Natal and Dune Buggy Tours (April 1st to April 3rd)

Published: April 21st 2006
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Natal begins my two week tour of the Northeast. The northeast is reputed to have some of the best beaches in the world. It is also one of the poorest areas of Brazil, so I had been warned that things will be very different from the more developed south.

Natal is a state capital on the north eastern coast of Brazil of about 800,000 or so people. I arrived in Natal about 2:00 in the afternoon. The hostel I was going to stay at was called "Lua Cheia" ("Full Moon") and I was told by the Uruguayan girl who was at the same hostel as me in Belo Horizonte that it was "cool." I agree. The hostel looks like a castle, complete with a moat and lookout towers. It has a huge bar attached to it and is on a street with tons of restaurants and clubs. The hostel does a great job of organizing tours. Great place for anyone who is looking for a cheap place with lots of people in Natal. (However, note the bars on the street blast music until 2:00 AM seven days a week, so if you are looking for peace and quiet go somewhere else.)

On my plane from Rio there were two brothers from Indiana. One of them, Suraj, went to Stanford, and the other, Viril, went to Vanderbilt. They were meeting up with one of Suraj´s friends, Stephanie, who grew up in Birmingham, Michigan, graduated from Stanford, studied abroad in Chile, worked as a paralegal in São Paulo and is going to Harvard Law School in the fall. Remind you of anyone´s story? Suraj and Viril, it turns out, were at the same bar that I was New Years in Chicago. I wound up hanging out with this group both nights, had a great time. I also actually have some pictures with my new friends, and a new USB converter that allows me to upload pictures from both my cameras, so I will add these as well as a few pictures from Belo Horizonte as well.

Buggy Tours
The thing to do in Natal is to buy a day long dune buggy tour. Per the recommendations of Luis Fernando, my Portuguese teacher in Florianopolis, the first day I did a buggy tour of the northern beaches, and the second day I did a buggy of the southern beaches. Basically, you book a tour with your hotel or hostel for US$ 30 and the buggy arrives to pick you up at 9:00. The tours last all day, and you visit beaches, lagoons, stop for lunch and get scared to death as the bugiero races at about 60 mph along up and down the dunes, trying to come as close as possible to flipping the buggy without actually dong so. Sadly, my camera ran out after taking one picture the first day. I missed a few great shots of dunes and the ocean, of buggies being taxied across a river crossing, and perhaps most impressively, the "air bunda" (literally "air butt"), a zip line slide on and inland lagoon.

The second day I did bring my camera, and got some pretty good shots as well. The scenary the second day wasn´t quite as impressive, but the group had a lot more energy. I was with a 33 year old dentist from Rio de Janiero and her mother. They were lots of fun, and offered to show me around Rio when I get there. After the second day my new friends had already left for Fortaleza and I resigned myself to take care of a few errands, get an early night sleep and head off early in the morning to my next stop.

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