Nuts about Natal
The world's largest cashew tree grows in a village, Pirangi do Sul, about 15 kilometres outside Natal. It covers an area of 8,400 square metres with further growth limited by fencing around the roads that surround it. It is one of the many places that visitors to Natal must see.
The entrance takes visitors under the canopy of the trees, an area filled with bowed branches that hold up a mass of leaves. In the centre is the trunk of the tree, a relatively short stumpy trunk that branches out into very long twisting branches, some of which touch the ground and seem to create new trunks (but do not).
A tower in one corner of the plot allows visitors to climb above the canopy level, to see the whole tree-top and the sea beyond. Despite some claims that the tree may be 1000 years old, it is less than 200 years of age.
Sitting between Pirangi and Natal is the Barreira do Inferno rocket launch site that is operated by the Brazilian Space Agency. The site is generally used in support of other launch sites (one in Brazil and one in French Guiana) and was last used for a rocket launch in 2010.
Natal was established in 1599 on Christmas Day, giving rise to the name of the city, a year after the building of a for at the mouth of the river Potengi. Its economy grew on the production of jerked beef (carne do sol or sun beef) and more recently from salt and petroleum. More recently prawns have been a significant commodity, with breeding taking place in the shallow waters of the Potengi.
Local foods incorporate dishes of prawns, carne do sol, and the traditional Brazilian beef barbecue. There are many restaurant, chic or charming, around the city and near the main beaches.
Natal's current population is about 800,000, though considering neighbouring towns the greater metropolitan area has about 1,500,000 people. Its people are referred as Potiguars after the indigenous tribes that lived in the region.
There are plenty of sights in the area: crystalline coral waters, sand dunes with dune buggy rides, lakes, an aquarium/mini-zoo, several parks and a few museums.
Anyone nuts about cashew nuts will have a great time in Natal.