I have to say that I really find it odd when I see people plan their travel to the n’th degree. You probably know the type, (or possibly even are one) that
Nothing depresses me more than seeing a jam-packed schedule that accounts for every 15 minutes of my time. It sounds more like my typical work day, where time is money, and it’s just not the ‘baggage’ I like to travel with! Now not everyone is the same, and some will find immense comfort in schedules and planning, but for me, that spontaneity is one of the best parts.
Adventure is out there. You’ll never know it if you don’t go and give things a try, meet new people or be open to a change of plans. After my previous trip to Brazil where I had a few crazy adventures (namely Drugged and Mugged…) many friends and family suggested I come home after only a few months into my year-long adventure. How glad I am now that I chose not to listen to them… I am a far richer person for the travel experiences I’ve had. The financial cost, but a minor inconvenience when compared to the feeling of being really alive – in control, in the moment and truly free.
The hardest thing after a really bad travel experience, is to learn to trust again. And not just to trust in others, like locals, businesses or other travellers – but also to learn to trust in yourself again, and your judgement. If I’d cut myself off from trusting others during my past trip, I would have missed out on some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life. I learnt to quickly trust my judgement again, my gut-feel about situations and interactions so that I could be ‘travel aware’.
It made me open to new experiences and willing to go outside of my comfort zone – ready to grab life and run with it whichever way it unfolded before me.
And so it came to pass that while I was in Natal, a friend I’d just met mentioned I should check out nearby Pipa, a small coastal town about an hour and a half south of Natal.
My travel plan said stay in Natal, and I’d only recently met Anderson, so could I really trust his call to go and visit Pipa? My heart however, said, “let’s see what Pipa has to offer”. Last time I was in Brazil, some of my most favourite moments were spent in a small town in the country, which I never would have gone to if it weren’t for the kind invitation of my friend, Savio.
The bus slowly crawled its way past small village after village, until finally it reached the coast, and Pipa came into view. A bustling mix of locals, tourist and foreigners who had come to call Pipa home met my eye. It was like a more funky Jericoacoara but without all the desperate selling. The streets were mostly cobblestone, and charming avenues, restaurants, hotels and shops spun off from the main strip in all directions.
From the nearby Bay of Dolphins (yes, with actual dolphins) to the varied and beckoning beach coastline, Pipa has a small getaway for anyone, yet with all the convenience that sometimes makes life just, well, fun.
Such as the pizza rodizio. A great idea for a restaurant where they make a million and one different pizza flavours and bring them out every few minutes to share up amongst the guests who pay an ‘all you can eat’ fee. An awesome place for pizza lovers to taste a little bit of everything all at once.
I loved my time in Pipa. I felt relaxed, rejuvenated and entranced by the local vibe. And it wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t have gone out on a limb, and trusted my travel ‘gut’.
After my adventure leaving Jericoacoara, and subsequent arrival in Natal, you can imagine my surprise when the taxi pulls up to my hotel and it’s a fully functional castle, complete with moat, English tavern and a witchy theme throughout.
The Lua Cheia (Full Moon) hostel is one of the best serviced hostels that I stayed at while in Brazil. All the rooms have crazy names of famous witches or dastardly doers-of-evil. My room was the “Sanitorium of Dr Ravengar” which certainly confused the heck out of the airport transfer organiser on the telephone when they asked me for my room number!
It was kitsch, but fun and it made for a great hostel experience. Staff were super friendly, and always dressed in some witchy garb. The place has plenty of spacious areas to socialise with the other guests, or find your own quiet nook for a spot of spellbook reading.
If the hostel wasn’t bewitching enough, then the true magic potion of Natal, must lie in its beaches. I was located in the suburb of Ponta Negra, which offers up a fantastic stretch of beach, all serviced by various ‘barracas’ or kiosks and freelance vendors. Want for nothing, with everything at your fingertips. Just kick back, relax and enjoy the service under the sun.
Part of Natal is set among the giant sand dunes, which makes it quite unique for a large metropolitan city and it’s a pretty backdrop to the city skyline.
The city, which name means Christmas in portuguese, has a year round giant Christmas Tree, complete with 3 wise men made out of lights.Just like the Lua Cheia, the city is one for kitsch. You’ll see many figurines of famous faces – rock musicians, local sports legends, presidents – adorning the entrances of a number of bars and restaurants, and there are definitely plenty of interesting spots to keep the occasional tourist busy.
I must admit that I don’t feel like spent enough time in Natal, and would really like to go back there to see what else the city has to offer.