Manaus – the start of things

Sadly my poor addled brain is apt to forget lots of things (as many will attest), so I’ll have to give you the gist of events, and when I can put together a more complete diary I’ll add anything of interest at a later date.

After ensconcing ourselves in our billet in Sao Jose (b&w pic) and recovering for a while, we visited old friends Charlie (Italian) and Annick (Belgian) on Sunday and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Annick was able to tell us of someone who was selling a car which was almost new. We weren’t desperately enthusiastic (in Brazil ‘almost new’ or semi-novo can mean anything up to 200,000km or 10 years), but said we would have a look. Having arranged to do this, we then proceeded to look at some new (and semi-novo) cars first. Ha ha ha. The price of a half-decent 2-wheel drive people carrier is around GBP30000 – GBP40000. Anyway, we then went to look at the recommended semi-novo, which turned out to be a Renault Scenic with 16000km on the clock. Apart from a few dents and scrapes and a leaking oil sump (cars have it tough here), and apart from being French and a Scenic, it looked pretty good…so we bought it for R$35000 (around GBP8000). First problem resolved.

Meanwhile, back at the house, we were suffering from a distinct lack of air conditioning, and had discovered quickly that walking the dog, apart from being a ludicrous thing for anyone to do in Sao Jose, was fraught with problems. Firstly, the roads are like mini obstacle courses, with drivers of all sorts of vehicles competing at high speed for any available patch of unholed tarmac. There are no road signs, no traffic lights, no zebra crossings (ha ha ha), no road markings. Where there is any pavement, it is usually covered by weed, rubbish, turds, stray dogs and dead people (OK, I exagerate slightly on this last point). To get to one, you have to first traverse the stream of water cascading down from all sorts of dubious outlets protruding from the popular houses lining the road. These usually culminate in open sewers located at strategic points so that you can either drive into them, ride into them or walk into them. The stray dogs, of course, are not used to Irish royalty (I refer to Ozzie, in case you doubt) striding purposefully among them and piddling on their favourite posts or mounds of rubbish. So of course they round on the offender to chase him off. So we quickly discovered that walking the dog needed two people – one to keep Ozzie in check until he’s done what he needs to do; and one at the rear with a big stick to fend off the repeated attacks of the locals. All this in 34 degrees of heat is somewhat tiring, and normally results in us (all) collapsing on the bed after the walk. More of a battle than a walk, in fact. So far, we are winning the battles, but the war is clearly theirs…
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