Part 25. Manaus... again
Wednesday, 1 April, 2009
April Fool's Day rained on me early. It was odd that it hadn't rained all day yesterday when it was hot. Now, when it was a bit cool, it rained for several hours in the night. I was still okay, just a tad chilly. The shelter was just fine.
Something big smacked into my mosquito net and struggled wildly to free itself. Before I could get my LED light turned on, it flew away. Maybe a bird or a bat.
The next thing that woke me was a very wet, very cold, and very inquisitive nose that belonged to a friendly dog. There were a couple big trucks stopped for the night in the parking lot, so I assume the dog belonged to one of the drivers.
Just before dawn, a rooster with a speech impediment started up. It was a very odd-sounding bird. Almost funny.
The trucks started their motors at 05:30, preparing to cross the reserve. If the same was happening two hours away, it would be that long before any trucks came south from the other side of the reserve. I had time to kill.
I lazed a bit, but the light, the activities around the gas station, and the jungle noises were too insistent, so I got up and moved back to the patio. The guy with the grass trimmer started up again, so that would have gotten me up anyway. I did Sudoku puzzles for a while, and I walked around the parking lot a few times.
At 08:00, a flat-bed truck carrying nothing came south and pulled in for fuel. I walked over to it, to make myself obvious, and the gas pump attendant realized that this might be a way to get rid of me. He negotiated with the driver for me, and we struck a deal. He would haul me and the bike back to Manaus for R$/200. I had less than that in Brazilian cash, but I had plenty of U.S. dollars.
The truck driver gestured for me to meet him up the road. As he drove off, I started stripping the bike to make it lighter. The truck driver came back to see what I was doing, then drove away again when he saw that I was starting to push the bike after him. It was about a quarter mile to where he was waiting. Only slightly uphill.
He had backed up to a small rise in the ground, and that was enough. He helped me push the bike up the hill, then onto the back of the truck. He was a whiz with a rope, and soon had the bike tied down very solidly. He took me back to the gas station and we threw all my other gear on the truck. I bought him a Coke and we were all set. He spoke absolutely no English, and he mumbled to himself a lot.
I noticed that his speedometer was broken, but I don't think he ever needed it. He drove as fast as his truck would go at all times. It didn't do well on the uphill stretches, so his engine was not in good shape. He would pass other trucks when he could, even when he knew he would have to slow down again right after that. It was an opportunity to see the crazed truck driver attitude from inside the cab. It was enlightening.
He slowed down for no one and for nothing. Dogs barely got out of the way, other cars had to manage their own survival. On one long rise, he tried to pass another truck, even though they were doing about the same speed. He spent over a mile next to the other truck, and the hill crest was coming. Not a good feeling. Eventually, he relented and let off the gas to fall behind the other truck and move back into the right lane.
When one truck finished overtaking him, he immediately moved into the on-coming lane, probably to see the road ahead better.
It was pretty, but not a relaxing ride.
It took about two and a half hours to get back to Manaus, and I tried to get him to take me to a motorcycle mechanic or a hotel. He either didn't understand or ignored me. I then tried to get him to take me to a bank, but he just looked at me for a moment then looked away. He went to his regular truck depot, where he probably loads and unloads his normal cargo. He backed up to a makeshift dirt ramp where it looks like the trucks usually get loaded, and we took the bike off there.
I tried to give him a US$100 bill, but be wouldn't take it. I gave him the R$/170 that I had, and he settled for a twenty dollar bill to make up the difference. It was more than the amount that we had agreed on, but it was what I had to work with.
I carried all my gear to a small bar next to the truck lot, and gave some candies to the rugged men who were sitting there watching me. I had to make several trips to get all the things moved, but no one messed with my stuff. I hailed a taxi on the main road and loaded my bags and boxes into it and had the driver wait. I then pushed the bike to a car-repair garage behind the bar, and asked for the boss. They called Luis over to me, and I asked him if I could leave my bike here for a while. When that message was finally communicated, I gave him one of my business cards (which impressed him more than I expected, probably because it had my photo on it), and I parked the bike where he indicated he would watch it. That's Luis, third from the left, writing his shop's address and phone number on my notepad. I had no idea where I was, and I needed the address so that I could find this place again later.
I showed the address that Luis had written down and asked the taxi driver if it was the correct address. He seemed to say that it was. I took photos of the surroundings, just in case.
I had the taxi driver take me to a bank, but he ended up taking me to a shopping mall. When I asked again for a bank, he nodded and pointed inside. Okay. In the mall, I found ATMs that would not take my card, and a money exchange kiosk that would indeed take my dollars. It wasn't a great exchange rate (only R$/2.15 per dollar), but it was all I had. (After having paid the truck driver, I had less than R$/10 on me, all in coins.)
Flush again with local currency, I asked the taxi driver to take me to a medium hotel. He headed down to the Centro district, which I expected. He asked me again if I wanted a large hotel or a small hotel, and I repeated that I wanted something in the middle. (I knew that he would get a commission from the hotel that he took me to, so of course he wanted to take me to an expensive one.) He circled around the Teatro Amazonas and settled in at the Hotel Safari a block away.
He went into the hotel with me, and waited until I agreed to the room. Only then did he go to get my bags. I let him get all the bags and boxes and I didn't help him at all.
The room was R$/95, which wasn't great, but I was happy to be settled. I took a nice, long shower and did some laundry while I was at it.
The hotel had a Wi-Fi Internet connection, but I later found that it was too slow to do any uploading. I was able to do some email, though, so that was something. When I had gone down to the lobby for the Internet password, a tourist vulture descended on me and tried to sell me a guided jungle trip. When he realized that I had already been in Manaus for a while and was now back with a motorcycle problem, he saw that I wasn't fresh road kill for him to capitalize on and he left me alone. I assume that the hotel clerk had called this guy and told him that a new tourist was in the hotel.
I called Laurie and got Joelmir's phone number from her. It turns out that he had emailed her at some point. I called Joelmir and he was surprised to hear that I was here again. Then it was my turn to be surprised, because he immediately left work and came to meet me at the hotel. He called Luis and confirmed that they would take care of my bike until tomorrow, then he called someone he knows with a tow truck and made arrangements with him. I didn't know it but he called Fabio as well.
I tried a cup full of sweet, warm tapioca from a street vendor, and it was very good. One of the doormen from the hotel saw me, and he got the vendor to not charge me for the tapioca treat. A gift for the tourist. Score!
Joelmir said that I must stay with him again in his house, but not tonight. Fabio had some woman at home (typical), and his room wouldn't be available until tomorrow. We talked over beer for a couple hours, and Joelmir told me about the rape of the Amazon jungle by the politicians who allowed the deforestation despite taking money from other countries to preserve it. The money from the timber industry is just too much to resist.
Joelmir told me that he had met the rider from Chile who also been met in Belem by Alex and had now come up the river as I had done. He was not happy about the Chilean rider not staying in Manaus. The guy had simply stayed the night and left. Joelmir liked people to stay and see his city.
Somehow, we got to talking about policing in Brazil and how it differs from policing in the States. The people rarely fight the police here, because the police here simply shoot them right away. Joelmir was surprised to hear how often the police where I had worked had to fight with people. He thought it was brutal to break some suspect's arm, when you should just shoot him in a completely civilized manner. A very different attitude.
Eventually Fabio joined us. That led to a couple more hours of beer and food. Fortunately, the sidewalk bar was right next to the hotel, so when I faded at 23:00, it wasn't far to go to bed. When I insisted on paying for the many, many beers, they were both slightly offended. Part of that was their sense of being my hosts, and part of it was a camaraderie of drinking buddies. I got them to accept that they had been so much help to me that I would feel bad if I couldn't buy the beer.
I spent some fuzzy time online, and dropped off at some point after midnight.
Thursday, 2 April, 2009
I woke at 07:00, but I was damned if I was going to do anything about it.
09:00 was much better, so I got up and had a very good hotel breakfast. I even managed to get some photos uploaded to my web site, but it was too slow to get the whole ride report updated. Joelmir called at 10:30, so I got packed and checked out of the hotel right when he and Fabio arrived to get me. They surprised me by telling me that they had already taken my bike to a mechanic that they knew. Joelmir had paid the tow truck, so I paid him back. We went to the mechanic's shop, which was not impressive.
They were working on several bikes at once, and I was a little happier to see some larger bikes there. The portly mechanic, whose nickname was Baia, looked a bit ragged around the edges, but he seemed confident that he could fix anything. I took the clutch apart and we assessed the damage. (I was told to just drain the coolant onto the ground, where it ran into the gutter. Hey, we were in Rome, right?)
First, there was more debris inside the casing and in the oil screen. Some of the bits were obviously the remains of a ball bearing.
The outside of the clutch basket was beat all to hell. The clutch plates were also battered around the edges. The first clutch plate was broken into nine separate pieces. The friction plates all looked good.
The inside of the clutch cover casing showed the result of the clutch basket banging around.
And the ultimate villain? The outer ball bearing for the driveshaft had failed. There were only three balls left in the races. The others had been chewed up by the motor. I have no idea how those last three managed to stay in place.
Baia (bah-EE-ah) told me that the clutch basket was useable (he would clean it up) along with the friction plates, but he would need to remove the whole motor and clean it out and replace the bearing from the inside. That was no surprise, and I was already prepared for that news. I agreed to his price of R$/1000 for the job, which is less than Javier had charged in Buenos Aires. Joelmir told me that it was a special price because he had told Baia that I was his friend.
While we were examining the damage, two of the Hell's Angels that I had met at their chapter house arrived on a large bike. It seemed odd to see two rugged, tattooed, mangy-looking Angels riding two-up on one bike. Never see that in the States, I suspect. The guy who had been grilling food last Friday recognized me and greeted me in a friendly manner. Then they saw Joelmir and talked to him a bit. After they left, Joelmir told me that we had been invited back to their chapter house this Friday. Sounded like fun. I could use some fun.
Baia told me to get a complete set of new gaskets for the motor rebuild, new clutch plates, and a new bearing. I was concerned that he didn't know about the torque specs and specifics of Kawasaki bikes, so I hoped to be there when he puts it all back together. (Plus, my Doohickey torsion spring is something that I know he's never seen.) I have a scanned copy of the Kawasaki service manual on my laptop. A Clymer manual would be better.
I started to take the bike apart more, but Joelmir told me to just leave it with Baia and it would get worked on later. If we ordered new parts from Sao Paulo, it would be no faster than coming directly from the States. There was no chance that these parts would be anywhere in Brazil. I would do as well to order parts from the States myself.
We piled back into Joelmir's car and found a vendor for cold coconut milk. Man, that stuff is refreshing.
At their house, Joelmir and Fabio again insisted that I take Fabio's room and make myself at home. I took a shower and called Laurie. She had to be in South Carolina for some family issues soon, but she got to work on rounding up the parts. I found later that she went to Fay Myers, a dealership in Denver, Colorado, where Bob has been helpful in the past. This time, it was Josh and Barry who helped Laurie identify the bearing and other parts that I needed. There was a problem with timing, however. By the time they had the parts in, Laurie would have to be traveling. They gave her all the information she needed to order the parts in South Carolina. She did buy another Clymer manual from Fay Myers to send to me.
Laurie then got in touch with Capitol Motorcycles in Columbia, South Carolina, where Adam took her order for the parts over the phone. She will be there when the parts arrive, and she can get them shipped via FedEx or DHL to me the same day. One problem was that there were a couple days of Brazilian holiday (related to Easter) in that time frame, so that would be more delay. Whatever.
I wrote earlier that I had no time pressure, but now with a better understanding of how long this fix would take, I realized that I did have an issue. My 90-day visa for Brazil expired in two weeks. That meant that by the time the parts got to me, I would have only a couple days to get the bike back together and get out of Brazil. Joelmir thought that I needed to go to Brasilia to get the visa extended. I would probably have to take a bus there and back, but I would have enough time to spend a couple days there.
I had to stop thinking about this, because Fabio was doing a BBQ. The chicken and pork sausages were easy enough to identify, but they had to explain the cuts of beef. I still don't remember the name of the particular cut, but Joelmir said that it was expensive. The fat-edged cuts were butterfly-opened and were very tender. It was some of the best beef I have ever had. They were thin, so they cooked faster than the links. They became an appetizer of sorts. The fat was very firm, but mostly I fed that to the dogs. When the links were done, those completed a nice protein-rich meal. The bread loaves weren't as crusty as before, but Joelmir had chopped up a relish of onions and other veggies to eat with the links. That's rock salt that Fabio had sprinkled on the beef.
And no, the fact that the meat resembled male and female genitalia was not lost on anyone.
Joelmir had some work to do, so he left for a few hours. Being my savior had thrown him off his regular schedule. Rayane came home and greeted me very warmly. I really think that they liked having a house guest. With Joelmir gone, communication between us was very basic. That made things simple.
We watched a soccer game for a while and that meant only one thing to Fabio, so there was beer.
Later, he showed me some very funny and odd bits of porn on his laptop computer. He had some unusual stuff. I'd like to share some if it with you, but I just can't bring myself to do so. He also showed me a video of a Caterpillar front-end loader doing a front-wheel wheelie back and forth across a parking lot. That didn't seem possible. I then saw that he had a load of steel in the big bucket for a counter-weight up front.
Fabio also surprised me when he said he knew where I needed to go in Manaus to get my visa extended. I wouldn't have to go to Brasilia after all. I think he'll take me there tomorrow. He's already offered to let me take his bike out for a spin if I wanted to.
See? Fabio has actual value. He's not just a fun-loving party animal who pilots a large boat up and down the river between beer bashes and sex dates.
I finished writing at 22:30. Everyone else was already asleep. They had to work, maybe, but I had nothing to do tomorrow.
Friday, 3 April, 2009
I heard people leaving early, but I stayed in bed. When I got up, I was the only person in the house. I wrote for a while, snacked a bit, then went out to walk around the neighborhood. I got some food and looked for a watchband to replace the one that had broken on my Casio watch. I found one repair stand, but he didn't have the size of watchband pin that I needed.
