Natal. Turquoise water. Snow white sand. Breath deep and take it all ino. Because after all, according to NASA, the purest air in the Americas is located at this section of the Brazilian coast. Turquoise water and infinite stretches of icing sugar sand is just the icing (literally) on the clean air cake. The beauty of the nature combined with locals so friendly you can’t help but smile, bliss is hardly sufficient to describe Natal.
That is, until I went jogging.
By Plane: Flights from Sao Paulo and Rio are plentiful
- Weather: Natal is HOT. And humid. Bring your smallest clothes and your highest sunblock.
- Fit Food: Astral, coconut water on the beach!
- Detox to Retox: La Cachette, any of the beachside bars serving fried seafood and caipirinhas.
Face tomato red, legs dripping with rivers of sweat (did you know legs could sweat?), I huffed and puffed along the boardwalk of Natal. I wasn’t the lone crazy person running in the heat and humidity either, locals were out in a good number doing the same. But they were. . . positively serene. A healthy glisten on the forehead, impossibly tight and tanned bodies on full display, even a slight smile. Damnit. There is a reason they are famous for their bodies here. Apparently, there are also immune to heat, something Canadians haven’t managed to achieve.
Within 5 minutes of leaving our apartment I was in true exhaustion mode. But I pursued, managing my goal of at least 30 minutes, and arriving back looking like something which came out of a gutter. A humbling lesson in the effects of humidity.
Cold shower complete, it was breakfast time. The day, as most days are here, was perfect – bright blue skies, hot sunshine beating down, and a beach waiting to be explored. Our rental apartment was two blocks from the Ponta Negra beach and we went straight towards the water.
Astral is where to go for Acai bowls, fresh fruit juices, and a killer fish soup. Acai, the famous antioxidant rich berry of Brazil, is coaxed into a puree, deep purple in color and not too sweet if left alone. Topped with sliced tropical fruit and granola, it’s a good way to start the day.
Alternatives include a couple beers, a practise we saw was quite common here at 9 am.
An excursion to the fishing village of Galinhos is perfect for experiencing some local culture and exploring more beaches. Population 2000, on a peninsula about 170 km from Natal. The village is only accessible by boat – we boarded a rickety tugboat to chug across the water.
On the other side, we embarked on a truly awesome experience – a sand dune buggy ride through the wind farms. Arms winding slowly over the snowy white dunes, it looked like an otherworldly moonscape.
In the village itself, taxis come in the form of horse-drawn carts. We boarded our chariots for a ride to the lighthouse at the far end of the beach, offering amazing views of the coast and approaching rain clouds.
A round of afternoon Caipirinhas, sun, and saltwater made for a sleepy ride back to Natal.
The next morning, we explored a little closer to home – Ponta Negra beach. Reggae beats wafting through the air, food carts slinging coconuts, crepes, and bikinis, and clear water as far as the eye can see. Grab a Caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil, a combination of Cachaça, lime, and sugar. Drink it in with the scenery and you’ll want nothing more in life. Seriously.
La Cachette is a cute spot for the prawn platter for two – a mountain of prawns cooked in coconut milk, ginger, and lime, with fresh veggies and salad.
Before you go home, be sure to stop in one of the beachside shops to take home local cashew nuts -the best I’ve ever had. They also stock some killer fresh shredded coconut and cacao nibs.
Another day, another jog. Slightly more prepared for the heat and humidity, I moved a little slower and was a little more forgiving of my pale sweaty self contrasted against all those tanned Brazilians.
After the previous day of beach relaxation, it was time for some for some dune buggy riding at the Sand Dunes park near Natal. Pick up was 8:30, more or less, by a slightly crazy and loud Brazilian manning a low slung open buggy, one seat beside the driver and three in the back. To the highway we went, wind whipping our faces and hair into a tornado.
The Genipabu dunes were the first in a series of rolling dune parks. This is probably not an activity for somebody concerned about safety precautions, heights, or tipping out of cars. Buggies race across the flat stretches, accelerating up steep hills to make a sharp turn and scream back down. Super fun!
Stopping at several lookouts was the perfect opportunity to admire the amazing coastline below.
The buggies were loaded onto precarious rafts to flat across an inland stretch of water and continue the fun on the other side.
Mandatory coconut break at a beach side restaurant, and we continued to another sand dune park before dropping to the beach below, speeding along the coast for several kilometeres, sand and nothing but the sounds of waves crashing in.
After a long but amazing day of sights, we arrived hot, sandy, and windblown back in town, the perfect moment for an ice cream at Dolce.
The trip ended in style, with some Carnival festivities on the street, amazing live music and cheerful locals.