Doug McLean World Tour 1999-2000
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Sent: Friday, April 07, 2000 5:43 PM
Subject: March 20-22, 2000: NATAL!

Current Date/Location: Friday, April 7, 2000...in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Current Itinerary: Fortaleza for the next week or so...and Canoa Quebrada and Jericoacoara.

JOURNAL -
March 20, 2000 (Mon):

Agustin and I got up...packed our bags...and slowly worked our way around the idea of leaving town...neither of us was particularly motivated to move very fast. We went to the mall and used the internet...then got our bags and headed to the busstation. Caught the 7:30pm bus to Natal...ensuring that we would arrive late (11:30pm...ugh!)...but oh well...

Arrived into Natal, took a taxi to the Albergue do Juventude Lua Cheia (Full Moon Youth Hostel). The place looks like a Medieval castle (sp?...hmmm...have you noticed that my spelling is getting worse the longer I am out of the USA?)...including walking across a drawbridge to enter...no kidding. It is awesome, and ONE OF THE BEST HOSTELS I HAVE EVER VISITED...if you are in or near Natal, you must stay here! The folks at check-in were nice and great! We met several folks in the lobby (all Brazilian, from Rio and Sao Paulo)...2 girls came in late as we were sitting there...they were obviously (to me) Israeli...before they could say anything to us, I said Shalom (hello in Hebrew)...they said Shalom back and went to their rooms...

Anyway, Agustin and I talked with the folks for a while longer...signed up for the dunebuggy ride the next day...and then went to bed...
 

March 21, 2000 (Tue) (SPECTACULAR NATAL!!! - ONE GREAT DAY!)

Woke at the Albergue Lua Cheia in Natal, Brazil...had an awesome breakfast (fruits, bread, juices...all the best...), and met lots of cool travellers. It was funny, because I met the two Israeli girls (Dalit and Limor) who had come in late last night...and the first thing they asked me was how I had known they were Israeli...they were absolutely convinced that they didn't look Israeli...um...yeah, right...at this point, I am an expert on spotting Israelis in Brazil...they are everywhere. They were perplexed...and still quite convinced that they didn't look Israeli...but were friendly and started to talk to me and Agustin. But, I like Israelis...when I meet them I explain how the Alamo in Texas is like Masada in Israel...they are perplexed for awhile...but then see the paralell lines of reasoning.

Anyway, Many of the folks at breakfast were going on the dune-buggy trip with us that was headed North of the city today...it was a good group of folks and was stacking up to be a good day...as the day rolled on, I would find out that this was the low point of the day...smile...it was a great day!

Our buggieros arrived! (Buggiero is a person who drives a dune buggy)So we all piled outside to take lots of pictures of the group and of our buggies. 8 people went in the two dune buggies...Dalit and Limor from Israel were in the buggy with Agustin and I. And Eduardo/Rio, Kenia/Rio, Luciana/Rio, and another guy (name forgotten) went in the other buggy. Our buggiero, George, had an awesome soundsystem in our buggy, and we cranked it up and headed out of town!!!

We were all absolutely cranked up and ready for fun...you know how when you are ready to have a good time, you always have a good time. We were ready to have a great day...and Natal delivered! First, we took a ferry to islands...then took a smaller ferry across a flat shallow inlet...these were one buggy wooden boats/ferries and each was steered by a guy with a pole. Really cool!

Then we drove around some sand dunes...and arriving at the top of some, overlooking the ocean, we had the opportunity to hop on some snowboards and sleds and slide down the dunes! It was a blast! I did both...everyone did one or the other...lots of fun. Then, we continued along the coast to a nice beach...where vendors offered wonderful skewers of lobster, shrimp, chicken, and meat...I had 2 skewers of succulent lobster for less than 4 dollars...ahhhh...I love Brazil! Also waded in the ocean with the others for awhile...then we were back in the buggy...hopping over dunes and looking for trouble.

