I'm in Natal!! Actually, Ponta Negra, a beach town about 4 km outside of Natal. After dropping Em off at the airport on Friday (SO sad by the way), I got on a bus (18 hours, holy moly) to Natal, where I checked into the Lua Cheia Hostel and waited for Suraj and Viral to show up. The hostel is weird -- it is shaped like a castle and has a moat and drawbridge, and looks like a Brazilian bastardization of Hogwarts Academy on the inside. It also has a bar in the basement called A Taverna -- kind of a dungeon theme. More on that in a moment.
First, I need to say that I think I finally understand what people have been raving about re: Northeastern beaches. Although Salvador was beautiful in its own right, and Praia do Forte was gorgeous and deserted, Natal has some of the most beautiful, clean, tranquil beaches I have ever seen. They're not full of litter like the ones in Salvador, and the water is clear as day, unlike in Rio. It also doesn't hurt that the water is like a warm bath -- honestly the warmest ocean water I have ever experienced. Today we spent the day lying under a big umbrella, eating fries and chicken sandwiches, swimming, and napping. This is heaven!
Last night was our introduction to Ponta Negra nightlife. S, V, an American kid we met, and an odd German went to a Mexican-French-Brazilian restaurant (yeah we were TOTALLY asking for it), and ordered nachos, which turned out to be extra-cheezy Doritos covered in some weird cheese and tomato sauce. Um. We had a drink there, and then, at the behest of the German dude (who spoke limited English), went next door to an all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet. Again, asking for it. The funny part was that the German dude made a huge deal about this shrimp buffet and then -- wait for it --- ordered chicken. Luckily the rest of us poor fools got out of it without food poisoning, and we got to see a capoeira show while we ate. It was much better than the capoeira that Em and I saw in Pelourinho, where the drummer turned around to make kissy faces at us and the capoeira was, frankly, half-assed. This stuff last night was intense. After shrimp and wine, we went to a couple of bars near our hostel, including the medieval themed Taverna, which was having a 70s night. We all got feather boas and wacky sunglasses. Oh, the novelty.
I ended up bailing out pretty early and collapsing into my top bunk around 3 am, while the boys went on to a "salsa bar" that looked pretty shady. They report that, indeed, it was. Today was recovery day, and I am just starting to feel normal again. Now we are off to find non-shady food in Ponta Negra -- nothing involving never-ending shrimp or Nacho Cheezier Doritos, God willing....