worries or anxieties, and my smile huge and breathless.

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We walked up one of the big dunes which led to one of the most incredible landscapes I’ve ever seen: rows and rows of white, yellow, and orange sand dunes, carved by deep crevasses (where the water gathers when it rains) and dotted by bright green shrubs and a few wind-swept trees. The immensity of this place left me speechless and made me feel so small; we were no more than specs moving along this unforgiving terrain. We walked toward the only lagoon that had water in it, to satisfy the promise of cooling off and taking a rest.

We reached the small Lagõa do Peixe—Fish Lagoon—which might have had 30 cm of blackish water at the most, but we dove in happily as a light rain started falling. I rolled down a dune and fell straight into the water, swimming among the tiny fish. On land, miniature frogs the colour of the sand jumped almost imperceptibly away from us. It definitely wasn’t what I’d seen in the pictures (do yourself a favour and Google this place), nor what I imagined as I looked at the deep spaces between the dunes, where traces of the water were still visible, but it completely stole my heart; the channels that become rivers after a heavy rain were teasing me with the promise of turquoise lagoons amid the white sand, and it was absolutely spectacular.

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While Maduro took a nap under a tree, I explored the dunes with my camera. After a couple of hours of roaming around, being extremely careful to not lose sight of the lagoon, and eating some sardines and crackers, we saw a group of tourists arrive in a 4×4. Just like he’d planned (but refused to promise), he spoke to the driver who agreed to give us a ride back to town. Despite having spent an amazing morning in one of the most beautiful places in the world, hearing the news that I wouldn’t have to walk all the way back was one of the best moments of the day.

As we walked under deep, grey clouds to where the cars were packed, Maduro turned around and said, “It’s about to rain…hard.” About 30 seconds later, a storm exploded over our heads. The wind was so strong, I wasn’t sure if it was the water or the sand that was blasting against me, but it hurt! I was soaking wet and so happy. The rain slowed down by the time we got in the car and started making our way back. The ride was bumpy and branches were whipping my legs and arms as we raced through the trees, but it was still better than walking back.

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My Nomadic Life

Lençóis Maranhenses, Maranhão

I took a four hour walk on soft, wet sand to get to the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park from Barreirinhas, in the state of Maranhão in north-eastern Brazil. After crossing the Preguiças River (the Lazy River), I walked through the pain and the sweat, trying the sweet, strange fruit along the way.

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Caminé por cuatro horas en la arena suave y mojada al Parque Nacional Lençóis Maranhenses desde Barreirinhas, en el estado de Marañón en el nordeste brasileño. Después de cruzar el río Preguiças (río de la Pereza), caminé a pesar del dolor y el sudor, probando frutas extrañas y dulces en el camino.

We finally made it to the Lagoa do Peixe (Fish Lagoon). The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is made up of 155,000 hectares of white sand desert, and during the rainy season, hallucinating lagoons fill up the spaces between the enormous dunes (some are as high as 40 metres). Though I was there during the dry season, the landscape was unreal and totally worth the long, hard walk.

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Finalmente llegamos a la Lagoa do Peixe (Laguna del Pez). El Parque Nacional Lençóis Maranhenses cuenta con 155,000 hectáreas de desierto de arenas blancas, y durante la temporada de lluvias se llenan los espacios entre las dunas, que pueden llegar a medir hasta 40 metros de altura, creando lagunas alucinantes. Aunque estuve allá durante la temporada seca, el paisaje me pareció completamente surreal y definitivamente valió la pena la caminada.

To read the full story, click here.

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Para leer la historia completa, haz clíck aquí.

MY Nomadic Life / Mi Vida Nómada
Travel / Viajes – 2015-20162011-2014

Best of 2015 Travels

As 2015 comes to a close here in Belém, on Brazil’s north-east, I sat by the Amazon River to think about the past year and all the amazing places I was lucky enough to visit. I’ve been so blessed to do what I love and spend it with the people I love this year, so I wanted to recap some of my favourite travel moments of 2015.

Cheers to all your (travel) dreams coming true in 2016, whatever they may be!! Happy New Year!!

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Ya contando las últimas horas del 2015 aquí en Belém, en el nordeste de Brasil, me senté en las orillas del río Amazonas a pensar en el último año y todos los lugares increíbles que tuve la suerte de visitar. Ha sido un año dichoso que pasé haciendo lo que amo y con las personas que más quiero, y quería compilar mis momentos preferidos viajando en el 2015.

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I started the year in Colombia’s Pacific coast…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empecé el año en el Pacífico colombiano…

 

 

 

 

 

Then I travelled to Colombia’s Central Andes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después viajé a la Cordillera Central de los Andes en Colombia…
 

 

 

 

 

I photographed the Tropical Market in Palomino…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomé fotografías en el Mercadito Tropical de Palomino…
 

 

 

 

 

Then I visited Tayrona National Park, north of Santa Marta, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después visité el Parque Nacional Tayrona, al norte de Santa Marta, en la costa Caribe de Colombia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then flew to the USA and spent a few weeks in Washington DC & Maryland….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después volé a los EEUU y pasé varias semanas en Washington DC y Maryland…

 

 

 

 

 

It was a dream come true to visit New York City…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visitar Nueva York fue un sueño hecho realidad….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I crossed the country to visit San Francisco…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crucé el país para visitar San Francisco….

