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Inland of Rio Grande do Norte Travel Guide

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Anyone wishing to penetrate the sertão of Rio Grande do Norte – the region known as the Seridó - will be surprised by the singular beauty of the semi-arid landscape and the rich culture of the area.

From Natal, however, the trip is difficult by car. Historically engaged in cattle husbandry, mining and cotton agriculture, the cities of the Seridó have geographical attractions (reservoirs and mountain ranges), culinary treasures (queijo-manteiga cream cheese and sundried beef), rich arts and crafts (embroidery and sculptures), and lively festivities (quadrille square-dance festivals), as well as archaeological sites, historically important nunes, and pilgrimage sites.

Despite a dearth of good services and facilities, the region's towns ofler reasonable accomodations and food.

The communities of Acari and Caicó, in particular, can serve as departure points for exploring neighboring towns on one-day trips.

Map of Rio Grande do Norte Brazil

Map of Rio Grande do Norte Brazil

ACARI

A chain of attractive mountains interspersed with reservoirs surrounds tiny Acari, which is 210 kilometers (130 miles) southwest of Natal and reachable by taking RN-226 to Currais Novos and then BR-427 westward.

The sinuous character of the local geography has earned the town its nickname, "muse of the Seridó".

Declared a municipality in 1833, the town's main attraction is the Aҫude Gargalheiras, in the Acauã River Basin, four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the center. That reservoir produces most of the fish that feed the local population and sits amid rocky, yellowish mountains.

Two of the mountains are strangely pyramid-shaped, and all are covered in large cacti. The reservoir produces an enormous watelfall in winter. In addition, between February and March, when the river waters swell, the reservoir's waters spill down the dam wall in what is know as sangria. Local guides take visitors on hikes around the reservoir, on trails of medium difficulty, for about four hours.

The trip can also be done by car. Another point of interest in Acari is the rock inscriptions that can be seen next to Poҫo do Artur. A pleasant dirt road leads cars to the site through a wild landscape of twisted trees, for fifteen minutes, followed by an easy five minute walk.

Nature lovers usually go up the Serra do Bico da Arara range between April and October, when the caves there are full of thousands of swifts that migrate across the ocean from Africa. The forty-minute ascent is only for those who aren't bothered that bird droppings mark the route.

The best time to go up is around 5pm, when the birds are flying back to the caves: I t's a magnificent sight.

The Museu Histórico de Acari (Rua Antonio Basílico, 11) armllged), a museum installed in an imposing building built in 1887, tells the town's history through objects and photographs. A replica of a wattle and daub house and artifacts connected to fishing, leatherwork, and cotton planting paint a portrait oflife in the Seridóo.

The Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosario, a church built in 1738, is also worth a visit for its fine statues dating from the 18th century.

CAICÓ

A municipality since 1868, Caicó offers good facilities and every imaginable service, including Internet access and lively nightlife. Locals flock to the squares to listen to music while eating snacks. Located 298 kilometers (185 miles) southwest from Natal, the town has several reservoirs, being Itans the most important of these.

Its narrow banks are dangerous for drivers, especially at the curve leading to it.

Apart from arts and crafts, Caico's attraction is its cuisine, especially sundried beef, cheese (cream and curd), and homemade savory biscuits made with clarified butter.

Created in 1973, the Associaҫão das Bordadeiras do Seridó (Avenida Seridó, Centro) sells hand-worked richelieu embroidery.

The local sun-driedbeef is sold at the Aҫougue Público Augusto Frade (Avenida Seridó, Centro).

If you do go to this meat market, look for "O Regional". At this stall, Hugo Régis de Medeiros, the main producer of sun-dried beef in the region and the ablest at butchering and salting process, gives information about his work.

There are several small cheese makers who produce queijo-manteiga cream cheese.

To reach the town from Natal, take BR-304 highway southwest to Macaíba, then BR-226 to Currais Novos, then BR-427 to Acari , and then RN-288 state highway.

CURRAIS NOVOS

A nice complement to a trip to Acari and Caicó, Currais Novos lies 187 kilometers (116 miles) southwest of Natal along BR-226 highway. Although it has some well-preserved old buildings, this settlement, which began as a corral and became a town in 1890, has already taken on a "modern" appearance in many respects.

Its big attraction is the annual quadrille square dance festival, held in June; for four days forró music and dance holds sway in the central square, while stalls sell meat dishes, cheese, cakes and all kinds of espetinhos (meat cooked on skewers).

After the fairly quiet children's quadrille performance, the competition between the many towns of the Seridó heats up, to the shouts of cheer groups of supporters and live broadcast on the local TV channel.

Competitors painstakingly and creative decorate their brightly colored clothes according to the year's theme – sometimes migrants, bandits, or butterflies. Groups and their leaders become regional celebrities.

Also in Currais Novos, the disused Brejuí mine operated between 1943 and 1997 and was the largest scheelite (tungsten ore) mine in South America. During a visit here you can walk along a lengthy underground tunnel - there are more than 60 kilometers (37 miles) of excavations - and see the tracks once used to transport ore out of the mine, as well as the mining galleries and huge chambers.

When guides turn the lights off, a special lantern detects and shows the presence of the mineral in the rock.

The trip includes a tour of the mine's headquarters, which is now a museum of tools metal samples, and descriptions of the uses of scheelite.

CARNAÚBA DOS DANTAS

This small backlands town, founded in 1860, attracts researchers and tourists to its many archeological sites. Since it lacks accommodations and restaurants, the best place to stay in is neighboring Acari or Currais Novos.A day trip with a local guide, preferably in June or July, is the best way to see the sites sca ttered in the vicinity of the town.

The nearest and most important site is at Xique-Xique, in the mountain range of the same name, at an altitude of 420 meters (1,380 feet). After about an hour's ascent, you arrive at a recess in the rocks where you can see paintings, mostly in shades of red. They show anthropomorphic figures in scenes of fighting, hunting, dancing and sex.

The delicate drawings were executed with fine instruments, which allows us to see the technical accuracy of the lines.

Another local attraction is Monte do Galo, a cross with a statue of Christ placed at the top of a hill. According to tradition, cow herders who worked in the area were intrigued to hear a rooster crowing on top of the small Serrote do Galo (rooster) range.

No one lived there, which generated a mystic about the location. It has since become a place of pilgrimage. Reach Carnaúba dos Dantas from Natal by driving RN-226 highway southwest to Currais Novos, then taking BR-427. The exit, at a fork in the road, is 12 kilomerers (7 miles) after Acari.

Inland of Rio Grande do Norte travel guide and tourism information such as accommodation, festivals, transport, maps, activities and attractions in  Brazil - Brazil Travel Guide

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