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Lencois - A Desert of Lakes

In mid 2014 I quit the job I loved and travelled the world for a year. I was heading back to Singapore from Dubai, the long way home.

After a 14 hour direct flight from Dubai to Rio de Janeiro, I stood at the end of a bus queue in the terminal, wondering to myself. What are you doing? Backpacking in South America, without a plan. Alone. I had bought my ticket just days before. Travellers that I would meet later told me that they planned for months. Brazil is almost like a continent. How do you know where you want to go? Lencois, I would answer. It’s a desert with lakes. During the winter in the North East of Brazil, the valleys collect rain and pools form in the valleys until they disappear again at the height of summer. And they listen, amazed and jealous.

It was as magical as I had made it out to be. Soft undulating curves that went on forever, murmuring last summer’s secrets under the wind, like a Renais film. I bumped into people I had met on the way to Atins that afternoon I arrived on the beach. Come for a walk, they said. We have a guide. Yes, why not, I thought. Even the pretty white dog who was following me, agreed. What I thought would be a nice leisurely evening walk became a four hour hike up the dunes. The sand was too soft for us to wear shoes. And every time we took a step, we would sink. Ankle deep in the sand as soft as cream. Eventually, even the dog gave up. After the third dune, she left me, dust in her heels, without even looking back. It was her loss because we found ourselves swimming in one of the pools with water clearer than rain. After we watched the last rays of the pink sunset slip into the sand, we found our hard earned dinner in a hut where we met other travellers. An American stylist, a German student, and a Greek dentist, amongst others. We exchanged stories first, names last.

And then it was another two hour walk back to the pousada. The only twist was that we had to walk back in complete darkness on the riverbed. No light! No light! The guide urged. It was terrifying at first, to put a foot down where you couldn’t see. After an hour the guide stopped. Look! I lifted my eyes and saw the sky, swimming in stars, like freshly poured glitter in black syrup. The constellations were so dense that I could make out the shape of our planet, from the convex carpet of the stars. And from that, I saw the eternity of our universe, in a single minute, quietly storming in the burning infernos.

It was another 10 countries after Brazil before I reached home. I was in shards by that time. My body was in splinters but my memories were in technicolour. Streets streamed into each other, like the stories I had collected along the way. Where did I meet you? When? Some places stuck out (Medrano y Sarmiento). Some people too (pancakes and a leek pie). Since then I’ve often returned to that night. And all the things that happened in between. It seems like forever, since that night in the desert of lakes.

在2014 年的某一個夏日,我毅然辭了深愛的工作。我決定,從杜拜回新加坡之前,逛世界一圈。

從杜拜到巴西直飛十四個小時之後,我站在里約熱內盧的車站,問了自己,“怎敢一個人,完全沒有方向,只帶著一個背包,勇闖南美洲?“ 機票是在先前買的,之後路途中遇到的旅者都說他們計畫好久。畢竟,巴西像一個州那麼大,不計畫好,怎麼走?我說,我只想看一看倫索伊斯,一個佈滿湖的沙漠,位在巴西的東北部。由於沙漠的深谷集了一整個冬天下的雨,原本乾枯的荒漠變成一個又一個的清水池,但一到盛夏時就會蒸發掉!聽著的人,都愕然且羨慕。

事實跟我形容的一樣奇幻,無止境的沙丘,細細輕聲道出去年夏天留下的秘密,像一齣亞倫雷奈的戲。我在沙灘上碰到早上一起乘搭小舟的旅者。他們說:「走,我們找了個導遊,一起逛一下這個沙灘吧。」我想了想,好啊!連跟著我的小狗二話不說的毅然伴隨。原以為會是一個午後悠閒的漫步卻變成一個四小時的遠足。這比粉還細的沙,讓我們使出渾身力才能攀過一座又一座的沙丘,連原本興致勃勃的小狗都受不了!狗狗在過了第三個沙丘後,它竟然義無反顧的絕塵離我而去。途中,我們在其中一個比雨還清的池裡歇了一會, 最後一線黃昏沉進沙粒後,我們在不遠處的一間棚屋和一些留宿的旅者一起進餐,其中有美國來的造型師、德國籍的學生和原籍希臘的牙醫等。談笑風生中,我們顧著說著一路上的際遇,都忘了介紹自己。

是時候離開的那一刻,但大家都傻了,原本只需兩小時的回家的路程,可是,這回,我們得摸黑走。別開燈!導遊堅持的喊著,我們像閉著眼,連前面的一步路都看不見,就這樣走了一個小時,戰戰兢兢。忽然導遊喊了一聲“看!” 我抬起頭,整個天都是星,像瀰漫著閃光的糖漿,跟著天空的弧度一起稠密地閃耀著。那一分鐘裡,從繁星靜靜滾燙著的烈焰,我看到了這個世界的永恆。


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