Back to the house, where after a shower and some laundry, it was time for siesta. When Joelmir and Rayane got home later, we chatted a while, but everyone was in a lazy mood. They took their own siesta while I worked on some Sudoko puzzles. Later, we all talked a long time on the back porch, where they keep their television. We watched a soccer match for a while, then some local news. Joelmir explained some of the news to me, but it was mostly pretty obvious. The political news was less clear. Did Barack Obama call Brazil's president Lula a good looking man?
We had been invited to the Hell's Angels house again, but at midnight we all decided that no one felt like going out. I would probably be here next Friday anyway.
Saturday, 4 April, 2009
Everyone slept late, and I didn't hear any movement until 09:30. The water in the house wasn't working, which only mattered with the toilets for now. The city seems to rotate water delivery to different parts of the city at some high-usage times, so no water at the moment. They always used bottled water for drinking and cooking, although Joelmir told me that the tap water was good.
We just puttered around the house until about noon, when Fabio went out for meat to put on the grill. Small beef steaks and pork chops kept the beer company. There was rice on the stove, and that was welcome relief from the meat-heavy meals of late. For dessert, there was a tropical fruit jam (very firm) covered with sweet condensed milk.
A friend of theirs dropped by and I got to meet Napolećo (pronounced like Napoleon). He just hung out a while and shared in the meal.
Joelmir confided in me later that Napolećo is a fairly high-level officer in the federal government and is somewhat wealthy. He oversees some bureaucracy with the Free Zone in Manaus, which is a federal district in Manaus. One of the things that Joelmir and Rayane liked about him was that Napolećo was just a regular guy who might show up unannounced (in shorts and flip-flops) at a friend's house for beer. I saw right away that he had a great sense of humor and lust for life (despite his occasional serious face). He's in his mid-fifties, a couple years older than me. He can have my grey hair if he wants it.
About an hour later there was a loud BOOM! from the street outside, and we went to see what that was all about. Finding nothing, we returned to the patio. Soon after, another friend, Alssan, drove up in a quad-cab Ford Ranger and joined the party. When he handed a very large firecracker to Joelmir, he was revealed as the drive-by bomber. He laughed and laughed at his loud joke, his long hair, long goatee, and large belly all bouncing merrily. Alssan is of Middle-eastern descent, and he was first introduced to me as Osama Bin Laden. It took me a while to get his actual name.
We talked about Alssan's truck, for which he paid about US$45,000 in Manaus. He was very proud of it. Alssan threw the last firecracker into the street and it shook the windows again. All good fun in a neighborhood that was used to the noise.
Before leaving, Napolećo invited us to join him for a typical day on the river tomorrow, so that became the plan. For this night, there was a house-warming party we were going to later, but first we needed a siesta.
Okay, all refreshed.
At 20:30, we started getting ready to go out. Jordania, a girlfriend of Rayane's, had shown up and was going out with us, but the women were taking longer to get "made up," so Joelmir and I went driving around the neighborhood and stopped at a couple places for beer. Then we picked up a case of beer to take to the party and went back to get the gals.
We ended up somewhere in the city, near the river. We were also near where the new bridge across Rio Negro was being built. There were dozens of motorcycles in the street at the party, including a couple that I had seen at the Hell's Angels clubhouse.
You want to guess who forgot to take his camera? Oops.
No one else spoke English, but they welcomed me and I had beer and brats thrust upon me. An older, pudgy guy with scars all over him took ownership of me and told me in passionate Portuguese about his long ride through Brazil and all the other northern countries on the continent on a 125cc Yamaha. He had been riding motorcycles for 34 years, and has had many crashes. He showed me his horribly scarred legs and said that a drunk driver had hit his bike head-on many years ago.
Gargamel was also there, and he introduced me to other riders who tonight were wearing the vests and patches for a different motorcycle club. It seems that all riders here belong to several clubs.
The new homeowner, Ceara, was very proud of his place, and he showed me where he was going to put in a small swimming pool and a lawn. He then gave me a tour of his house. It was an odd design. L-shaped, with a large covered central patio. All the other rooms opened onto this patio, with no central hallway or connection from room to room. The open patio was the "center" of the house. Easier to do in this climate, I know.
We stayed later than almost anyone else, and all the bikes were gone when we finally said our good-byes and piled back into the car. On the way home, we stopped for pizza. There was talk about sex at the table, but I missed most of it. Later, on the drive home, Jordania flat-out asked me to have sex with her. Okay, that is only the second time in my life when the offer was that direct. I politely and regretfully declined, but this was to be a topic of conversation for the entire next day.
I think that Jordania had planned on sleeping with me that night, but she ended up sleeping with Joelmir and Rayane in their bed. Fabio was in a hammock in their room as well, and this made me even more self-conscious about being in Fabio's room. They allowed me to have Fabio's room to myself, although he could have hung his hammock in the room we could then have shared. Heck, I'd be happy to take the hammock. But no, they left me alone in Fabio's room.
We got home and settled in at 04:30. It was a good thing we had taken that siesta.
Sunday, 5 April, 2009
The day didn't suck. It started early and ended with some minor stress, but it didn't suck.
There was noise indicating life in the house at 09:30. Hey! What happened to this being a civilized country? I tried to ignore the others, but they insisted I get up. I then found that our trip on the river was starting soon. Ummmph...
I grabbed my flip-flops and barely remembered to take my camera as we piled in the car and zoomed off. We made a couple stops for food and beer to take along, and Joelmir bought a 50-pound bag of ice. They only bought meat and onions, so I bought some apples for something a bit more refreshing. We drove back to the river, again near the new bridge construction.
Napolećo keeps his boat here, and the attendants were very efficient at taking it from a shelf and putting in onto an automated loading ramp. Napolećo pays about US$150 per month for the boat storage and service here. I think they also clean your boat when you leave the water. We got into the boat with all our stuff and they lowered us into the water.
That's the very-determined Jordania on the left.
And below is Napolećo's girlfriend, Glenda, helping Joelmir load the last of the food as Napolećo and a marina worker install a new propeller. (edit for those of you who are paying attention: I originally wrote here that Glenda was Napolećo's wife, but I've changed it since learning otherwise.)
We first went down-river, just puttering along to warm the motor up. There was one stop for fuel at a floating gas station, then we blasted faster down a side river to a place where Napolećo just let the boat float along while we swam around it.
While heading back to the main river, we stopped a couple times just to say hello to people that Napolećo knew. At one place, we walked around the large family compound for a while, then went out to the makeshift boat dock to see his friend's new river cruiser.
We passed a huge house along the river. It had a large boat at the dock and two small airplanes in an open hangar. One of the planes had pontoons, but the other must have a runway back in the trees somewhere. Napolećo said that a rich American (from the U.S.) lives there. (Being one of them, Napolećo knows a lot of rich people.)
Back on the main river, we motored through fresh rain into the area where the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões converge to officially become the combined Amazon river. The colors of the waters were sharply divided and were very contrasty. The Rio Negro was very dark water, while the Rio Solimões was a light tan color.
We rode out the rain by continuing past Manaus and looking for a beach. We landed in a popular area and tied the boat up after negotiating through trees in the water. This was still high-water season. In a few months, the beach would be fifty-yards wide. All day was spent here, cooking the food on a portable stove that Napolećo keeps on the boat. Eventually we ran out of beer and soda, and bought some more from beach vendors.
Joelmir, Rayane, Glenda, Jordania.
There was no road to this beach, so everyone comes by watercraft. Many boats came and went while we were there, including some tourist boats. When several friends suddenly showed up, there was fun with the jet skis for a while. That is Alssan in the peach-colored t-shirt (the guy who had the large firecrackers the previous day).
The guy in the white trunks (above) is a local doctor, Durval. He is also the president of one of the major ride clubs (Association of Motorcyclists in Amazonas). One of the other guys told me that he had seen my KLR at Baia's shop, and he reassured me that Baia was a good mechanic. I should have no worries, he said. I was still a little concerned that Baia hadn't worked on big Kawasaki bikes.
Alssan asked if I wanted to go out for a spin on his large red and white Sea-Doo Bombardier, and I said "sure." As I was buckling into the required flotation vest, Jordania suddenly borrowed another vest and decided to come along. Oooookay...
I knew that Jordania couldn't swim, but that's not why she hugged me so tightly. She was relentless, remember.
We went slowly through the trees and the heavy-traffic areas, then into a side river that was very smooth water. I opened the throttle and really let 'er rip. Jordania pointed to a couple places along the shore where we could have landed the jet ski, but I decided to pretend that I didn't understand. She probably thought that I was stupid.
When I started to head back, Jordania leaned sharply to one side as if trying to turn us around again, and the jet ski fell over, dumping us both in the water. She was okay in her vest, so I swam after the jet ski, which was now going in slow circles (a design feature of the riderless craft). The kill switch plug was supposed to have come off with me, since its cord had been clipped to my vest, but somehow it had come unclipped and the jet ski's motor was still running. We were lucky that we were on a wide section of the calm water at the time.
Catching the jet ski as it went by again was easy, but holding on to the side of it while reaching up high for the kill switch cord was not. It dragged me for a while before I finally got the cord pulled out and the motor turned off. Jordania dog-paddled over to me and we managed to get back on the jet ski. I asked her if she wanted to operate the jet ski a while, and she seemed shocked. She did take the offer, however, and we gingerly changed places. She was timid with the throttle at first, but then got some confidence and zoomed along for a while.
One of the other jet ski guys came looking for us, so I suppose we had been gone longer that Alssan had expected us to be. We headed back, and Jordania almost crashed the jet ski into the trees trying to get back to the beach. Simply turning the handlebars does nothing at slow speeds; you have to give it some gas to push the back of the jet ski to one side and steer the craft.
We returned Alssan's Sea-Doo to him with my thanks, and he and his buddies went zooming off. For us then, it was more time playing in the water between meals. Napolećo cooked the meat in small portions, to spread the food out through the day.
Jordania, Glenda, Rayane. There's a beach ball up there. Look up. Up. Look up. Oh, never mind.
Glenda was somewhat of a trophy girlfriend, maybe, but she and Napolećo really enjoyed each other. Openly. Physically. In public.
(another edit for those who wondered: no, they didn't have overt sex in public; just a lot of kissing and fondling.)
Glenda had no job, and Napolećo paid her living expenses. (This was explained to me later by Joelmir.) She had been badly injured three years earlier in a car crash and spent two years in physical therapy and rehab. She had a long scar on the back of her neck. All I can say now is that her physical therapist and those who contributed to her genetics all deserve a warm round of applause.
During our time on the beach, Jordania made another obvious pass (complete with the typical graphic Brazilian sex gestures), then she had Joelmir translate it for me when I just shrugged it off. Yes, I got it. No, thank you for the kind offer. Rayane honestly didn't understand why I kept saying no, and she seemed a bit miffed at me for not fucking her friend. It's another Brazilian thing. They are very open about all this stuff.
Don't you dare think that it was an easy offer to decline, though.
The guys on the jet skis came back, and Napolećo and Glenda took Alssan's Sea-Doo off to have sex somewhere. They took too long, apparently, because Alssan got angry and zoomed away in Napolećo's boat. We barely managed to pull some of our gear out of the boat before he took off. As he drunkenly swerved the boat in the surf, the beach ball bounced out and we had to take another jet ski to go rescue it.
Rayane and Jordania tried to take another jet ski out for a ride, but they tipped it upside-down right away and flooded it. The jet ski's owner got it drained and started again, so they did get to play on it a bit. He then took each of them out in turns to really show them what the machines can do. No way could I handle those things like that. Whoo!
When Napolećo and Glenda returned (all refreshed looking), he got a bit tense about Alssan taking his boat away. When Alssan finally returned it and sped off on his Sea-Doo, Napolećo had to inspect the boat for damage. Alssan had handled the boat so roughly that things were thrown all over the place, and several small things were missing altogether. The battery compartment was partially flooded and the battery had been knocked out of its retainer. Napolećo didn't say anything; he just set about fixing things.
One more meal (sausages this time) and more beer, and the day was almost done. Near sunset, we loaded up and started back toward the city. On a lark (it seemed), Napolećo steered off into a side river and tied up at a floating riverside restaurant.
We had fried fish and (you guessed it) more beer. We stayed there until after dark, and anyone who needed to pee just jumped into the warm river. Several long-nosed pink dolphins were swimming around the dock, probably expecting the left-overs to be tossed in the water. By then, it was too dark and they were too quick for me get a photo of them.
We also ran into Napolećo's sister and her husband at the floating restaurant. It seems that a day on the river was common on Sundays.
In the dark then, we headed back to the city. Napolećo had a million-candlepower light that he used to look for debris and obstacles in the water, otherwise it was impossible to see anything. He stopped at another floating gas station (open 24 hours) and bought (yes!) more beer. Okay, and a couple of Cokes for those who were wimping out.
At the marina, he backed the boat up to the loading ramp and the attendant smoothly raised us out of the water. We then climbed off, removed our things from the boat, then sat for a while on the dock just relaxing. Rayane and Glenda took advantage of the loud music to dance. They have done this before, and their routines were well-rehearsed. They were pretty good at swing-dance and very fast Samba.
It was about midnight when we left the marina. Napolećo directed me and Jordania over to his SUV, and Glenda suddenly made one of those "fucky-sucky" pantomimes as she shooed us into their back seat.
But all we did was convoy both cars to another social function. This time, it was a car and motorcycle meet. Most popular were the U.S.-made muscle cars from the '70's, and any big bikes. These cars were very expensive down here--to own and to maintain. Any parts have to come from the U.S.
We hung out there for a couple hours, just chatting with others. More of the group from the Hells' Angels were there, and others that I had already met in one place or another. Fabio was there (of course), and he kept pushing Jordania into me. He knew the plan.
Below is Chips (his nickname), Joelmir (his shirt is on inside out because he's really drunk), Rayane, Jordania, me, Napolećo and Glenda. Napolećo took his hands off Glenda's breasts just before Fabio took this photo, not that she cared.
