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Bewitched by the Beaches of Natal

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.

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Passeio de Paulinho

When in Jeri, a town of sandy streets, you’re faced with a few limited options for transport – on foot, horse or mule, quad bikes and the dune buggy. 

Needless to say, many take the buggy option. I bumped into Paulinho on my way down to the beach and he offered to take me round (a ‘passeio’) at a discounted price (as I was by myself and normally the buggy’s seat 3 plus the driver)

While you’re no longer allowed to go onto the dunes themselves as it’s a National Park Reserve, it’s a great experience to drive where permitted. There’s plenty to see around Jeri, but it takes a bit of driving to get there…

We arrived at Lagoa Azul (there’s always a Blue Lagoon everywhere!) and I had to swim across a channel of water to get to an island where they have set up a cute array of restaurants. 

Tables are set in the water, so you can eat and drink while fish sim about your ankles and nibble at your toes. You can also jump in a hammock, submerged in the water and relax as people wait on you, serving you with whatever you’d like to eat and drink. 

(My kind of paradise!)

Nearby Lagoa Paraiso (Paradise Lagoon) is a similar experience with a few more lunch items to choose from at their larger bar.

Jericoacoara – The World’s Greatest Sunset?

At around 5pm, the locals and tourists slowly make their way up the giant sand dune beside the touristy fishing village of Jericoacoara. Couples bed down into the sand at the crest and claim their spot of paradise. 

Wise small business owners, sell caipirinhas from a close yet non-distracting distance, and the light of the setting sun playfully catches in the thin rivulets of water left behind by the retreating sea.

Below the dunes, riders on horseback settle in for one last gallop along the vast expanse of beach as daylight begrudgingly gives way to dusk.

The colours of the water, normally crystal blue, now purple, darken as the ceaseless tide gently buffets the shoreline.

Thin white sand from the dunes whisps into you eyes as a flurry of wind passes through, and you blink momentarily, as the sun sets into the sea on the horizon, amidst cheers and applause from the pleased crowd.

Some say it is one of the best sunsets in the world… And there is the legend of the momentary ‘flash of green’ a phenomenon that occurs from time to time as the sun sinks behind the sea.

The sunsets were pretty spectacular when I was there, but it was cloudy each time. I can only imagine what it would be like on what the locals call a ‘good day!’

It’s hard not to appreciate each day in Jeri.