BY RYAN FLEMING
The afterglow from the scintillating 2-1 victory over Ghana had barely faded when the natural beauty of Natal beckoned. The coastal town is known not only for its sunshine and beaches, but also for the undulating sand dunes that spread out for hundreds of miles along the northeastern coast of Brazil.
For those of us adults who still harbor the inner child, this offered up the rare opportunity to hit the rewind button on life. Our group was fortunate enough to have a fabulous bugueiro (buggy driver) who proved to be adept at negotiating the challenging terrain.
Heading out of the city center, we quickly encountered our powdery playground. The buggy churned through the sand and before long we stood atop the crest of a dune. Cascading down the other side lay an untouched slope of sand. What could we possibly do in such an inviting setting? Only one option… JUMP! (see picture)
Pressing on, our bugueiro shredded through the sand, carving donuts, ripping around tight corners, and vaulting off ledges. We exited the buggy at a particularly striking vantage point. Casting my eyes across the landscape, it hit me that this place could easily pass for the Sahara Desert. The only thing missing were the camels. But wait, there were camels…and donkeys too! For those willing to shed 20 reais (about $8) you could hop on for a ride – we did (suckers!)
A highlight that we’d heard lots about and couldn’t wait to try for ourselves was the legendary “Aerobunda.” Translated from Portuguese it literally means ‘flying ass’, which is actually quite appropriate. You stand at the top of a dune and they strap your rear into a sling. You then get cast off the face of the dune on a zip line, careening down for about ten seconds before splashing into an oasis. Great fun!
The hours pass quickly when having a blast and it is time to say farewell to Natal. As we depart, the souvenirs we take with us are a victory over Ghana, memories from a day playing in adult’s sandbox, and a nice sunburn.