We said good night to Napolećo and Glenda there, and got back in Joelmir's car. There was one final offer from Jordania to sleep the night with me without sex, but that was just a friendly tactic. Tempting, tempting.
We dropped the now-disappointed Jordania off at her home, and Rayane scowled at me as we drove away. Sorry.
Sex is such a casual and social thing here that my declining Jordania's invitation was probably seen as an insult. Again, sorry.
Almost home, we saw Fabio at a sidewalk bar, so we had to stop there. Everyone was upset with me, so that was a bummer. Over time, the attitudes lightened and maybe Fabio and Rayane even decided that I was gay. In any case, they were talking with me again by the time we headed home.
Although all the sex conflict (we can call it a misunderstanding) put a damper on things near the end, the day didn't suck.
Monday, 6 April, 2009
Fabio woke me at 09:00 for breakfast. Hot dogs and eggs, coffee, and more good bread.
I spent all morning and most of the afternoon writing, to get caught up again.
There was something on the news about a boat sinking nearby and some people being killed that got Fabio's attention. He suddenly left somewhere, probably going to see about the tragedy. Joelmir returned from work in the afternoon and worked for a while at his computer.
At 16:00, I was all done writing, so I went out walking around the area.
I found a major street and walked a few miles until I found a bank that would take my debit card. I would need to pay Baia half the job fee for my bike tomorrow, so I loaded up with Reais. One the way back, I chose a different route and went down a steep shortcut that the local people used a lot.
I called Laurie and stopped for a large bottle of Coke to stock the fridge at the house. I was sweating in running streams when I got back, so I needed a shower right away. Tapajos didn't mind my smell; he just always wanted to play. Maggie was over being in heat, so Tapajos was "normal" again.
Joelmir and I played on Google Earth to look at Colorado. His cellular modem was too slow to get much done, though.
There wasn't anything else to do, so we just hung out and watched TV. Joelmir's brother, Joelmar, came by for a while and we had a chat. Joelmar lived and worked in England for several years, so his English was very good. He is now a plant manager for Nokia here in Manaus. Joelmar had some legal business to discuss with Joelmir, and before he left, he asked me to come to his house for dinner before I left Manaus. I told him that I would be happy to.
Fabio returned only slightly drunk, but he went to bed early. Maybe he would be going to work tomorrow, which should have been a day off for him.
After a few more hours of Brazilian television, my head hurt. Trying to follow the language and the antics of some of the zany shows was just too much to take for long. An episode of Mr. Bean (with Rowan Atkinson) was welcome relief.
Midnight snuck up on us, and we were all done for the day. I stayed up a while longer using Joelmir's computer to manage some email, but I didn't have the patience to keep at it for long.
Tuesday, 7 April, 2009
The air-conditioner died suddenly in the early morning, much to my regret. I heard someone showering, so I suspected that the electrically-heated shower head might have been too much for the wiring in the house. It turned out that I was right. Fabio and Rayane left for work, but Joelmir and I snoozed until it got too hot.
At 10:00, Joelmir went up the street to get a local fix-it guy to repair the burned-out wire. Both air-conditioners, the water pump, and the heated shower head had overloaded the circuit. That tells me that there is no fuse or circuit-breaker. The repair guy walked down to Joelmir's house a few minutes later with a ladder and a pair of pliers. All the tools he needed. I gave him some black electrical tape to finish the job.
We then went out to run errands. First, we went to Baia's shop. There was my motorless bike, between a Honda and a Harley.
Baia had found that the dead bearing could be bought locally, and if I wanted him to, he could get the bearing now (rather than wait for parts to arrive) and start putting the motor back together sooner. I told him yes. After I paid him half the total fee for the work, Joelmir and I went to a couple places where he needed to get some work done. As we were driving along, Joelmir pointed out the office for Durval's motorcyclists club. I was surprised to see that it was a nice storefront office on a major street.
We went to the mall, where Joelmir mailed some official documents to Sao Paulo, then we had a large, early dinner at a Japanese buffet restaurant in the mall. It was a little expensive, but it was a treat.
From the mall, we went to the Policia Federal building, where I would be able to get my visa extended. I only had nine days remaining, so it was cutting things close. In the office, I had a moderate panic situation, because nowhere in my passport was there a stamp from the Brazilian border showing that I had legally entered the country. I was as good as thrown in jail at that point. The official went through the passport page-by-page, then I did, then Joelmir did. Nope. Not there.
Don and I had done our official entry at the same place where we failed to get the vehicle import documents. There, we had handed our passports and bike papers through a window to a woman who eventually passed them back to us along with our tourist permit/entry form. I had assumed (I know, I know...) that she had stamped the passport, and I don't know if Don had an issue with this when he went home from Salvador.
When things got tense in the Policia Federal office, I rooted through all the papers that I had with me. I found that the tourist permit had the required entry stamp on it. WHEW!
When the official saw the stamp on the tourist permit, he was satisfied. All was well. He also pointed out that my 90-day visa started when I entered the country, not when the visa was issued (as the woman in the Brazilian Consulate had told me). That was a relief, and that got me about another month, since I had entered Brazil on February 9th.
That resolved, we went in search of beer.
Some of Joelmir's favorite beer gardens were closed in the heat of the early afternoon, so we headed home. I asked Joelmir about the cost of living in Manaus, and he said it was better than in Sao Paulo. His house had cost him R$/60,000, but in the inner city of Manaus, it would easily be over R$/100,000. Homes along the river were worth R$/millions and more. Joelmir has lived in this house for a couple years. When the dry season came, he had several things that he needed to repair, and he had some money set aside for this.
Joelmir hooted and flirted with women openly, even when driving past them. Somehow (?) we got to talking about sex again. He casually waved-off the incident on Sunday with Jordania, saying that he understands my point of view. He said that sex was something so easy and casual here, that Rayane couldn't understand my rejecting Jordania. Joelmir had the advantage of being able to speak with me, so I was able to explain myself to him better. He confided in me that he has struggled with monogamy (to varying degrees of success) himself, because--you must understand--it's Brazil. Rayane had punched him once when she found out about a girl he was seeing in their neighborhood, but she got over it.
Because it's Brazil. "You understand?" he asked me. I assured him that I did understand completely.
Just as Alex had done in Belem, Joelmir told me that finding a Brazilian girlfriend was easy and expected of travelers.
Great. Even more temptation... Just what I needed.
Also, he assured me that Rayane and Fabio didn't really think I was gay, they were just teasing me. Somehow, that made me feel better, although I don't know why.
(Let me take a moment here to caution any foolish readers from thinking that all you needed to get laid in Brazil was a plane ticket. No, you must also have some social skills, a bit of the language, and a pulse. And it might take you a day or two, if you are stupid. Okay, back to the story.)
A block from the house, we stopped at a small sidewalk store and shared a large bottle of beer right there. There were people in the street playing with a garden hose, and their dog had more fun than they did. It would jump at the water and try to bite it. The water sure looked inviting in the heat.
We made another stop, this time pulling into what looked like someone's garage. We didn't even get out of the car, but we bought a case of beer from a ten-year-old kid, who had to go find somebody to make change for us.
At the house, we changed into cooler clothes and put the beer to good use. Joelmir had nothing else to do today, and his most pressing matters were some papers on his kitchen table.
We had the first serious rain that we had seen in several days, so that cooled things down a lot before it stopped. We got to talking about the news on the television. A pit bill had mauled a kid, so we talked about pit bulls being outlawed in some places in the States.
Three off-duty policemen had been robbed in Sao Paulo, and when the robbers found out that they were police officers they shot all three of them (none were killed). So we talked about police work. Again.
An Italian soccer player (a Brazilian man) had gotten into a drug and sex scandal recently in Brazil and was now being denied his return to Italy. So we talked about soccer players. The most famous people--and the richest--in Brazil are soccer players. The man who had gotten into the recent scandal was making US$35 million per year. That will buy you a lot of scandal if that's what you are looking for. And, if you are very young, rich, and stupid, it will buy you a lot of scandal even if that's not what you are looking for.
We talked about the events of 9-11, and Joelmir told me that when he saw the Twin Towers fall in New York, he thought it was going to be World War III. He was absolutely sure that the U.S. would devastate the entire Middle East in retaliation. He was so sure that he called his mother and his then-girlfriend and went to see them one last time.
Other major news from the U.S. then dominated our talk. He asked about the Washington D.C. shooters who had killed several people several years ago before being caught. He was amazed that the police had managed to catch the two guys, given so little to work with. He knew that there was a death penalty in the USA, but he didn't know what each State in the U.S. did with their maximum penalties. He surprised me by saying that the maximum penalty in Brazil was thirty years in prison. Even if you killed many people, that was the max. I'm not sure what is more civilized--prohibiting the death penalty or eventually releasing a known violent predator back into the population. Was a lifetime confined to a cage more civilized? Personally, I don't think so, but I won't go into that any more here.
The beer was going fast, and we talked about stupid stuff for a while. When Rayane returned, she helped us finish off the beer as we watched the beginning of the final episode of Big Brother Brazil. This show concept had originated in The Netherlands (I think), and now had variations produced in many countries, including the U.S. These types of reality shows in Brazil are a lot racier and more contrived. Also, there is significant commercial product placement in the shows. In one episode a few days ago, contestants were hung upside down in shoes that were glued up with a type of super glue. That glue producer was a sponsor for that episode, so everything had their logo on it.
Rayane kept switching the TV between the Big Brother show and another show that was a local variation of Wife Swap. Like the U.S. version, two women from very different families spend time living with the other's family. The whole idea is create conflict and drama, and they do plenty of that. Again, the Brazilian version is more likely to have sexual tension. In one recent situation (as Joelmir told me), a wealthy, straight-laced oriental woman swapped families with a heavily-tattooed sado-masochistic Goth woman from a poorer family. Yeah, there was conflict and culture shock. The Goth woman's kids were a terror to the other woman. (I had seen some teaser clips of that episode once, and the Goth woman was very attractive, although she looked like she would kill people on a whim.)
We, on the other hand, were just chillin'. That's Maggie getting into the photo with Rayane. Their TV is mounted up high on the back patio, so that's what Joelmir is watching.
The TV was turned up loud because the rain had started again. I didn't even hear Rayane's phone ring, but she yelled and got my attention to let me know that Jordania wanted her to tell me hello for her. That made me feel better, since maybe she wasn't angry at me for having messed up her sex plans on Sunday.
When the beer was gone, Joelmir announced that we were going out. After making sure that I knew how to drive a stick shift, he shooed us to the car and tossed me the key (most of the beer had gone into him). What I realized as I started backing the car down the steep driveway was that I hadn't driven a car in six months. His car handled so differently from what I was used to that I almost scraped it against the wall. The lack of power steering caught me by surprise, and the clutch pedal traveled out a very long distance before engaging suddenly. Joelmir asked me again if I knew how to drive a manual transmission, and he remained skeptical as I raced the motor and started jerking the weak 4-cylinder car slowly uphill on the street. The dim lights (virtually no lights) on his car and the ineffective defogger added to the visibility problem caused by the rain and the darkness. That was not a fun drive, but it was short enough that we would have walked it but for the rain.
We drove to the usual neighborhood bar for more beer. My shirt is wet because of a sudden leak in the roof a moment earlier.
Fortunately for Joelmir and Rayane, the bar had the Big Brother Brazil show on their TV, and most of those in the bar were watching. The three finalists (two women, one man) were all young and good-looking. The older and more plain contestants had been eliminated long ago. The final episode was a big production, aired live from Rio de Janiero, and it included some popular singers doing a mini-concert.
We stayed longer than we had intended, partly because of the TV show and partly because the rain was now a pounding deluge. The yellow cat that I had met last week was back, so it must live here in the bar. It had scars all over its face and tail, and it looked like it had lived a hard life.
After the show was over (the guy won), they trusted me to drive them back to the house. Driving in the rain at night without headlights on narrow unlit streets with wet pedestrians and potholes everywhere was one of the least-fun things I've ever done. If I had declined to drive, Joelmir would have done so, and he was in sad shape.
We survived my driving, and when Joelmir got out of the car, I found that he had bought several cans of beer to take along. Errrg.
We finished the night watching part of a Brazilian episode of The Apprentice. The tycoon in this version was a well-known rich Brazilian businessman who had reluctantly agreed to do the show. He had better hair than Trump, not that that is saying much. The contestants were all college kids, and were all good-looking, so that was typical.
We didn't last as long as the show, thankfully, and we pulled the plug (literally) on the TV before midnight.
Wednesday, 8 April, 2009
Rayane had left for work by the time Joelmir's tinkering on his Honda Shadow woke me up. The sissy bar on his bike had broken on our ride to Itapiranga last week, and he had to take it off and have it welded.
I wrote until Joelmir went off to do some work, then went out myself before noon to wander around some more and look for an Internet cafe. The one near Joelmir's home couldn't get their Internet cable to work with my laptop. Don't know why. Rats. It was going to be a long walk now.
Good grief, the heat and humidity! I bought a 2-liter bottle of soda, but it got warm and I got tired of carrying it before I could drink it all, so I left it on the sidewalk. It was a few miles before I found another Cyber cafe. They either didn't have an available cable or wouldn't let my plug my laptop into their system, so out I went again. I eventually found a mall and went inside for some relief from the sun. I could feel the sunburn starting on my head.
The air-conditioning in the mall was very nice, so I wandered around just cooling off. On a whim, I asked a woman at one of the stores if there was an Internet or Cyber place in the mall, and she pointed me down to a lower level. There, I found an Internet cafe tucked away in a corner. They found a cable that was long enough for me to use, and I got hooked up in no time. The connections was slower than I had hoped for, but much faster than Joelmir's cellular modem.
It took over six hours to get all the photos and report updates uploaded, but I got 'er done. Cost about eight bucks. During that time, I called Joelmir and told him that I was okay. He was nearly in a panic, convinced that I had gotten lost or been hijacked or something.
