After recently covering 1600km on roads which at times looked like little more than a narrow strip of mud between a lot of trees, I nearly came off the bike today just around the corner from home. Not because I was going to fast, or because it was wet or there was diesel on the road. It wasn’t even because of one of the inumerable potholes in Manaus, nor yet because of some other idiot on the road. It was, instead, a mango. This is a new hazard to me, and one I shall be taking care to look out for in future. I dare say the locals are used to it, but it’s rare to see any sort of accumulation of fruit on the road in the UK. Maybe the odd apple, I suppose, but then they don’t have that slippery, slimy pulpy stuff sticking to a big stone in the middle – a stone just big enough to knock your wheel out of line a fraction and leave it skidding on the pulp. So there we are – another small part of life’s rich tapestry. I survived. Older, wiser, and slower near mango trees.
Tomorrow I’m off to Iranduba in the Shamrock for a night of drunken debauchery in the company of friend Charlie. Well, at least a few beers and a fried fish. I have a slight problem with my engine, the result of leaving it too long without running it. It won’t start. I have a solution though, and I think the thing will get me the 60km to Iranduba and back okay. If it doesn’t, of course I now have the spare motor (although if I had to rely on it it would take 8-10 hours to get there). Be fine. Be fine…
Speaking of boat trips, cousin Anton isn’t able to visit as originally planned in April. He’s off to a reunion with someone he exchanged fire with during the Falklands War, and the side-trip to Manaus won’t after all work itself into the itinerary. It’s a shame, and I’ll have to find another victim for my planned expedition to Airao Velho, but we hope to see him later in the year.
The petrol station hasn’t been robbed this week, which is cause for some celebration, and excuses my beer tonight. Aaron has just gone to bed and Naice is watching Big Brother Brasil (`Biggy Bruddair` in Portuguese) while I pen my thoughts. Shame on her. It’s Carnaval time here now, which kind of marks the end of the period of limited activity after Christmas in Brasil during which little is planned or achieved. I’m aware that two people sent packages to us in December which sadly haven’t appeared yet: I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned up sometime after Carnaval.
We went to see a rehearsal last week for one of the groups participating in the Carnaval parade here in Manaus, but by the time we got there it was all over and we had to be content with having a beer and some food with a friend of ours. As it turned out, this was very enjoyable.
Just for the river level afficionados, the river’s 2m above normal for the time of year, and the media are gleefully predicting a new record high this year with lots of lovely doom and gloom. Personally, I can’t see where the prediction comes from, and I expect the flow to start abating somewhat in the next couple of weeks. All that can be predicted at this point is that high water will be higher than average this year.
We lost our gardener last week. Careless, you may think, but it wasn’t our fault: he’s off to the Northeast of Brasil to start a new life. Claudionor was with us from the moment we bought this place, and he is without doubt the nicest, most honest, hardest-working Brazilian I have had the pleasure to meet. We’ll miss him and we wish him and his family all the very best.
The nicest thing about life here at the moment is the weather – the wet season brings a cooling breeze and good cloud cover. The temperature actually dropped to 24 degrees one night recently, and had me reaching for my fleece. Brrrrr. The worst thing is…well, I’ve had too many cans to launch into that right now. The bottom line is we’re hale and hearty, relatively cool (I was always ‘cool’, I think), Aaron is doing great, and we have money for food. Yeah – life is good, my friends – life is good…