South America travel blog

Chorus

Red crab

Bridge

Fort

Cashew tree

Cashew nut and fruit


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Yesterday was a day at sea which gave the chorus one more rehearsal before the concert at 3:30 pm. I could have used the two rehearsals that I missed while I was off the ship, especially the one in Portuguese, "A Rosa Amarela" . We were to dress in something bright so my orange colored blouse with sparkly sequins would be perfect. Charlie Flesch provided accompaniment on the Brazilian Pandeiro

; Sue Brown from Rad Scholar is also in the photo. The performance went very well with many nice comments afterwards.

Another cruise segment will be over on Tuesday, which means a Captain’s Reception with champagne and canapés as 5:30 pm before dinner. Sarah arranged for a group of us to eat in the Yacht Club, which is always special. During the day it is used as a regular dining area, but at night it is transformed with low lights, linens, centerpieces and a special menu. The menu changes three times and anyone can eat without extra charge once at any of the meal changes. The theme was Jazz, there is also Asian and Italian. The food is a step better than in our regular dining room, which I find most satisfactory .

Today we had a guided tour in the morning of Natal, which means Nativity, named because it was founded on Christmas Day in 1599. Natal is 5° south of the equator, and our guide Manu boasted that it has the most ideal weather: sunshine all the time (it only rains at night or very early in the morning), constant temperature of 20° C, and beautiful beaches. It was 90° at 10:15 am, and very sunny. Sand dunes were a prominent landscape feature as we drove to our destination. The tide forms little inland pools along the beautiful ocean which is as warm as bathwater. Natal juts so far east into the Atlantic that it is closer to Africa than Brazil's own western border. During WW II the US Air Force developed the city's airport as a link between Africa and South America and a base for anti-submarine surveillance.

Our destination was the Fort of the Three Wise Men, begun on the feast of the Epiphany in 1598, as protection against the Indians and French. Approaching the fort we passed a mangrove area that is a nursery to many sea creatures, notably red and white crabs

and birds. Inside the fort, which was also used as a prison, were rooms with paintings showing the history of the earliest settlers, settlement by the Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese, and a few artifacts. We climbed to the top of the fort to get views of the city,

including a new bridge linking north and south Natal that languished in construction for years until the latest woman mayor finally got it completed.

We rode across the 2 km bridge to our next destination to view the largest cashew tree in the world.

The cashew tree is a very special attraction with an admission charge to enter the area. There is bustling selling going on with handmade articles, and, of course, cashews. The tree is about 120 years old and probably a result of alteration of its DNA that provoked this enormous growth.

Cashew trees bear fruit once a year. First the nut is formed, which is not edible in its present state. Biting into a nut would result in painful inflammation to the mouth. Even animals know not to eat it, but will bury it for a few days to somehow cure it. The nuts are cooked before they can be eaten. The flower is a very delicate blossom from which the fruit is formed, which can vary in color from yellow, orange or red depending on the soil.

The fruit is juicy and quite stringy, according to Manu.

Charlie gave his last lecture before leaving us tomorrow when we'll also lose some of our fellow travelers and get a few new ones. In previous lectures Charlie brought our attention to the fragile condition of the Amazon, how it supplies the raw products to produce the goods that modern society demands. He wanted us to share what we do and can do to practice the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, that will not only impact the Amazon, but the planet. Just about everyone contributed some practice that will make a difference. We were still in discussion when the dinner chime sounded and continued through dinner. We sent Charlie off with "So long, farewell, bom adeusinho, good-bye/ We hate to go and leave your smile, so shy" with more verses to the tune from "The Sound of Music".

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