When I was done, it was dark outside, so the walk back was slightly cooler, and I didn't get fried by the sun any more.
The climb down the hill (the shortcut) was trickier in the dark, though.
I went by the small traveling carnival that was currently set up in Joelmir's neighborhood, but there wasn't much there to hold my interest. When I got back to the house, Rayane was there and was very worried about me. I got her to understand that I had gone out to an Internet cafe, which she hadn't known. Joelmir was away, so he might not have told her.
After a shower, I sat with Rayane on the back patio watching TV. There wasn't anything else to do. When Joelmir returned, he joined us. We had been invited to dinner the next evening, back at the home of Ceara, the man who had the house-warming party with all the riders.
Thursday, 9 April, 2009
I heard Fabio come home from work on his quiet Tornado, then Joelmir left for work on the same bike. After dozing a while longer, I got up and did some laundry in a basin on the back patio.
Fabio was surfing the web for porn, and he showed me some of it. He seemed to think that I hadn't seen any of it before, and he enjoyed watching me for my reaction to some of the weirder stuff. When Joelmir called and said he was going to Ceara's house and we should come as well, it was a welcome break. Fabio drove the car, but got lost a couple times and had to call Joelmir for directions. We finally got there, and started some serious beer drinking. Joelmir had gotten there just before us. There is a covered patio behind the house where the grill was located.
Ceara (pronounced like sierra) lives here with his wife and their adult son, Danny. Another guy who works with Danny, Maya, was cooking the fish. They were the same kind of fish we had caught at the fish farm, which was too bad. The taste was okay, but the flesh is too mushy and boney for me. The fish were stuffed with a vegetable relish, but it was very salty.
I don't know if these fish are related to piranha, but they might have the same dentist.
Ceara (with Maya in the background) was very proud of his motor club, and he really liked that I took a photo of his t-shirt and his bike. It's also a Honda Shadow, made here in Manaus. The motto of this club is "free souls never die."
When the heat got to be too much, we took turns hosing down. Fabio liked to dance while he showered.
Ceara played his music loud, and he preferred rock-and-roll from the States. Hard rock, mostly. Like most big bikes down there, Ceara ran straight pipes, so it was also very loud, and he would rev the motor in time with the music.
Joelmir told me that foreign songs that made reference to drugs or criminal activity were popular in Brazil, but mainly because it's illegal here to make any public declaration or statement that encourages or advocates those things. The song Cocaine by Eric Clapton (or was it Cream?) was one example. If a local recording artist sang that drugs were good, for instance, the song could never be published and the singer would get arrested. There is a rock band in Brazil that deliberately sings about marijuana in their live concerts, and the police have shut the concerts down and arrested the singers several times. I don't think that Gangsta Rap would do well here. They do have popular rappers who have a gangster look, but I don't think they can use the same lyrics here that would be expected in the States.
Fabio later tried to show me a lot of knots that he knows from his maritime job. He was so drunk that he got most of them wrong and was very embarrassed. Some of the ones he got right were pretty interesting and intricate. To get his maritime certification, he had needed to demonstrate some knots underwater and blindfolded, so he knew those knots very well.
We ran out of room for empty beer cans on the countertop, so we started filling the sinks. Danny and Maya left for work (they hadn't had as much beer as the rest of us), and the four of us who remained drank a lot more. I had more beer in Manaus than I had otherwise had on this entire trip.
Not that that's a bad thing.
We kept at it for hours, and when we were hungry again, Ceara got out some chicken brats and put them on the grill. Those were much better for me, and I ate more than my fair share of those.
Fabio suggested we go to a strip club, but Joelmir had to go home and get some sleep. I had nothing else to do--and I'm always interested in furthering my worldly education, you know--so I said that it sounded like fun. Fabio was laughing like a maniac when we left Ceara's house in Joelmir's car and headed off to see us some nekkid wimmens. He was really drunk and he got lost a few times again, but when he asked people for directions, everyone knew how to get to the strip club.
Okay, no cameras allowed now.
It turned out that the strip club is also one of Brazil's largest, most popular brothels, and all the women are tested and "certified clean." (A person would still be taking their chances, of course.) The cover charge was minimal, and there was no cost to watch the strippers do their thing. When they did "their thing," they did it well; some were excellent dancers. Their unshaven legs were unusual to me, but they were all very attractive. Many were obviously of local indigenous ancestry, so they tended to have slightly poochie bellies and strong legs. None of the dancers seemed to have had breast enlargement. All natural. Unlike other strip clubs I've been to, these women got naked pretty quickly and were very... um, "open" about their dancing. Also, it was perfectly acceptable to touch them (intimately, if you wanted to!). No tips were expected and I saw no one give any money to the women. Not while they were dancing, that is.
Fabio told me that all the dancers were also "working the floor" there, so after they danced you could find them walking around the club later for more personal fun. There were a few women customers in the club with their dates, but the other hundred or so women were all working. Whatever your taste might be, this was the place. Many of the women walked around completely naked, although most wore lingerie, bikinis, or skimpy costumes.
I saw a few men who looked like maybe they were "working" there, too, but it was hard to tell.
Lots of guys were watching some mixed martial arts fights on the big screen TVs. The cover charge here was less than some nightclubs I've seen (and the scenery was better). Not a bad place to just hang out and have some beer. And the drinks weren't expensive, either.
Fabio kept introducing me to women in the club, and he seemed to know several of them (another "duh"). If we spent any time talking with them, he gave them a small tip before we wandered off.
Fabio insisted on one lap dance from a very good-looking gal we had seen dance on the stage earlier, so we split the cost of that. She put us both on a couch and climbed onto a table to start. Once she was naked (didn't take long), she joined us on the couch. I won't describe a lap dance here (certainly not the way they do it in Manaus). If you don't know, you can look it up. Fabio could not stop grinning and watching me for my reaction. Like with the porn videos earlier, he must have thought that this was all new to me. (I didn't have enough Portuguese to tell him about my first trip to Amsterdam many years ago--or my second.)
There was some light sexual activity going on in the club, too, and lots of people watching. I saw many women take guys up the stairs to where the rooms were rented. Fabio told me that it wasn't expensive if I was interested in getting laid.
Uh... Yeah, right.
Before long, the beer and the night had worn us down and we both faded at about the same time. I was very concerned about Fabio's ability to drive, but we eventually got home alive.
Friday, 10 April, 2009
Oh man, was I hung over.
I barely managed to get out of bed at 10:30, and immediately regretted it. I ate some bread and sat on the patio with a bottle of water while Joelmir grilled two big fish. The thought of the fish was not good for me. Ceara and his wife dropped in for a while and ate before leaving.
Fabio stumbled out of the house and he looked terrible. Good grief! Had I looked that bad? I doubt it. I wasn't sure that it was possible to look worse than Fabio did at that moment. He went out and got some soda and a bag of tocuma(n) to snack on. The nutty flavor of those seemed to help my stomach. When I later saw that there was rice on the stove, I ate some of that and eventually had a little bit of the fish.
Later, Napolećo arrived with the incredible Glenda and Glenda's teen-age sister, Lohanna. I also learned at this time that Glenda was not Napolećo's wife, but just a girlfriend that he keeps a separate house for. I bet she's worth it, and I expect that his wife knows about her. (I have now edited the earlier references to Glenda in this report.)
Napolećo had brought another big fish with him, and Joelmir told me that this was now a big season for fish. That means the fish are plentiful and cheap. Less than a dollar each. Napolećo had brought more beer, including some Polar Pilsner that was imported from Venezuela. None for me, thanks. Not right then, anyway.
This was Easter week and many people were not eating meat, but most of the people I had met in Brazil were very casual about their religious beliefs. This holiday was also responsible for my bike parts not arriving today. Monday, hopefully.
Joelmir and Napolećo talked about taking a trip somewhere tomorrow, and they asked if I had a hammock. I told that I had left my hammock on the boat from Belem, and that I had borrowed one when my bike had broken down. They said they would find one for me. Apparently it was going to be an overnight trip into the jungle somewhere.
Napolećo and Glenda stayed late, just talking and relaxing. Lohanna watched TV then spent the rest of the time using Fabio's computer. She was probably online a lot, but I heard a few of the porn clips playing. Some of those videos had animals and anatomical oddities in them. It's Brazil, so no one thought anything about it. She looked to be about fourteen or fifteen years old.
Napolećo is quite the entertainer. I couldn't get his many jokes, but his antics needed no interpretation. Joelmir and Fabio told him that I was a police self-defense instructor, and Napolećo took that as his cue to jump out of his chair and begin some martial arts moves in the driveway. He was mostly kidding, but I saw in his stances and hip movements that he has definitely had some training. He then showed Fabio how to kill people with his fingertips, jabbing into the throat and gut. This was partly just more play, but again there was some training there. When Napolećo made a big, fake move in my direction, he was testing me. I think that he had expected me to react in some way, but I just looked at him cautiously and did nothing; I knew that this was just horseplay. That seemed to impress and amuse him. He had been calling me "Mister Martin" for the last week, and now he kept calling me "Mister Master." This was funny the first time, but I really didn't like it. When I asked him to just call me Martin, he laughed and said, "Okay, Mister Master Martin." Oy.
Napolećo's regular job was one of high authority, so he was used to pretty much doing as he pleased. He was easy enough to get along with and was very extroverted. Every time I used a Portuguese word or phrase, he would laugh and congratulate me.
Fabio needed more food, and said he was going out for some soup. That sounded good, so I accepted his invitation to go along. He slid open the broken driveway gate and told me to bring his Tornado 250 out. The gate is a large sliding aluminum door that had broken off its frame and needed to be shoved aside with a lot of work and noise. This was one of Joelmir's repair projects for the coming dry season. When I rolled the bike out, he told me I could ride it and he would go on the back. Okay, this was the first time I have ridden a motorcycle in flip-flops. It was as hard as I expected, and I kept getting the flip-flops all flipped and flopped into the wrong positions. It would have been better to go barefoot. The shifter pedal hit the top of my left foot right where the flip-flop strap was, so that helped some.
We had burgers at a sidewalk restaurant, then to another place for ice cream. It was raining lightly on the ride back. We had gone without helmets or eye protection, so the rain was unpleasant. Thankfully, it was a short ride.
It was dark when Napolećo and the others finally left, and Joelmir and Rayane asked me to go to a movie with them. Fabio didn't want to go, so we left him with his computer. We drove to a large mall in the city, and bought tickets early so we could avoid the rush. I had already eaten, but they ate in a food court while we waited for the movie. One of the bars in the food court used those portable beer taps that they would fill with your desired quantity and deliver to your table. Each portable tap had an ice-filled cylinder in the middle to keep the beer cold. Very nice idea. The guys at the next table had started with about a gallon, judging by the suds.
The movie was a sequel to a comedy about a middle-aged married couple who somehow got switched into each other's bodies. It was very funny, but I missed all the jokes. And, because it was a sequel, there was some humor based on things that had happened in the first movie. The movie was made in Brazil and was filmed in Rio de Janiero, so I recognized some of the film's locations. There is another sequel already planned for later this year. I had thought that I would be totally bored at the movie, but it was a better time than I expected.
It was only 22:30 when we got home, early for a Friday night. There were plans for tomorrow morning, though, so we went to bed.
Saturday, 11 April, 2009
I heard Joelmir open the driveway gate and leave at 09:30, but I didn't get up until I heard him return. He had gone on a grocery run, and came back with several bags and beer. Napolećo arrived soon after, and everyone got to bustling around but not much was getting done. I took that as a sign that we were in no hurry. Napolećo called me "Mister Master Martin" again, and I laughed and asked him again to just call me Martin. Rayane got it, and she also repeated my request in Portuguese. Napolećo maybe got the message, maybe didn't.
Napolećo had noticed the knuckles on my right hand. The first two knuckles are enlarged from years of makiwara training (hitting practice boards). He showed me his fingers (didn't look like anything special) and then did some fingertip pushups for some reason. He was all full of vim and vigor, as usual.
Napolećo suddenly dialed his cell phone and handed it to me without explanation. The woman I spoke with spoke no English, but we laughed and tried to communicate for a moment before I handed the phone back to him. I later learned that it had been his wife. I never learned her name. I heard Napolećo tell Joelmir that he was having a house warming party soon, but it was either in twenty days, or maybe on the 20th of April. I really wanted to see his house, which might be possible if it's in twenty days, but not possible without a visa extension if it's on the 20th. I'd need more of a reason than that to stay here that long, though.
Joelmir told me to get a change of clothes and something to swim in, and suddenly we were packing Napolećo's Toyota HiLux biodiesel SUV. Napolećo buys his tires in Venezuela, where they are much cheaper.
We stopped at a sidewalk market for fish. Joelmir got beef and brats from another market nearby. Yeah, it was raining.
From there, we drove to another neighborhood and picked up Glenda. It was a small house, typical concrete and tile construction. Nothing special, but it was fairly new. Like most houses in these neighborhoods, it was built between two other houses, sharing the same walls. Lohanna lives there as well, but she was staying behind today. I offered Glenda the front seat (where Napolećo had insisted I ride) but she wanted to ride in the back with Joelmir and Rayane.
We drove up BR174, the same road that I had broken down on when heading for Venezuela. Napolećo played The Beatles from a USB memory stick, and he played it loud. For some reason, the sound kept cutting out on his car stereo, and we eventually found that there was a faulty wire somewhere in the speaker circuit. By slamming some of the doors repeatedly, we could get the sound back for a while.
We passed lots of places with the word "Sitio" on their signs. Joelmir told me that they were small campgrounds for weekend vacations. Some had waterparks or river areas to play in, and it was to one of those that we were headed.
On a long, gradual uphill stretch of the highway, Napolećo was casually passing a big van, and we were next to the van when an on-coming car came over the hill. Nobody yielded, and I braced for impact. At the last second, the on-coming car drove onto the shoulder of the road and we were spared a terrible crash. Since I was in the front passenger seat, I saw that we had almost scraped paint with the van on our right as everyone squeezed together on the 2-lane road. Glenda was very upset with Napolećo for almost getting us all killed, so at least that told me that this was not normal driving behavior for them. We rode in silence for a while, but eventually Napolećo started telling a funny story and all was well again for the time being.