We had seen some ultralights (you know, those small 1 or 2 person hang-glider type planes) and I had always wanted to fly in one. Well, Natal provided me with the opportuntiy...for 20USD (yes, they accepted USD) or 35
Reals, you got a 12-14 minute flight. I couldn't resist...and neither could Agustin, Dalit, and Limor! We all had a blast! I had dreamed of taking flying lessons when I was younger and owning an ultralight when I was in elementary or High School...but never did it. This day, I decided while having the time of my life in this ultralight that I would own one before I pass 35 years old! As far as I know, this is my only new goal for now...I will own and fly an ultralight within the next 6 years of my life...don't ask me how right now...I am too busy being unemployed to worry about it. But seriously, one of the things I most enjoy in life is setting goals and achieving them...so I tell you now with certainty...you are invited to fly with me in my new 2-person ultralight...when I buy one...someday in the next
6 years!

Then, we went swimming in a nearby lagoon (which we had flown over). It was nice and a pleasant break from our adrenaline rides...then we were off again! Next on the agenda was us arriving at the top of a big dune that overlooked another lagoon...this time with a zip-line ride (Aero Bunda is the name of it...This means Air-Butt in Portuguese) that takes you down and drops you in the water...cool, eh? We all thought so also...and all ended
up wet in no time! Then it was onward to a very steep dune that had boards that you could ride down and into the water...again...we all went...and were soaked again...ahhhh...what a great day!

The day was getting towards being over...but as the sun was going down, we arrived at the big dune park. Our buggy drivers now got serious about their dunes and driving at ridiculous speeds going off the dunes and down at odd
angles...truly exhilirating! And we arrived at the top of the biggest dune in time to watch the sunset and enjoy the coolness of the evening...what a great day!

Waiting for the ferry ride back I bought 3 coconuts for 1 Real...cheap, eh?????!!! What a great way to end the day (I only drank one coconut...but, for a Scottish guy...this is a real bargain! I should have bought a hundred! Smile.)...3 for 1 coconuts! Again, took the ferry ride back. We drove back through the city...the almost full moon rose over the ocean to
our left as we drove...it was spectacular...every time we thought the day couldn't get better...it did! And as always...what you are doing is part of your enjoyment...but being with such a great group of people was awesome!

I do not wish to exclude anyone...everyone was great on the trip...however, I would be remiss if I did not say something extra about Dalit...she absolutely amazed me and Agustin (hmmmm...maybe this should be Agustin and
I...it was The King and I...not Me and the King...I guess...but it has been so long since I took English I can't remember...cést la vie)...she spoke 5 languages (Hebrew, French, Portuguese, Chinese (Mandrin for those of you who know the dialects), and English). She is a flight attendent and is using her flight benefits to the fullest...Anyone who can speak 5 languages is going places in this world! I wish her the best (and hope she got on the plane that was overbooked horribly when I last heard about her plight (sorry for the pun..couldn't help it)...she is rare in this world...truly.

Got back to the hostel...went out with the group for pizza at a nearby restaurant...it was great! At dinner, Agustin was the absolute center of attention...he must have put on the right cologne or something...because all the girls were absolutely captivated by him. Dalit, Limor, Luciana, Kenia...all hanging on his every word and laugh...I am not making this up...I have always liked Agustin and enjoyed his words and conversation...but these girls were enchanted...no kidding...guess you had to be there. This attention continued the entire time we were in Natal. If
I was Agustin, I would have never left this city.

Anyway, after dinner, we walked around the beachfront with everyone then headed back to the Taverna Pub next to the hostel. Ended up dancing in there for quite awhile...ended up meeting a big airline group...a weight and balance person for TAM, a flight attendent for Varig, a flight attendent for VASP, and a military pilot...it was cool and we all danced all night.

I crashed sometime around 4am...it had been a spectacular day...the type of day that is the reason why you travel...it was without a doubt one of the best days of my entire trip...one of the best days of my life.
 

