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When we first came out to Prainha on holiday, Neu announced we were going to a special place, it was a long walk along the beach and so we would have to leave the house very early in the morning. At 5.30 a.m we headed out, he wouldn’t tell me where we were going, that was to be a surprise but we were going, well, along the beach.



Sandstone formations


The swirling colours of the sandstone

After about an hours walk, still with nothing obvious in sight, we left the beach to go inland over gently rising soft sand, sparsely covered with a short ground covering plant of an extraordinary prickly nature, then we began the climb up the side of a huge dune. Unlike most of the dunes around here, the sand was quite hard with large outcrops of sandstone showing through, looking like a micro version of the Grand Canyon in a variety of soft colours.


Higher up the sand turned chocolate-brown

Further up Neu began to scrape away the orange/yellow surface layer of sand, underneath the sand was brilliant white, a little higher up he did it again revealing a pale pink, then higher, a deep orange, higher, a milk coffee colour, higher still, a rich chocolate-brown, we were amazed. As the colour underneath changed, so did the texture of the sand, in some places it was gritty and hard with large grains visible, gradually changing until our bare feet rejoiced in the softness of sand so silky it felt almost liquid.

On we climbed, passing an area inexplicably filled with sea shells, we were now several hundred meters inland and way above sea level, had the shells been brought here by someone, or were they deposits from when this dune had been underwater? The next surprise was an area littered with pieces of crystal, possibly rose quartz and in the middle of this glittering bed, towered majestic ancient tree stumps, black and intimidating like prehistoric creatures. Beneath our feet an ancient forest now covered and lost to the dunes, the wind had revealed these sentinels who now stood looking out to sea, powerful reminders of time.100_0596

tree stumpBy now the children were beginning to tire, geological outcrops, sand formations and tree stumps are all very well, but the children were asking the age old question “Are we nearly there yet?” which I couldn’t answer as I didn’t know where we were going, Neu just smiled and pointed to the top which seemed an awfully long way away, especially to my 5 year old.

We pushed on, little legs tiring, tempers fraying, but finally we reached the top and stopped to admire the view before realising that Neu who had been a distance ahead of us, had disappeared. We followed his footsteps, then my eldest son, scouting out in front was shouting and laughing. Catching up with him we were stunned to find this amazingly deep hole in the sand, it gave me a feeling of vertigo looking down the almost vertical sides to Neu who looked very small way down at the bottom. It took my breath away.


With my back to the precipice, I looked out to the sparkling blue sea, glinting in the still early morning sun.


Eyes following the curve of the earth I turned inland where Canto Verde sits as it’s name suggests, a green oasis on the edge of the sea, buffered by white sand dunes.


Further inland the green of the forest, stretches away and away to the horizon.  As I turned, still following the curve of the earth through a full 360 degrees, only at one little point was the view of the line interrupted by a slight rise of sand.


It is a sight which continues to take my breath away, no matter how many times I visit the big dune.

Neu called for us to join him at the bottom, it looked a bit daunting but what fun!
We stepped off the edge and down the vertical sand face, sinking up to our knees in soft sand which prevented us from falling headfirst. As we descended the wind, which had roared and whipped around us at the top, faded away until everything was still and silent. At the bottom, we lay on the cool sand  staring up at the sky, the silence only interrupted by short bursts of bird song and our incredulous laughter.

We spent several hours sliding down the sand and struggling back up, my elder son Odds-16taking daring running leaps to somersault off the edge, falling into space, leaving me fearful but thankfully always landing safely. All too soon Neu said we would have to leave, the sun was now high in the sky and we had a long walk home. My children were used to walking but not in 36 degrees, Odds-21

Neu had to carry the youngest for the stretch along the beach, or we’d have never made it home.

At the end of the holiday, Neu surprised us with a beach buggy ride out to the dune, it was our first trip in a beach buggy and such fun, it certainly made getting to the dune and back a much easier trip.

Xmas 2002-30

An almost vertical drop


Playing Capoeira


The top of the dune as it is now

I regularly walk to the big dune, taking visitors and friends who are often equally awed by the sight. I love the way the landscape constantly changes, some times the coloured sand is no longer visible, the tree stumps come and go, the crystals rise up and then vanish and sadly the hole at the top is gradually getting smaller.

We don’t know how it was formed, or if it will disappear completely but it will always remain a special place, one where I feel a deep contentment, a reverential connection with the earth and a huge, humbling reminder of how fleeting is our time here.