Before we got to our destination, we drove past two recent crashes. One was a rollover on the side of the road. The other looked like a car rear-ended a bus at high speed.
We went about 80km and pulled into one of the many campground waterparks. The owner knew Napolećo, and we got waved through the gate and carried our supplies a long ways to one of the larger guest houses. The walk was tricky in the rain, as everything was mossy and slippery and we were each carrying things. They were all in flip-flops or barefoot, I was in shoes, but I didn't have an advantage with traction. Rayane slid down on this bridge, and got her foot caught between two of those boards. I had to carry her bags as well as she hobbled the rest of the way.
There were a few small streams and one larger river that converged here at a waterfall and beach. It was very pretty. More photos of that later.
The erosion around the tree roots created a natural stairway.
Each guest house was divided into four identical apartments, each with two open rooms, one private room (which Napolećo and Glenda took), a bathroom, and a kitchen sink. No furniture aside from some chairs and stools, so that's why you bring hammocks.
As soon as we got into the rooms, Joelmir put a fish stew onto his small fuel-tablet stove and Napolećo took some meat out to one of the BBQ grills behind the house. The rain slowed to a steady drizzle that lasted all day.
Napolećo, Rayane, Glenda.
Between the guest houses were some public facilities. A few of these gazebos with large BBQ grills, and some volleyball and soccer fields. There was a restaurant and snack bar down nearer the river and beach.
Napolećo sliced up the meat and brats as they came off the fire, and we each snacked on that. This had been typical of all the BBQ meals we had; eating small bits of meat over a longer period of time. Never a large, heavy meal.
When the fish stew was done, we ate that (very good), and Napolećo entertained us and others in the camp with some odd dancing in the rain.
Joelmir told me that Napolećo is one of his favorite people, because he has only a good heart and is always helpful and generous. He certainly is entertaining.
Napolećo and Glenda took me to another river recreational area in the next city. It was a nice, large public riverside, and the rain had let up in this area. The water was cold, and a rich yellow color from the sediment. It rushed for about 200 yards of whitewater here, then the river widened and got calm again. The riverbed was solid smooth rock; no sand or sediment at all. It was perfect for tubing and body surfing without any real risk. I didn't get a good photo of the river. This was the beginning of the rapids, only about two or three feet deep in the whole area.
After playing in the water some (I think that Glenda has a very large selection of skimpy swimwear), we sat at a table under an umbrella on the artificial sand beach that had been built next to the river. We stayed there quite a while having some chicken munchies and beer. Glenda didn't drink alcohol, so she had cola and some coconut milk. Napolećo had a small English vocabulary, so we tried to talk for a while. Glenda found it quite amusing. Napolećo had been in the federal government for thirty-two years, but probably not in the same job for that long. I was surprised to hear that he only made about US$60,000 per year. I think that's a lot down here.
(Joelmir had suggested to me some time ago that there is a lot of casual corruption in the Manaus Free Zone, and the officials who work there take many pay-offs routinely. He wasn't talking about Napolećo at the time, but I can add two and two. Shhhhh...)
When Glenda was away from the table, Napolećo told me that he has been seeing her for ten years and that she loved him very much. He then suggested (largely through gesture) that he only thought she was "okay." To add to that drama, when Napolećo was away from the table, Glenda told me (just barely managing the message) that she and Napolećo have been seeing each other for eight years, and that she loved him, but she knows that she is just his girlfriend. When she was then unable to tell me something else, a woman sitting at the next table offered to help translate. (The woman hadn't been eavesdropping--Glenda just wasn't talking quietly and everyone around could hear her.) What the other woman translated into English for me was that Napolećo was being a very bad man with her, because he is married to another woman. This wasn't news to me, but she hadn't known that I already knew this. I just shrugged and told her that I understood, but I refrained from offering any other feedback. Better to stay neutral.
On the drive back to the camp, Glenda insisted again on letting the men sit up front. I took a photo of us at arm's length, but the camera was too stupid to moderate the flash. That's okay, because I'm not good-looking and Glenda is. The camera made the right choice.
We drove to the house of a friend of Napolećo's. He was introduced to me as Warrior, so I suppose that is his biker name. We hung out there a while, but just to have one drink and a short chat.
Back at the guest house, Joelmir and Rayane thanked us for giving them some private time. Aha! So that had been the reason we had gone away for a while! Rayane made her big, funny sex gesture, but I didn't quite catch it with the camera. She was also still nursing her sprained foot with ice. Joelmir had another pot of fish stew boiling.
At first, I thought the things zooming overhead on the porch were birds, but than Joelmir told me they were bats. They were too small, too close, and too fast to see well or photograph. Sure were a lot of them. Our lights attracted insects that the bats were after.
Glenda, Rayane, Joelmir.
The night was far from over. I had no idea where we were going when we piled back into the SUV. I would have changed out of my wet clothes if I had known we were going to a dance party and a concert. They were used to this late action, but I was fading. When Rayane gave my camera to Joelmir and had me drink something, I expected it to be jet fuel or something worse. It was just cold water, so that was the joke, I suppose. Napolećo was making slurping sounds with his water, trying to add to the joke.
There was a big projector screen showing a live concert from Sao Paulo, and it was very loud. The place got totally packed after a while, but in the beginning Glenda and Rayane had room for more of their dance routines. Rayane's foot was much better by this time.
The music was like bad Latin disco--song after song, it never changed its pounding rhythm and the lyrics were unimportant (and unintelligible to me). After about two hours, I really wanted to leave. But no, there was another two hours of this. I once again rejected suicide as a solution, so I resorted to falling asleep in my chair instead. That was not tolerated by my friends, and they pestered me in a friendly manner when I nodded off.
Then there was a live concert that began in the dance hall, but right after it started everyone decided that the group sucked and we left. Thank goodness.
Outside, there were hundreds of people in the street, just hanging out and dancing to the loud music. A couple dozen of the many motorcycles were moto taxis, and people would just hop on one and tell the rider where to go as they zipped away. This was very cheap transport.
In the camp again, I was loaned a hammock and it called to me in a lulling, cloying voice. I surrendered myself to it.
Sunday, 12 April, 2009
I didn't have my watch with me all day, so I never knew what time it was. When everyone got up, I did as well. After everyone had showered, we took food out to the gazebo and grilled our breakfast of beef slices and chicken brats. The snack bar in the park had food and drinks, so I found some soft drinks there. The day was sunny and hot.
Napolećo and Glenda were having a spat, which Joelmir said was typical. They didn't talk to each other for quite a while.
At the edge of the jungle, where they had stopped clearing the vegetation, there was a chaos of activity. Birds patrolled for bugs and small lizards, and large lizards darted into the grassy areas before returning to the safety of the taller plants. The largest lizards, maybe eighteen inches long, were brilliantly colored in green and blue, almost iridescent. I never got a photo of this zoo, though, since I either didn't have my camera or the show was over too quickly.
I walked around by myself for a while, taking some photos. Where the ground was mucky, my flip-flops got pulled off. Where it was carpeted with roots, my flip-flops still got pulled off. I ended up barefoot.
We all went down to the river, where there was a small natural beach. The riverbed here, like the other river, was rock. Also like the other river, the water was shallow and fast, and was again that golden color that comes from the rocks.
The two-stage waterfall was very interesting. You could go behind it and be mostly protected from the crashing water by the lower rock overhang. Two younger guys sat down on the rocky bottom behind the waterfall and waved for me to follow them. When they scooted on their bottoms out into the deluge, the undercurrent swept them away through the waterfall and shot them out the other side in surprising natural jet stream. I did the same, and it was a very fast, hectic ride for about thirty yards. Cold, too, but it was refreshing in the day's heat.
We waded around in the water for a while, just cooling off. Napolećo and Glenda were still giving each other the silent treatment, so the standing around was a bit tense. We went back to the guest house for a while, but then decided that we were done here and everyone was ready to go back to Manaus.
All the gear got divided up again and we carried it back to the SUV and got on the highway. I noticed that Napolećo's driving was much more careful and he took fewer chances. The stereo also behaved itself, so we got to listen to The Beatles all the way back without interruption. Over time, the tension between Napolećo and Glenda eased, and they joked with each other.
After dropping Glenda off at her house, Napolećo dropped us off. He told me that he will come to Colorado in two years, and I told him that he would be welcome to come stay at my house. As usual, that meant a lot to him. Maybe then, I'll get to meet his wife.
Joelmir's favorite soccer team, the Corinthians, was playing on TV, so we watched that. His team won in the very last minute. I sat down to write for a while, but Joelmar (Joelmir's brother) and his wife came over, so we sat on the patio and talked and watched TV for an hour or so.
I called Laurie before bedtime, and she told me that the FedEx tracking on my bike parts showed that the box was now in Manaus and should be delivered tomorrow. It wasn't likely that I would get the parts delivered to Baia in the same day, and Joelmir told me that he had a business trip on Tuesday and Wednesday and would be gone. I needed Joelmir to communicate with Baia, so even if Fabio or someone took me to the bike shop, that wouldn't be very helpful. It would maybe be Thursday before the bike got worked on. I then wanted to ride the bike around a while, testing it before getting out into the wilderness again, so I might be another week in Manaus.
Not bad, really, but I was starting to feel like I was stretching out my welcome. My hosts probably didn't feel that way, though, and I never actually got the sense from them that I had been in their house long enough. It was probably just my increasing urge to get moving again.
Monday, 13 April, 2009
It was early when I heard the dogs barking, which was not normal. Joelmir told me that if anyone knocked at his gate, the dogs would let me know. I got up but there was no one at the gate. It wasn't likely that my package would get delivered that early, anyway. I wrote some, and got the report caught up.
Still early. Back to bed.
When I heard Fabio's bike, I got up again. We talked a while, but then he called some girl and made an immediate sex date. A quick shower and he was gone again.
I would try to spend the day here at the house, waiting for FedEx. I had some laundry and other chores to manage, so I stayed busy. Joelmir had a legal case somewhere tomorrow that he had to drive all day to get to, so today he worked on his laptop while I wrote and did some games. When we got hungry, we risked zooming out to a restaurant nearby. We split a large meal (beef Parmesan) intended for two people, but it was easily enough for three. When we got back to the house, we planted ourselves back in front of our computers.
I called Laurie to see if she already had a phone number for FedEx, but she said she would have to call me back. When she did, she told me that FedEx didn't have an office in Manaus, so they used another local delivery service there. Joelmir called them and learned that my package was already on on a delivery truck. That made me feel better.
If the package got delivered late, then it would have to wait until Thursday to get it to Baia and start finishing the engine rebuild. Since Joelmir would be gone until then, I would have no transportation and no way to talk to Baia. Joelmir knew this too, and invited me to ride with him to wherever he was going. It didn't sound interesting, so I told him I would think about it.
Joelmir was reading one of his chat websites, and started laughing. He repeated the joke he had just read about Viagra, and then told me that Fabio uses Viagra all the time for better sex. Apparently, you can only buy it on the street in Brazil. People buy it in surrounding countries and bring it back to sell on the black market.
Late in the afternoon, a FedEx van pulled up and the package was delivered. I had known that I had to pay the import duty in cash, but once again I was surprised at how much it cost. I was lucky to have enough cash on hand. It was way more parts than I needed, but Laurie and other friends were trying to be as helpful as they could. Now I had to either carry all those extra parts home or leave them here. Rats.
Also in the box were a couple of Colorado refrigerator magnets that were gifts for Joelmir and Rayane, and some motorcycle tail light bulbs for Joelmir's Shadow. Unfortunately, they were only single filament instead of double, so they weren't quite right. We got one to fit into the socket, so he had a complete tail light but still only half a brake light.
Fabio came home only a little drunk, but happy. We watched TV for a long time, then Joelmar came by briefly. I wasn't sure what we were doing tomorrow, but maybe Joelmir would drop me off at the mechanic's shop in the morning.
Tuesday, 14 April, 2009
Yup, after getting up early, Joelmir took me and my new parts with him as he went to run some errands. After going to a few places, he dropped me off at the mechanic's shop and said he would come back for me at noon. If the bike was done, I could go with him to Itacoatiara this afternoon. Otherwise, if the bike would be done later, I could ride it to his house. If it didn't get done today, I could take a taxi back to his house. Either way, he wouldn't be back until Wednesday or maybe Thursday.
When we got to Baia's shop, I was surprised and a bit pissed off, because the motor was almost completely back together and reinstalled in the frame. I had asked (through Joelmir's interpretation) that he wait to work more on the motor, because I wanted to be there and see the work. If there was any uncertainty with the cam chain, or the balancer chain, or the doohickey's torsion spring (a unique part that Baia has surely never seen), then I wanted to be involved in that. As it was, everything was done, and all he was waiting for was the clutch plates and the clutch side gasket.
I didn't express any of my inner anger to Baia, for obvious reasons. Joelmir had impressed on Baia that I was in a hurry, so Baia was doing his best to get things done quickly.
The parts that Laurie and others had selected for the motor rebuild went mostly unused. I was able to get Baia to use the new friction plates and clutch springs, although he assured me the old parts were fine. I also got him to use the new water pump cover gasket, and I installed a new o-ring in the coolant impeller.
All my motor parts had been piled up in a box when I had last seen them, much as these parts were being stored.
Other bikes were being dropped-off for Baia to work on. All these bikes are made here in Manaus.
This Honda Twister 250 was one of the most common bikes, Joelmir told me. It cost about US$5000 here.
This is Rafael. He had studied English in school here, and enjoyed the chance to practice. He helped translate for me after Joelmir had left. He was dropping off his Shadow for engine work, and he said that he trusted only Baia to do the job. Another testimonial.
