We made a friend named Rey who took us out to eat and gave us the long ride back to our isolated pousada on the beach north of Natal after attending the awesome USA victory.
The next day was a lazy one spent kicking the soccer ball around on the soft sands, battling the Atlantic’s waves, reading in hammocks, talking with the international guests, dipping in the pool and enjoying the three Cup games.
At night, our friends from Reno said that the owner gave them a joy ride on his ATV. I said to cousin Drew that I didn’t think I was interested for fear of injury. But when the invite later came, I said what the hell. Drew and Steve from Reno sat on the back, and the owner invited me to sit on a barred netting on the very front of the ATV. Off we sped down the beach, criss-crossing by massive rolling dunes, colored cliffs and mangrove-bound freshwater lagoons. He took us inland down a few side streets and then raced us up a steep dune trail to an impressive lookout about 100 feet up. He paused and I jumped off to take in the bright moon, the Southern Cross and lots of speckled twinkling stars among dune grasses. Drew then volunteered to sit in front and I hopped onto the back.
At this point the owner turned and asked me if I wanted the next ride “com ou sem emoçao” (with or without excitement). Well I figured since my cousin was now in the seat up front, I chose “com”. He then shot up the side of the dune, banked left and we crested upon an apex that appeared scarily to drop off the edge of the universe. It was like the first huge hill on the Desperado roller coaster in Primm, as we yelped in half terror, half joy, straight down the steep vertical descent. He got the three of us back in one piece and after some reading and swinging in hammocks, we called it a night.
The next day we took the ramshackle local bus into town with our bags. Rey picked us up at a downtown stop and we were relieved to have AC in his Toyota truck and to be out of the glaring sun. He took us to the Ponta Negra area of Natal and we witnessed some of the results of recent heavy rains and flooding, including one large landslide that blocked our passage on a beachside avenue.
At dusk, we enjoyed the Spain versus Chile game on a rooftop deck bar and enjoyed chatting with a Swedish bartender named Daniel who chopped our bill in half. Rey said goodbye and we hit our hotel in preparation for a night out in Ponta Negra’s renowned salubrious nightlife spots.
We frolicked in a samba joint called Sancho Music Bar, and then waited in line for 20 minutes to hit a sprawling club called Rastape, famous for live forro (the Portuguese “r’s” are pronounced like “h’s”, thus “fo-hoh”), a simple country dance music that began life perhaps two centuries ago and became a national craze taking the country by storm in the 1990s. It employs simple lyrics speaking of the hard life of the countryside, the tribulations of love and the beauty of dance. It is danced in close couples with the man leading, and at its simplest it’s just two steps to the left and two to the right, but there are many variations. My nights out at Stoney’s had me ready.
There were three huge dance hall rooms to wander through, and other genres such as pagode and choro were heard, too. A smaller side room provided afoxe, an Afro-Brazilian genre based on the rhythms and and spirit of Candomble, a wild and little-understood religion deeply rooted in Bahian culture connected to a long line of West African ancestry. We boogied the night away then spilled out onto the streets which were filled with revelers.
Ponta Negra has steep hills like San Francisco and the night’s fresh rain had us navigating the slippery cobblestones with care back to our pousada. More rains greeted us during today’s breakfast on the veranda and drove the hotel’s house parrot away from its perch. We’ll attend the Japan versus Greece game tonight and in the morning head for one of Brazil’s magical destinations – Praia da Pipa.
Brennan Karle is a Las Vegas teacher who covers prep sports for the Review-Journal. He’s in Brazil for the World Cup and will be sharing electronic postcards on his experiences. You can see photos of his trip on Instagram at brennankarle.