Trip Start Sep 06, 2010
Trip End Sep 27, 2011

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Flag of Brazil  , Rio Grande do Norte,
Saturday, March 5, 2011

The plan was: let's spend the first week of Carnival somewhere before we go to Salvador (our real destination for Carnival) and spend the second week there before we start Portuguese school. Great! Let’s spend the first week in Natal.

We now know that Natal (which in Portuguese means Christmas) is the only place in Brazil where they go crazy for Christmas (so-called CarnaTal), so their Carnival is very small and commercial (as if they did it only because they HAD to do it).

No worries. It’s still a nice place and we get to go dune buggying! We had already decided to skip this touristy activity, but then some friends told us it’s great, so we decided to give it a go.

Random thoughts:

   1-      It IS touristy! It’s bloody touristy! There are 300+ buggies all stuffed with 4 passengers going all the same way, but in different directions! Like that, the stops are staggered and you are not supposed to see how many of you there are out there.

   2-      It is a cash making business: all stops are crowded with people offering to sell you stuff like beer, water, skewers, t-shirts, and, overall, activities! Yes, because when the guy who sold us the tour showed us photos of the activities of the tour, he said "you can do this, you can do that", but never said “it’s not included”! So, if you think you are up for a 90 dollar trip, really, you are going to spend at least 150 if you want to do everything. The best: at some point during the beginning of the trip you are expected to pay 9 reais per person if you want to cross a river. The fact is that you HAVE TO cross that river! (not really an optional activity...)

   3-      These buggies are really designed for one driver and 3 passengers. But our driver told me that “they” (who are “they” ??) made an arrangement with the police so they can stuff 3 people at the back instead of 2 to keep the costs down (LIE, that is only to increase the profit!), as long as the one in the middle sits down on the seat and not up on the car body. So why did we all sit on the car body when we were in the middle? Because if the police don't see you, that’s ok. No that’s not ok!! And how could they make an arrangement with the police to stuff 3 people at the back if there is no physical space to put more than two human bums (still tight)??? Miracles of “negotiation”…

   4-      But, apart from the above, the tour is fun indeed. As long as you don’t die while the driver is giving you the emoção (=emotion) down a dune while you are sitting up on the car body…

Now, let's change the subject: accommodation.

As usual, we had booked a room through (extremely good and reliable tool).

This time, unexpectedly, we end up in a place that is not a hostel, but a family house. A pretty good one, just built, very clean and with a nice outdoor area with a large pool too.

But the good sides end here: first, on our table there is and endless list of house rules (can't do this, can't do that, no noise etc.). That would be perfectly understandable, if we were guests in someone's house.

Then, we understand through subtle sentences from the house lady that the kitchen is NOT for us and we can use it only to access the drink water (for who doesn't know, hostels always have got kitchens so people can cook for themselves if they don't want or don't have the budget to go out).

During the same odd conversation, we also find out that "breakfast" means coffee and cookies (this after a month in Brazil, where breakfast means the most amazing fruits and juices, and bread, and ham and cheese, and, obviously, coffee and cookies).

Since the kitchen is not for us, then we go out (and we find the most amazing per-kilo restaurant with sushi and an amazing pasta corner where the pasta is made on demand in front of you exactly according to your request of ingredients and cooking style).

On our return, we find the happy family smoking in front of the TV with TWO cats (for who doesn't know, Sofia is very allergic to cats). Hang on a second! We go back and check and guess what?! No smoking is not within the house rules!

After two days, there is always this awkwardness in the air and we start really feeling like we are unwanted guests rather than paying customers (lucky there is a nice beach and we go dune buggying!).

The awkwardness increases further when I forget the fan on before leaving the house (totally my fault, I should have turned it off). While we were out, the house lady notices. She doesn't turn it off, but, when we get back, she reprehends us because we had left it on!

But the best is on the last night. The day before we had made friends with some family friends of the house who we had met on the beach. They told us there the next day there would be a party in our house (what? really?? I thought we couldn't make noise...).
Only the next day the house lady tells us about this party, and again, the awkwardness continues, with us feeling that she would prefer if we were not there.

At night, they go shopping and start cooking for the party, and again, subtle words let us intend that the food was not for us. So, we are invited to the party but we can't eat the food...interesting. So, we go out and have dinner at 7 and then go back to our "hostel" (after the dune buggies we are pretty knackered and, also, we have to get up at 5 to go to the airport).
We say goodnight to all the people around 10, when they actually have just started arriving. The awkwardness keeps increasing when the house lady realises that we are already friends with her friends (the ones we had met at the beach) and that we couldn't really stay at the party without eating, so eventually, after we have already had dinner and said goodbye, tells us that we can have some food!!!!!!

But we go to sleep anyway. Or, rather, we go to bed.
Because that is when the party starts. The house guy is a musician and has proper gig equipment. And decides to install is on the other side of the wall of our room (note that often Brazilian windows, like this one, don't have glass, because it's too hot anyway).
It was like at a music festival! The music was so loud that it would be funny if only we were not part of the party.

The next day, with one hour sleep, we finally leave for Salvador...jet lagged.

Conclusion: if you go to Natal, we recommend you to do the buggy tour but DON'T go stay at Agua Azul...(unless smoking, cats and noise is not a problem... the pool was really nice!)

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/\\zo on

Awesome river crossing! Trust in your handy work is powerful.

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