March 22, 2000 (Wed):
Woke...breakfast (again, really good...juices, fruits, breads...mmmm) ...Agustin, Eduardo/Rio, and I decided to take a dune-buggy trip South of Natal. We hadn't really planned on it...but it seemed like a good thing to do. The Southern trip promised to be more tranquil and peaceful than the adrenaline frenzy that we had experienced yesterday...which was good...not sure we could handle another day like yesterday!

We headed out...(this time in a buggy without much of a radio...hmmmm...if you go to Natal...firt thing is to go with good people in your buggy...we had that...but second...make sure the buggy has a killer stereo...it is worth it!)...and along the way, we stopped at a cliff overlooking the ocean and watched some dolphins playing. Stopped along the beach where there was a naturally formed grotto...kinda interesting.

Then, we continued to the small town of Pipa. Pipa is famous for Dolphin Bay where some dolphins naturally hangout and you can go swimming near them. So we walked a ways until we got to the Dolphin Bay and went to swim with the dolphins. There were only a couple of dolphins there, but we were able to get as close as 20 meters from them in the water...it was very cool (this is an understatement...I really enjoyed it...truly a highlight). Cruised
back North up the coastline...and arrived back at the Hostel around sunset.

As I look back on it, this day really is a special memory. Eduardo/Rio is a mention this because he is the type of guy who I stereotypically think of as someone who is great looking, and knows it! When I had met him the day
before, on our initial buggy ride, this was my first impression of him...the kind of pretty boy that is absolutely self-consumed...and I couldn't have been farther from the truth! ...and was about as far off the mark as I have been in my evaluations of anyone on my entire trip. You would be hard pressed to find almost anyone in this world more likeable than this guy...and absolutely group focused...rather than self-absorbed. On this day, with just Agustin, Eduardo and I...we had a great time...and while it was not the adrenaline rush that yesterday had been...it was no less special. And as I want to open my mind to the world, I do sometimes find that I (we all) have stereotypes...and I enjoy it greatly when they are not just broken down...but shattered.

Speaking of shattered...Agustin and I were absolutely damaged from lack of sleep...we both crashed for about a 3 hour nap...then woke up and took a walk with everyone down to the beach and had dinner. Agustin and I felt
somewhat revolutionary so we shared a big plate of Frango Cubana (Cuban Chicken)...it was excellent! Viva Cuba! (I must visit Cuba soon...)

We all went back to the Taverna Club next to the Hostel Lua Cheia...and danced like fools! Then...we all ended up outside talking...and at one point (I don't exactly remember how or why) I ended up speaking to a group
of folks from Fortaleza...confusing memories...but I need these notes to help me reconstruct things when I see the pictures...believe me...they will be somewhat odd...

Anyway, we had all really enjoyed ourselves...felt closer to one another...tomorrow, we would all go our seperate ways...I would go back to Recife to see Luciana, Agustin to Olinda before flying to Sao Paulo, Dalit to Recife to catch a flight, Limor continuing South towards Rio, Luciana and Katia to Olinda as well...but tonight, as travellers do...we were united for the day...a close, inseperable group...that would seperate tomorrow morning...

Now, I must get a little philosophic for a moment...this is one of the joys and agonies of travelling...you meet the most incredible people...form strong friendships (yes, believe it or not, I feel like my one or two days of knowing some folks have resulted in strong friendships...ofcourse keeping in touch via e-mail helps)...and then continue on your way...making new friends all along the way...and also suffering with parting from these new friends...travelling can truly be bittersweet at times. Not the least of which, the reader will note, is a romance that begins while
travelling...hmmmmm...it is somewhat complicated...you are both thankful that you have met that special person...and you would have never met if it weren't for the circumstances of one person travelling...but also afraid of the day you must say goodbye...but like with all of my travelling friends...I try to take comfort in it not being goodbye, but merely "So Long for Now"...the world is becomming a smaller place...and distances are not nearly as far as they were in the past...

I got to sleep around 5:30am...with instructions with the desk to be woken at 6:30am so I could head back to Recife...to see Luciana again, and try to hold onto the moments with her for just a little longer...travelling is not
always easy.

Doug
Texas Nomad