Like before, other riders stopped in just to see what was going on. One of them was another of the Hell's Angels guys who had stopped because he saw me there. He only stayed long enough to see that my bike was going back together and to wish me a good journey.
Baia had to ride off to get me some oil and coolant, so I gave him the money for that. He also got me another oil filter cap o-ring, since mine was not looking so good. When he returned, he started working on one of my footpeg bolts that had stripped out. He tapped it out to a larger size and got it fixed quickly. Helping him was his assistant Betinho, who was also very fast and familiar with everything we did.
Betinho and I got the rest of the bike back together and I installed a new clutch cable. When my clutch had gone amok, the cable had been chewed up where it attached at the bottom, so it couldn't be trusted for long.
Joelmir called Baia and learned that my bike was going to be completed by 11:00, so he asked me to ride with him on his trip that afternoon. I said I would, and we planned on meeting at his house at 13:00.
When the bike was back together and filled with fluids, I cranked it and it started quickly and with no explosions. I hadn't actually feared an explosion, but I had been ready for anything. After it had warmed up and circulated oil everywhere, I revved the motor a bit. It sounded a bit different, but I couldn't say why. Maybe it was just because most of the luggage was off. After another adjustment of the clutch cable (which Baia did in about 20 seconds), I took the bike out for a test ride.
The short story: Everything seemed good. No odd vibes, no smoke, no obvious leaks, no clutch weirdness.
I returned to the shop, paid Baia the remaining R$/500 that owed him, and with a wave I was outta-there!
It was going to rain, that was certain. I had brought my GPS along with me in case the bike was done in time to ride it back to the house, but even with the Zumo, I had a heck of a time getting onto the correct roads. I ended up in some familiar places, so I just went by dead-reckoning until I crossed one of the roads I was looking for. It took a long time to get through all the one-way streets and traffic jams. I had all my tools and the unused parts in my backpack, which was already heavy before the rain soaked it.
Here is the Manaus city jail. It's painted like that on the side facing a tourist plaza.
I got completely soaked in three downpours before I managed to get back onto one of the previous tracks stored in the GPS and find my way to Joelmir's house. We didn't stay there long, since I had caused us a delay in getting started. I took a shower to get the sweat and grime off me, packed a change of clothes, and we rode out of Manaus like we had just robbed a bank. It was going to be about 150 miles or so to our destination.
It wasn't as dark as this photo shows. My camera is still stupid.
The rush was to get to Itacoatiara before dark, and we were just able to manage it. We took the same road that we had taken a few weeks ago, when we rode as a group to Itapiranga and Silves on the 3-day ride in the Amazon. When we got to the dirt turnoff through the jungle, we just kept going straight, so this was new road for me. We got to Itacoatiara, on the shore of the Amazon river, and I saw on my GPS that my boat ride on the river had stopped at this city. (I had been a bit sick that night, so I hadn't paid much attention.)
It was a bigger city than I had expected, but we putted around on some dirt residential roads while Joelmir looked for the house of a friend of his here. He comes to Itacoatiara once a month on legal business, so he knows a lot of people here.
He was looking for a friend who was a local civil police officer. He wasn't as his house, so we went to the local police station and looked for him there. Several on- and off-duty policemen were hanging around the station.
Nope, not there either. After playing phone tag, we met with Joelmir's police friend at a local bar. He was introduced to me as Cabeleira. This was obviously not his real name, but I heard several people address him this way. We ate a basic meal there, which was good and inexpensive.
We rode off, and Cabeleira stopped along the way to pick up two women who were sitting at another sidewalk bar. We ended up at another bar next to the Amazon River, in a nice area that had been recently renovated. There was a constant stream of motorcycles and scooters passing by, and almost no cars or trucks at all. Everyone from teenagers to old women were riding, usually two or three per bike.
Cabeleira gave me some advice about my ride into Venezuela, since he had been there recently. He said that I would need about R$/1,000 for the time I would spend there, which is maybe 2,400 Venezuelan Boilvars. I could change money at the border, and could get insurance there, too. The border would be closed between 11:00 and 14:00, but I could wait there if necessary.
I called Laurie to give her an update, and a street beggar followed me around the whole time. He simply would not take "no" for an answer, and I finally had to stop and stare at him until he felt intimidated enough to leave me alone.
The two women that Cabeleira had picked up stayed for an hour or so, then he delivered them someplace and returned. Two other women soon arrived on a scooter and joined us when they saw him. I never heard any of these women's names. A car driving past suddenly screeched to a stop and backed up to my bike. The woman who leapt athletically from the driver's seat stood next to my bike and just stared at it with her hands on her hips. Another woman got out of the car walked over to the riverwalk and strolled around the plaza by herself. The broad-shouldered woman at my bike then came over to us and demanded to know who the bike's owner was. Yes, she demanded!
It turned out that she recognized the bike as the type of motorcycle that some interesting, fascinating, adventurous person would ride around the world, and she wanted to meet whoever that was. Unfortunately, all she got to meet was me.
Her name was Tereza, and she had a very confident and almost masculine manner about her. She shook my hand with a firm grip and tried to get Joelmir to interpret for her, but she was talking so fast that it wasn't going to work. She called over to her companion from the car, and spoke with her briefly before rejoining us for beer. The other woman then drove away. Yet another woman rode by on a scooter and Cabeleira whistled and waved until she stopped and joined us. Her name was Socorro, and she also knew Joelmir. This was a popular street along the river for riders out looking for drinking buddies.
The woman who had been sent on an errand returned with a guy who introduced himself to me as Diogo. He was Tereza's brother, and he had been fetched from his home to talk with me about my journey. Diogo was from Brazil, but had been living in England for twenty-two years, so his English was very good. He was only visiting his family in Itacoatiara at the moment.
Okay, I gave you all of that info so I could give you this next photo.
Joelmir, unknown woman #1 from the first scooter, Cabeleira, Tereza, unknown woman #2 from the first scooter, Diogo, Socorro (from the second scooter).
Diogo and I spent the next hour interviewing each other. He worked for BBC, doing research for films and television productions. He would be returning to Brazil soon, to help with the production of a large BBC documentary of wildlife along the Amazon river. He would stay in Brazil to live when that job was done. He very candidly told me that he was gay and that his former companion in England had gotten him the documentary job back in Brazil. He then mentioned that his sister, Tereza, was a lesbian (no surprise there, let me tell you), and that all of his six siblings were gay. That led to a discussion about Brazil being very open about these things.
His and Tereza'a father had been one of the first people to ride a motorcycle from Manaus to Itacoatiara. This was long before there was a road, and it was done by following trails through the jungle and crossing rivers on rafts. Their grandmother, 82 years old, still rode her own motorcycle here in Itacoatiara. I got the impression that they were an avid riding family.
After Diogo got my pathetic story from me, I gave him a sticker with my web site info and email address (I didn't have any more business cards at the time). He assured me that he would read my ride report and tell Tereza all about my story later. Because he was used to doing interviews, he actually gave me his permission to use his story in this report.
After he had left, I remembered that I had some more business cards in my bike's tailbox, so I went to get one. Me going to the bike was all that Tereza needed to launch out of her chair and sprint over to join me. Damn, the woman moves fast. She pointed at some things on the bike, but we couldn't communicate well enough. I gave her a business card and my email address. She had Joelmir tell me that we were all welcome to come to the gym that she runs in Itacoatiara tomorrow. She then called her girlfriend back over to the car and they left.
We spent a couple hours there before loading back onto the bikes and going to yet another place for food. We could have eaten where we were, but it seems to be part of the culture to move from place to place each night. It was a nice night, and it didn't rain.
I learned that Cabeleira is also a pro wrestler, and that Cabeleira is his stage name. It means "hairy-headed" or something like that. His hair was very wavy. He has been a wrestler for many years. Like pro wrestling in the States, what he did was just for show, and it was all staged. I don't know if he wore a mask when he wrestled.
I heard some plans being made for tomorrow, but as usual, I had no idea what was going on.
The women all left on their own, and Joelmir and I followed Cabeleira back to his house. Actually, he lived in Manaus and had a nice home there, but he was slowly having this place built here. It was little more than a brick shell at the moment. The large front room was his sleeping quarters when he stayed here during the week, and the back room was where he put down a couple mattresses for us. There was a gas stove there, and the beginnings of a bathroom.
It was one of the worst nights I have spent on this trip, rivaling even La Bufa in Mexico's Copper Canyon. It was mostly the heat and the bazillion mosquitoes that made it so bad. Cabeleira put two electric fans in the room, so that made it somewhat tolerable. I hadn't packed any insect repellent, so I had to put an extra pair of socks over my hands and wrap my head with an extra shirt to protect against the biters. Even so, I got bitten dozens of times and had a very hard time falling asleep. I almost got up and left to find a hotel. I finally moved one of the fans right next to my mattress and pointed it at my head so I could breath through the synthetic shirt better. I had used my backpack as a pillow, which wasn't so good.
I took these photos (another lazy panorama) the next morning.
Wednesday, 15 April, 2009
I was awakened by Cabeleira frying eggs in the room. He laughed at my sock-covered hands more than at my shirt-wrapped head.
It had rained heavily during the night, so the humidity had stayed very high. The two small dogs that Cabeleira has here had been fairly yappy during the night, so I had to resist the urge to put my new machete to use.
That is Cebeleira's XT600. I don't know who Anne was, but it was an evil clown's face under the name.
Joelmir took a shower and changed into the suit that he had packed. He had hung it up overnight, so most of the wrinkles were gone. Cabeleira rode off to wherever he was going, and I followed Joelmir to his court appointment. He met with his clients there. I had no idea what their case was, and it was none of my business anyway.
The plan was for me to meet Joelmir back in front of the courthouse at 10:30, so I went walking around the immediate area. I bought some insect repellent while I was out, just in case.
The trees were all infested with these fern-looking vines that were feeding off the trees' sap. Moss was also heavy on all the branches.
When I returned to the courthouse, Joelmir's bike was gone. Had it been stolen? Had he finished early and was out looking for me?
I waited there, rather than add to the confusion by riding around looking for him. An hour later, he putt-putted up on Socorro's scooter and asked if I had been waiting there all that time. Huh? Wasn't that the plan? He apologized and told me that his court hearing had been cancelled because the judge had never shown up. He thought I would be walking around the neighborhood, so he met with his friends nearby and watched for me to pass by. As it turned out, they were only about two blocks away, and well into their beer.
Cabeleira was there, Socorro was there (that's her in the photo below--I had met her last night at the riverside bar), and I got to meet Marcus. He was another character who was hard to describe. He was very animated, laughed a lot, liked to show the muscles in his right forearm (which was much more developed than his left arm--something to do with his work, I assume), and had enough English to think that he knew more than he really did. This made for some very funny sentences.
Marcus had a very interesting vest, which had pockets on the front that looked useful. I thought it was leather at first, but I later saw that it was vinyl. His riding club's patch didn't quite cover whatever embroidery had been there before. When I asked to take a photo of his patch, he jumped up and took a fighting pose for the picture.
BR319 is another highway in Brazil. MC stands for Moto Clube.
I asked where I could buy a vest like the one he wore, but Marcus didn't know. He said something about a gift for me later, but I didn't understand.
At the table, Cabeleira handed a small paper packet to Joelmir, and they talked about it a while. It looked like it had been glued shut, and had some writing on it. When Cabeleira told Joelmir that he could open it, Joelmir tore it open and took out three small plastic-wrapped bindles of cocaine. This really surprised me, and I knew there had to be some story here. I was right.
Cabeleira had arrested someone yesterday before we had met with him, and had found the drugs in the guy's possession. He had turned the bad guy over to the court official, but had forgotten to turn in the drugs. Today or tomorrow, he would go to the police station or courthouse and submit the contraband. They all thought this was very funny. Joelmir knew all about chain-of-custody issues with evidence, but he told me that it was not such a problem here as it might be in the States. Besides, it had been in Cabeleira's possession the whole time.
Another civil police officer rode up on an older, tired bike and chatted with Cabeleira for a while. He had a large pistol on his right hip, and some other gear on his left hip under his XXXX-size t-shirt. Apparently, he was currently on duty. Joelmir said that the civil police didn't work in uniforms. I was introduced to him, but I didn't catch his name. He really liked meeting a policeman from the U.S. and shook my hand warmly.
I managed a photo of him and his bike as he departed. You can see why the bike is now old and tired.
Suddenly there was a hot rush of air and Tereza appeared out of nowhere. She had just finished teaching an aerobics class and was all sweaty. (I don't know--there's just something about sweaty lesbians, you know?) Her gym was nearby and she had come to join us for beer. Had they called her? Do they just meet at the usual places?
She had gotten my story from her brother, and she had seen my website, so she knew a lot more about me. She went to look at my bike again, and I didn't have to ask her twice if she wanted to sit on it. She was tall enough for a KLR, but she didn't like how heavy it was.
After another hour of beer, we convoyed to Tereza's gym, which is right next door to her grandmother's home. At the gym, we met Diogo again, just as he finished swimming laps. The weight room is back there behind the pool. All the equipment was new, clean, and the whole place was very well maintained.
They had coconut palms (and several other fruit trees) on the property and always kept several coconuts in a refrigerator. Cabeleira was a whiz with a coconut corer and we were sipping coconut milk in no time. A bit too much of a whiz, actually, because he cut such a large hole in one of the coconuts that Socorro handed it around and asked if any of the men wanted to fuck it. Everyone laughed. This is still Brazil, remember.
Diogo took this next photo. Cabeleira, Socorro, Marcus, Joelmir, me, Tereza.
I only then found that the plan was for us (but not Tereza or Diogo) to go to a lake nearby and pass the rest of the day away there. That would mean staying in Itacoatiara another night, which was okay.
We rode back to Cabeleira's brick oven where Marcus took a shower and everyone changed into swimming clothes. I had my pants with the zip-off legs, so I was good.
Marcus then formally presented his vest to me as a gift. I was shocked. I had just met the guy! No, no, no, I complained--I cannot accept this. Joelmir came over and very seriously cautioned me that a gift in Brazil is not to be refused between friends; I had to accept it. Oh, good grief.