 

 

 

 

And then I returned to Colombia and went to the northern-most point of the South American continent…

 

 

 

 

 

Después volví a Colombia y al punto más norte del continente suramericano…

 

 

 

 

 

Then I actually got to go back to the Pacific and see the Humpback whales…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Después pude volver al Pacífico y ver las ballenas Yubarta….

 

 

 

 

 

And to end the year, I travelled along the Amazon River to Brazil…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Y para terminar el año, viajé por el río Amazonas hasta Brasil…

 

 

 

 

 

To see the complete photo galleries, click on the photos or visit my 2015 Travel page. For more on my journey through Brazil, read about My Nomadic Life.

Para ver las galerías completas, haz clíck en las fotos o visita my página de Viajes 2015. Para saber más de mi viaje por Brasil, lee sobre Mi Vida Nómada.

Guajira: Viaje al Fin del Continente / Journey to the Edge of the Continent

La Guajira es un lugar mágico que he visitado en múltiples ocasiones desde el 2011, cada vez yendo más al norte, adentrándome más en su desierto de arena roja, donde sólo crecen cáctus y el viento azota la península con una fuerza incansable.

Guajira is a magical place I have visited on multiple occasions now since 2011, each time going further north, going deeper into its red sanded desert, where only cacti grow, and the wind tirelessly whips the peninsula.

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Viajé de Santa Marta, en el departamento vecino del Magdalena, a Uribia, capital indígena de Colombia. De ahí fui en colectivo hasta el Cabo de la Vela, el punto más turístico de la Alta Guajira, y donde estaba tomando lugar la competencia anual de kite surfing, promovida por la escuela Kite Addict.

I travelled from Santa Marta, in the neighbouring department of Magdalena, to Uribia, Colombia’s indigenous capital. From there, I took a colectivo–a shared jeep–to Cabo de la Vela, the most turistic place in the High Guajira, where the annual kite surfing competition, sponsored by the Kite Addict School, was taking place.

Uribia & Cabo de la Vela

Pero necesitaba ir más allá, a Punta Gallinas, el punto más norte del continente suramericano. Saliendo del Cabo de la Vela con el sol, viajamos al fin del continente, marcado por un faro y las impresionantes dunas que caen al mar Caribe.

But I needed to go further, to Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of the South American continent. We left Cabo de la Vela at sunrise and travelled to the edge of the continent, which is recognised by a lighthouse and the incredible sand dunes that fall into the Caribbean Sea.

Punta Gallinas
Travel / Viajes – 20152011-2014

Palomino, Guajira

Palomino es un corregimiento del municipio de Dibulla en el departamento de La Guajira en el nororiente colombiano. Palomino disfruta de una biodiversidad única y rica gracias a su ubicación ideal entre el mar Caribe y las montañas y ríos de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

A continuación, fotografías del eclipse total lunar conocido como Luna de Sangre, el hospedaje La Casa de Guadua, la playa, las montañas de la Sierra y la bajada en neumático por el río, su nivel de agua mucho más bajo de lo esperado para la época del año (abril 2014) debido a la larga sequía que ha vivido la región.

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Palomino is a small town in the municipality of Dibulla in the Guajira department of Colombia’s northeastern coast. Palomino’s biodiversity is rich and unique thanks to its ideal location between the Caribbean Sea and the mountains and rivers of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Below, photographs of the total lunar eclipse known as Blood Moon, La Casa de Guadua lodging, the beach, the mountains of the Sierra, and tubing down the river, whose water level was much lower than expected for the time of year (April 2014) due to a severe drought in the region.

 

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Camarones, Guajira

La Guajira, en el Caribe colombiano, parece salir de un cuento de fantasía. Ubicado en el norte del país y limitando con Venezuela al oriente, la topografía de La Guajira cuenta con montañas de la Sierra Nevada y  las Serranías de Macuira y del Perijá, y el desierto que cubre la mayoría del departamento y termina a las orillas del mar Caribe en Punta Gallinas, el punto más septentrional del continente suramericano.

Pero la narrativa de La Guajira carece de lluvia y la última temporada seca ha convertido lagunas en desiertos de tierra agrietada, dejando sólo huellas y exoesqueletos, peces disecados y plumas como el único indicio que los flamencos y pelícanos volaron sobre lo que ha sido un lugar lleno de vida y verde.

En el corregimiento de Camarones, la laguna Nabio Quebrado se ha encogido con la sequía, dejando pantanos cubiertos por una costra de sal y una escasez de peces, ostras y la posibilidad de llevar turistas a pasear por la laguna.

A continuación, fotografías de Camarones y la laguna Nabio Quebrado.

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As if imagined in a fantasy world, La Guajira peninsula juts out of Colombia’s eastern Caribbean coast. Located in the country’s north and bordering Venezuela to the east, La Guajira’s topography is lined with the mountains of the Sierra Nevada and the Macuira and Perijá mountain ranges, and a desert which covers the majority of the department (state) and ends on the shores of the Caribbean Sea in Punta Gallinas, the northernmost point of the South American continental mass.

But Guajira’s narrative lacks rain and the last dry season has turned lagoons into deserts of cracked earth, leaving only footprints and exoskeletons, dessicated fish and feathers as the only clue that flamingos and pelicans flew over what was once a place of abundant life and greenery.

In the town of Camarones, Nabio Quebrado Lagoon has shrunken with the drought, leaving a bed of mud covered by a crust of salt and a scarcity of fish, oysters and the chance to take tourists out on the lagoon.

Below, photographs of Camarones and Nabio Quebrado Lagoon.

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