Natal is the capital city of the state of Rio Grande do Norte, on Brazil’s northeastern tip. It’s known for its extensive coastal sand dunes and star-shaped Forte dos Reis Magos, a 16th-century Portuguese fortress at the mouth of the Potengi River. North across the river, Genipabu is an area of towering dunes with a freshwater lagoon. The city was founded in 1599 and grew over the centuries into a major shipping port, particularly for the early Portuguese sailors who resupplied their ships on the voyages from Portugal to and from South Africa and around the horn to India.
“The fishing industry is strong (shark cartilage being a major export to Japan) as is the cultivation of tropical fruit, especially mangos, guavas, and cashews (the fruit and the nuts). In fact, the largest cashew tree in the world is located near the coast in the neighborhood of Pirangi, south of the city center. This tree has a circumference of 500 metres (1640 feet) and occupies an area of 7,300 square meters (8,731 square yards), making it 70 times the size of average cashew trees.” — Wikipedia
Today the city has a total population of 862,000 with about 1.5 million inhabitants in the greater Natal area. For us, it was the final port in a month of sailing around Brazil, with customs clearance to head across the Atlantic Ocean towards Africa, with our first destinations after the crossing being several of the Cape Verde Islands, just west of Senegal.
We have enjoyed our time in Brazil, but will be relieved to not have to deal with either the crime or the mosquitoes after we depart. In addition to the well-known tropical diseases (Yellow Fever and Dengue Fever), the Brazilian mosquitoes also pose great risk of possible exposure to Zika. Regarding crime, after a month of wearing no jewelry and carrying nothing valuable, it will be refreshing to leave those worries behind. Here’s today’s warning to all those aboard the ship headed ashore in Natal: “IMPORTANT NOTICE – SAFETY ASHORE: [Passengers and crew] are asked to exercise a high degree of caution when exploring on your own. Petty crime and theft are commonplace, and you are urged to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Traveling in groups is always safer than walking alone, particularly at night. Leave valuables at home, including expensive handbags, and only travel with a small amount of local currency.”
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