I held the vest to my chest and thanked Marcus for it, touching him on the shoulder. He was smiling very broadly, and was very happy.
I was in a dither, quite honestly. The vest wasn't the big deal. That he gave it to me was the big deal.
That ceremony over, everyone then mounted up and prepared to ride off. I packed the vest in my tailbox (along with a bottle of liquor that Cabeleira had me carry for him).
From down the muddy street, there came a chanting and pounding drum beat that was new to me. I saw one woman dressed in a brightly-colored wrap and a beaded headdress step from the house briefly. Joelmir told me that there was a house with many people from Africa living there. They had a religion that he didn't understand, but it involved a lot of chanting and pounding drum beats.
Socorro rode with me on the KLR, since we weren't taking her scooter. She directed me onto a street that the others had not taken, and I did as she directed. We went to someone's house where she borrowed a helmet, then she got me back to the main road and a gas station where the others were waiting for me. Cabeleira had a new passenger, I saw. She was young and cute. Apparently she was a friend of Socorro's and had been invited along for the afternoon.
We rode less than ten miles before turning off onto a muddy road.
My tires were about shot, so I took it very carefully with Socorro on the bike. At least I didn't have all the other luggage with me. She rode very casually, despite having nowhere to put her feet. My tailbox helped, serving as a backrest.
The recreation area they were headed for was closed for some reason, so we back-tracked (ugh... that mud!) and rode another few miles to another small lake recreation area. I think these are private parks, for which there was a small fee. They make their money from the food and beverages.
The lake had a noticeable flow to the water, so it wasn't stagnant. The top foot or two of water was very warm, then much cooler under that.
There is a submerged wooden walkway out to the gazebo, which is also submerged. The platform all around it (which you cannot see in the photos) is about five feet wide. Off that, the lake was deep enough that I never touched the bottom. We were the only people there all afternoon. They had brought some snacks with them, and bought some beer to go with the fire-water that Cabeleira had smuggled in.
The lake belongs to the ranch next to it. The main ranch house was very nice.
Something I have noticed about Latin American women (and men, for that matter) is a near-total lack of body and age consciousness. Socorro was in her mid-forties, Iris (I finally learned her name) was twenty years younger. Both had similar body shapes, but Cabeleira and Marcus saw only women that they enjoyed flirting with and making passes at. The women enjoyed the attention. Each woman had a tattoo on her abdomen that Cabeleira and Marcus would stroke and tickle. Joelmir and I were more reserved.
Hey! I did NOT take this photo! Joelmir had figured out how to work my camera. I'm not complaining, mind you.
Just under the water's surface there were very tiny fish--less than an inch long--that were nipping at our skin. It actually felt nice, but every now and then one would get a good nip at you and it would sting a little. Socorro let out a loud yelp that turned into a laugh as her hands went to her crotch. Everyone knew what had happened, and Cabeleira and Marcus offered to check to see if everything was okay. That led to more laughter.
We spent a few hours just swimming and splashing around, mostly lounging in the shallow water over the platform. The day was still hot, so the water was very nice. They talked a lot, and I didn't even try to pay attention. When they talked about me, it was obvious by their looks and by saying my name. They really enjoyed knowing that I didn't understand what they were talking about. They looked at me and snickered a lot.
Joelmir snuck my camera again and took a photo as the two women suddenly cuddled up next to me from different directions, but I shouldn't post that photo.
They caught me by surprise, although I knew something was up when Iris (who hadn't said one word to me all afternoon) started in my direction. I didn't see Socorro come up from the water behind me.
Well, okay, I'll give you the photo, but this is all you get. Don't hate me.
Only later did Joelmir tell me how friendly the women really wanted to be.
When the air got cooler, it was time to go.
I shook my head when Socorro asked if I wanted Iris to go back with me, so that was the end of that. No harm done.
Socorro rode with me back to Itacoatiara, where Cabeleira went off in another direction with Iris. I didn't see where Marcus turned off. Joelmir and I went to Socorro's apartment, where she said we could stay the night. Once there, I was too uncomfortable to share a one-room apartment with Socorro and her two young kids (one in diapers--I assume someone had been babysitting).
With directions from Socorro, Joelmir got us to a nice, cheap hotel two blocks away. The woman at the hotel had us park our bikes at the 24-hour gas station across the street. She talked to the attendants there to make sure they knew we were customers at the hotel.
The low-light setting on my camera still had a slow shutter speed. Anyway, this was the hotel.
Right behind the gas station was the Amazon River.
There was a bed, the air-conditioner worked, the shower worked, and I had a new bottle of insect repellent. All was good.
After a shower and a change of clothes, I sat in front of the hotel and watched the traffic pass by. Everything moving was a motorcycle or scooter. Not a single car or truck was moving in that neighborhood. Easily, there were more 2-wheel vehicles in the city than there were 4-wheel vehicles. Entire families riding on one small motorcycle was still fascinating to me. Sometimes a baby in diapers was propped on the gas tank or the seat. Entire generations grew up on these small bikes, so it was no wonder that literally everyone rode them.
Joelmir and I ate at a small restaurant on the same street. After that, we rode around looking for the other guys, but we finally just stopped at a sidewalk bar for beer and to watch soccer. I don't know if I'm developing a taste for soccer, but I can watch it easier. I still don't understand some of the penalties. Joelmir told me once that he just doesn't understand baseball, so it goes both ways.
Eventually, Cabeleira and Marcus found us and sat with us a while. It was late, though, so we didn't stay out long.
Thursday, 16 April, 2009
I got up and packed the bike, then saw a shop with hammocks for sale right around the corner. The one I had left on the boat had been too bulky to carry, but the one I had been loaned at the weekend waterpark had been much better, so I bought one just like it.
Joelmir and I were almost ready to go at the same time. I walked around a little bit more.
One final photo of the boardwalk along the Amazon River that allows pedestrians to move through there when the rainy season caused the street to be flooded for months at at time. It looks like they tear it down when the street can be used again.
We didn't talk at all. Just a nod that we were ready, and we hit the road.
About fifty miles later, we stopped for breakfast. When he had some coffee in him, Joelmir finally woke up.
I hadn't known what our morning's plans had been, and I regretted not being able to say good-bye to Cabeleira and Marcus. Joelmir told me later that Marcus lives in Manaus, so we might see him again before I leave. I was still planning on leaving on Saturday. (That's not what happened.)
We rode back to Manaus, stopping only twice to refuel Joelmir's bike. At one gas stop, there were two new big Yamaha bikes parked in the lot and the two riders taking a break in the convenience store. Joelmir talked to them and found that they were test riders for the local factory. They ride a certain number of the bikes that come off the assembly line. I had wondered why they had so much protective gear on.
In the store, the television was showing an MTV-like show with singers and dancers in a studio. All their clothes looked twenty to thirty years out of the current fashion. Late disco era, I would guess. Lots of bell-bottoms and polyester suits. Joelmir said that the show was aired from Angola, Africa, and that many of the cable and satellite shows in Brazil originated in Angola.
At his house (we didn't get rained on!), we settled in and I got back to writing. I had several days to catch up on, so that took a while. Joelmir went to sleep.
Rayane got home not long before I was finished writing. As she was taking a shower, the electricity went haywire and everything flickered. I could hear the electrical arcing from the front of the house, and Joelmir ran around to make sure the air-conditioners were shut off. They were, so that's not what caused the wires to almost fry again. The odor of ozone was very strong. Joelmir would have to have it looked at again tomorrow, but he suspected that a lizard or other animal had crawled onto the wires outside and caused a short. He said that ants sometimes start to build a nest on the power poles and that does the same thing. He later found water seeping out of a electrical connection panel in one wall of the house. The problem might be there instead of outside.
I was done writing at about the same time that Joelmir and Rayane turned off the patio TV and went to their room for loud sex.
I had originally thought to ride to an Internet cafe and do an update to the report, but it was late enough that I decided to do that the next day. Joelmir cooked a very nice pasta and chicken dinner, and Rayane broke open another of the huge chocolate Easter eggs that had been floating around for the last week. Nummy numms.
I had bought a jeweler's screwdriver in Itacoatiara also, because I needed to change the battery in my watch. I had the foresight to bring a couple extra batteries for it, but I couldn't find the tiny screwdriver I had also brought along. No matter, the new screwdriver was cheap and small.
Friday, 17 April, 2009
When I got up at 09:00, everyone was gone. I ate some leftovers from yesterday, did a load of laundry, and trimmed my whiskers. I had intended to give myself a haircut, but the snap-on attachment for my cordless hair trimmer had gotten broken into small pieces at some point. Rats.
Joelmir returned with two large fish, yellow sardines. Not sardines that I was familiar with. They were a few pounds each. Fabio came back with his catch--a 12-pack of beer.
While they cooked the fish and drank beer, I used Joelmir's computer to do email and log onto a few forums. I wrote that I expected to find an Internet cafe and get a ride report update done that day, but that's not what happened.
(I should sub-title this report, "...but that's not what happened.")
For some reason, Joelmir's cellular modem couldn't maintain a connection after a while, and he said it was because of the time of day. Later at night would be better.
I started getting organized and packing things up for an anticipated departure tomorrow, but Joelmir told me that there was a dinner or something tomorrow for me. I wanted to get together with all those who had made my stay in Manaus so nice, so I figured I would leave on Sunday instead.
Napolećo and Glenda arrived on his Honda 250 motorcycle right when the fish was ready. The flesh of the big fish was more firm and it was less fatty, so I liked it a lot better. Napolećo wanted to look at my repaired bike and hear the motor, so I started it up. After shutting it off, we noticed an oil leak on the driveway under the motor. Uh-oh.
After Fabio and I removed the bash plate and tool tube, we saw that it might be leaking from both the shifter shaft and the seam between the two halves of the crankcase since that was where all the oil was. It wasn't a big leak, and I could just ride and add oil now and then, but it would continue being a problem and would continue making a bigger mess.
Joelmir called Baia and I was told to bring the bike to his shop at 08:00 tomorrow. He would remove the motor and repair the leak if necessary. If I had to pay for the work, no thanks. But it sounded like he was being responsible for the leak. I don't know how this will affect tomorrow's plans, because Napolećo and Glenda have again asked us to join them on the river for another outing.
After Napolećo and Glenda left, we just hung out and talked. Fabio said that he might not be able to come to the USA, because he would have to find a bike to ride but he didn't want to stop drinking while he was there. To him, they were not separate activities. That led to my showing them how a gaze nystagmus test is done on suspected drunk drivers. They weren't aware of the eye test, and had trouble keeping their heads from moving. Joelmir told me that almost no conviction for DUI can result in Brazil unless there was a breath or blood test. I was surprised to hear that anyone even got arrested for drunk driving.
Using Joelmir's computer, I showed them some photos of my last day on the police department. I had told my team that I was coming to work in a Hawaiian shirt and a silly hat, and they could wear anything they wanted as long as they also had their duty belts on. Some wore togas (the young, buff guys), but all were in the right spirit. After briefing, we had all gotten back into uniform and hit the street.
Here's the link to that discussion and photos on the Adventure Rider forum:
(link has yet to be edited in here)
I later rode off to an Internet cafe that Joelmir told me about (hidden right in plain sight above the nearby gas station), and I got the techno-teen there to get my laptop working with their network. After some more time on the forums, I tried to upload the ride report update, but nothing would work right between MicroSoft FrontPage and the Internet. I kept getting a "port 500" error window, but I had never seen this before and had no idea what it meant. After an hour of rebooting and trying to diagnose the problem, I gave up. No update that day as I had promised a few people.
It was raining hard, so I got some beer to restock the fridge and rode back to the house when the downpour eased up. Both Joelmir and Fabio were in a late siesta, so I ate some more fish and wrote until Rayane got home from work. Fabio got up soon after and pestered Joelmir until he got up as well. I had been gone a couple hours, so they had a nice rest but weren't sober yet.
There was a plan to go to the Hell's Angels house again tonight. Too late for me to take a nap.
Joelmir and Fabio had a big argument about something, and Joelmir kept calling him a frouxo (FRO-shoo), which I think means "wimp." Before we got ready to leave the house, Fabio left in a huff.
We rode to the Hell's Angels chapter house again, and the Prospect at the gate didn't know Joelmir or like our bikes, so Joelmir had to go inside and get a higher authority to let us bring the bikes in.
There were more Harleys there that night (all parked off to one side), but so far the attendance was light at the early hour of 22:00.
Joelmir's bike had not ran well on the ride over. He had changed the sparkplugs today, and Fabio had "helped" him by pulling one of the sparkplug wires apart. We fiddled with the wire, trying to get it stuck fully back into place, but we didn't make it much better. He would work on it tomorrow at Baia's shop. I had placed my KLR so we could use the headlight to work on Joelmir's bike.
People kept arriving as the night wore on. I met several people I had already met here and elsewhere. These three guys were Guerreiros (Warriors), and the two on the right had met me at Baia's shop a few times and at other homes. I never could understand their names, and didn't know if I was given their real names or their club names. The guy on the left (just met him that night) turned his vest around so the logo would show better. They were all very friendly and easy-going. As soon as they arrived, I recognized two of the bikes, and I had beer waiting for them when they came to our table. That was the right thing to do, and we were drinking buddies for much of the night.
For some reason, they put on their serious faces when they waved me to join them for a photo. We were all laughing up until Joelmir took the photo.
We hung out until the place got quite crowded. After midnight, more Harleys arrived. One of those guys had a Harley that had been made in the U.S., and that made it special. He had paid US$45,000 for it in the States. It wasn't customized. I forgot to take a photo of it.
Many people around the large open patio were inhaling something from big balloons that they bought from the bartender. It was a drug of some kind, that was obvious. Joelmir didn't know what it was, and none of us asked anyone. It wasn't helium; that would have been obvious. And funny.
The chapter president, Jean, arrived and greeted me. He had thought that I would be out of Brazil by now, so he got the short story of my bike breakdown. It had to be a short story, because he still didn't have much patience with a conversation when he wasn't doing most of the talking.
Hugo was tending bar again, and he came over to greet me. He introduced me to a couple other people as his American friend.
One guy was walking around while leaning heavily on the shoulder of a woman who seemed to be holding him up and keeping him moving. He looked totally brain-fried. Joelmir and Rayane told me that he used to be a good friend until he got a bad drug addiction. He had once been a hale and husky guy, but what I saw was a gaunt and wasted man on the verge of death. His eyes wandered in my direction, but his sight never landed on anything. Rayane said that it was very sad, and she added the gesture of tears running down her face. The guy wandered over to us and greeted those he thought he knew, then he introduced himself to me as Amador. Then he introduced himself to me again as Amador. Then, when he started to shuffle off, he turned and shook my hand again, introducing himself to me as Amador. Oh, goodness, he was nearly a goner. About twenty minutes later, he and his woman made the circuit again and we all got to act like we had just met him.
Rayane said that there were plans for me to meet her mother here in Manaus on Sunday. I had planned on leaving on Saturday, but they wouldn't let me turn down an invitation to meet family members. I think they were coming up with things to keep me here longer. I told them that I had to get home to Laurie, and that resulted in the very excited idea of Laurie coming to Manaus for a week or so to meet everyone. They pressed me to call Laurie and tell her to come. I stepped away from everyone (and the loud music from the bar, where Jean had his headphones on and was being a DJ) and I called Laurie. She thought the idea sounded nice, but probably wasn't likely. The expense was one thing, the visa that a U.S. citizen needed was another thing. I had already told Joelmir and Rayane about the visa problem, since they weren't used to visitors from other countries needing visas. Laurie also had some commitments at home, but said she would look into the possibility and we would talk about it later.
I told my friends that Laurie would consider coming, and they broke out into a dancing chant, "Laurie come, Laurie come!" Even strangers passing by chanted along, but they didn't know who Laurie was or why she was coming.
Joelmir still hadn't sobered up from the drinking binge earlier today, so the beer at the Hell's Angels club was really getting to him. He hugged me and said that it was special to him to have a visitor from the United States in his home. And an American police officer, at that!
I bought another style of Manaus Hell's Angels t-shirts for each of us, and again that meant a lot to Joelmir and Rayane.
Sometime later, we left for home, stopping for burgers in his neighborhood. Joelmir was managing okay, and he assured me that he was only "really drunk." Okay.
At home, Fabio had put signs up all over the house that said "Sou frouxo," which means "I'm a wimp." I suppose it was his way of apologizing. The mannequin that he had made of various items (including Joelmir's sissy bar that had a plastic skull impaled on it) greeted us in the kitchen.
It was late. Bedtime.
Saturday, 18 April, 2009
I got up at 07:00, but had to wait an hour for Joelmir to ready to go. While I waited and warmed up my bike, I noticed a small gasoline leak from my fuel petcock. At idle, there was a tiny squirt of fuel that sprayed out. It was not coming from the fuel line, which would have been easier to fix.
(Maybe I should subtitle this report, "Everything fails.")
It's possible that it had been damaged while off the bike at Baia's shop. The petcock hits the ground when the gas tank is set down, so it might have been damaged if it had been dropped or set down roughly.
At Baia's shop, he stopped what he was doing to look at my motor. He popped the chain's master link off and dropped those parts on the ground like he wasn't going to use them again. I noticed lots of pieces of motorcycle chain all over the place.
Once the front sprocket was off, he looked some more and decided that the leak had originated at the output shaft seal. He pulled the collar out and saw that there was no o-ring in it. Off he went on his bike for a new o-ring.
When he returned, Napolećo had already arrived so they chatted a bit.
Joelmir replaced his spark plugs again, and maybe the wires, and got his bike running nice and loud once more.
Lots of other riders stopped in to talk with Baia or just to see what work was happening that day.
Baia used the same masterlink parts that he picked up from the ground (at least, I hope they were the same parts) and clipped the chain back together without any lube in the masterlink. That should take care of that. Maybe. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.
As for the gas leak, there was nothing that Baia could do about that. I had a kit for repairing the petcock if it came to that, so I wasn't too worried. It only leaked a little when the motor was at idle.
Joelmir and I stopped for coconut milk on the way back to the house.
Napolećo followed us there and after I had taken a shower, we loaded into Napolećo's SUV and headed for the river.
Just the three of us, we took Napolećo's boat out again and stopped at a couple beaches just to hang out and cool off in the water. The first beach was a long, narrow sandbar that would be a huge beach in a couple months when the water level was lower. For a snack, we had chunks of cheese and a firm fruit jelly covered in sweet condensed cream. Beer, of course.
The second stop was the same place we had gone a couple weeks ago with the women. It wasn't as much fun just hanging out by ourselves. Napolećo tried flirting with some other women on the beach, but his heart wasn't in it.
We ate some fried beef from a beach vendor, but it was very chewy.
We motored back to the Ponta Negra area and let the boat drift off the shore next to the touristy area while we swam around it.
I saw two small sea planes take off and land on the river nearby. Either private aircraft or maybe commuter planes.
After we had returned to the marina and the boat was back out of the water, we just hung out there for an hour or more. Nothing else going on.
I called Laurie from the marina and learned that she was not going to be able to come visit. She had too many things to deal with at home.
After Napolećo dropped us off at the house, I saw a couple small drops of oil under my bike. I wasn't sure if it was from oil that had already leaked out before or if it was from a continuing leak. My bike was very dirty and messy along the bottom, so it was hard to diagnose.
Joelmir told me that Maggie might be pregnant, and he was very proud of Tapajos for doing his duty while Maggie had been in heat. I had noticed that Maggie was the one now acting oddly.
Later in the evening, Rayane came home from work and Napolećo came by again soon after. He took a shower and grabbed a beer before leaving again. I think that was the third time I'd seen people shower at other people's homes. All very casual and expected.
A short while later, the lights in the house flickered and there was a loud buzz from the breaker box. Then a POP! and a CRACKLE! The SNAP! came at the end, for a change, as the wires burned out altogether and the house went dark.
I got my LED headlamp and we surveyed the damage. Inside the breaker box, some of the incoming "hot" wires had completely burned out right where they came through the wall. Nothing to be done about that tonight, so it was early to bed for everyone.
Sunday, 19 April, 2009
The plan for the day was to get as many people as possible together for either lunch or dinner, then to go see Rayane's parents that evening.
That's not what happened.
The electrician that Joelmir had gone to fetch told him that since the wires had melted away where they had, he couldn't work with those wires anymore. I think that he ended up cross-wiring some of the other 220-volt wires to serve the breaker switches that were now without power. At best, it was a short-term fix, since those circuits might now get overloaded. When he started working on the wiring, I loaded up my bike and went off to find some breakfast, a bank, and an Internet cafe. I promised to be back by 11:00 for lunch at the house, which would begin at noon.
I went into the city and found the big, new mall that I had been to a couple times. They had a large food court with a Wi-Fi zone. After being chased out of the regular parking lot by a guard (who told me that I had to park in the Moto parking area on the other side of the mall), I finally managed to locate where I needed to be. It took a while for the parking attendant to create my parking ticket, since he didn't have the Kawasaki brand programmed into his computer. He had to call someone who had him put "zero zero" in where the motorcycle brand was supposed to go. Another reminder that Kawasaki isn't common here.
It was all for naught, because when I finally walked to the mall, it was closed. The guard at the door told me that the mall didn't open until noon. that was a couple hours away. Crap. I headed downtown.
By the time I got to the Centro area, it was raining. I couldn't find an ATM there, so I headed to Ponta Negra where I knew there was an ATM that would work with my card. It rained harder and harder before I got there. I stayed in the ATM booth for a long time, waiting for the deluge to let up, but it was a longer rain that was common. When I finally got going again, my bike sputtered and died. What the...?
Okay, no biggie. Just ran out of gas. I switched the petcock to reserve and motored on. I had put 240 miles on that one tank of gas before hitting reserve, so that was reassuring mileage (even with a small fuel leak). I gassed up and had some food at the same time, then got into a long conversation with a German guy who saw my bike and approached me in the parking lot. He was living on Brazil now, after taking 12 years to ride all over South America. He had broken his teeth in Guyana, and had his dental work done here in Manaus. After that, he just stayed. I thought that maybe he had broken his teeth in a crash, but when I asked, he said that he had bitten into some really hard bread and several had molars broken all at once. Damn! That's either some really, REALLY hard bread, or there were dental issues there to begin with.
I rode on, looking for an Internet cafe, but it was still too early for any to be open. Every one was closed.
Someone lost their motorcycle chain here in the street, and here "in" the street is where that chain will remain forever.
The small mall near Joelmir's house had an Internet cafe that I had used last time, so I headed there in the hope that they would be open. They were, and they got me hooked up in no time. For some reason, the connection was much faster, too, and all the photos and report updates got uploaded quickly. I spent a little time on the forums, but didn't bother with email. I had to get back to the house for lunch, and I was already a little late.
I had some trouble with my computer shutting down properly, and that delayed my departure even more. Rats.
When I got back to the house, it was 11:40, and I felt bad for being late. Joelmir, Rayane, Napolećo, Glenda, and Lohanna were all there. Fabio was gone, and I got the sense that there had been another squabble with him and Joelmir, who looked upset. They had already cooked and eaten lunch, so that made me feel worse. This was supposed to have been a lunch gathering at my request. I hadn't realized they would have started early and finished before they were supposed to have started. Everyone seemed a bit cool in their attitudes, and I felt bad. When I tried to apologize, Joelmir told me that it was nothing to do with me. He asked if I wanted to go with Napolećo, Glenda, and Lohanna to someplace, and it sounded more like a suggestion, so I said okay. We piled into Napolećo's SUV and drove away. We left in such a hurry that I had left my camera behind.
We drove to a small riverside bar/restaurant. It wasn't the Rio Negro here, but some other river. Small boats and canoes were tied to the dock next to the restaurant, but the rain was so heavy that they were all filling with water and about to sink. A boy (about 12 years old) jumped in the river and tended to the boats tied up there. He bailed them out, re-tied them to higher points on the dock, and removed the motor from one big canoe. He bailed out one canoe by standing on it and rocking it back and forth to splash the water over the sides, and he did this with a practiced ease that was impressive. People who live on rivers know this stuff.
We had a very nice fish stew and lots of beer (Napolećo and me, that is). Lohanna and I kidded around with each other a lot, and when I gave her one of my business cards, she flushed and held on to it from then on. Later, after I had given Napolećo my phone number, Lohanna wanted my phone number as well, so I wrote it on the back of the card. She thought that was so cool. (At least I think she did... I don't know what a 13-year old girl really thinks is cool. She did give me her own email address, and Glenda's, so that was nice.)
I noticed that Lohanna called Glenda "Mae," which is "mother." I later learned that since her older sister had raised her (Glenda is only 27--less than I would have guessed), Lohanna considered Glenda to be her mother. Glenda's full name is Glendinha, by the way.
Napolećo called a friend of his and had me talk to him on the cell phone. To my surprise, the friend spoke very good English and said he would come to meet with us. After I hung up, I asked Napolećo what the man's name was and he said yes. No, I wanted to know what the name of the man was. Again he said, "Yes." I asked of the man's name was "Yes," and Napolećo told me that, yes, the man was named.
Rather than repeat all of Abbot & Costello's "Who's on First" routine, I'll tell you that it was funny and frustrating to work this out and eventually find that the man's name was Ney. In Portuguese, many words end with a nasal sound that isn't very clear to the untrained ear. His name wasn't "Name." Lohanna wrote it down in my notebook for me. Ney was the man's name, and his name was Ney.
An hour later, Ney arrived on a small Honda 125, soaked to the bone. He joined us and we talked a long time. Napolećo partly used Ney for translation, but partly wanted Ney to interview me a bit, much as Tereza had gotten her brother, Diogo, to do the same in Itacoatiara. I also got to interview Ney.
Ney had lived and worked in the U.S., in Atlanta, Georgia, for six years. Something to do with preparing for the Olympic Games that were held there. He then spent some time in Salt Lake City, Utah, doing the same for the Olympic Winter Games there. He had gotten to Utah by bus, and remembers Colorado being a beautiful state with great mountains.
Napolećo had Ney tell me that he would come to Colorado to visit me soon, and he would like to bring Glenda. He then joked that maybe he would leave her there. His jokes about Glenda (like this one) were all said right in front of her, and she never took offense although she sometimes frowned or shook her head. He also had Ney tell me that he liked Glenda because, unlike his wife, whenever he wanted to have sex, Glenda never said no. Anything he wanted. Again, this was said right in front of Glenda and Lohanna (who seemed bored).
Ney filled me in on some details about Napolećo and Glenda while he was at it. Glenda's accident a few years ago had been while she was in Napolećo's car and they had been broad-sided by a motorcyclist at high speed. The impact had been on the passenger door, so Glenda had taken the impact. The motorcyclist had been killed. Ney suggested that maybe Napolećo had been at fault, but he wasn't sure. After Glenda had spend a year or more bed-ridden in traction, then she had gone through two years of physical therapy and still hadn't recovered completely.
(It's amazing how open and willing to share personal details the Brazilian people are. Very open. I'm trying to share their stories and my experiences with them in this report, but please don't judge anyone based on what I've written. You have to meet someone and spend time with them yourself to know them. My few stories could give you a totally wrong impression of someone, since they are filtered through me.)
Ney told me that Napolećo really liked me, and was impressed that I wasn't afraid to jump off the boat into the river. Why would I be afraid, I asked. Because there are fish there that will hurt you, he explained. Bah! I saw thousands of people swimming in the river, and none were reduced to bones in two minutes by piranha. There are other, bigger fish that might hurt you, Ney explained. But it was rare.
After a couple hours, we left the river and drove into some small town where we parked next to a big concrete wall. There was nothing interesting, as far as I could see. Ney pulled his motorcycle up to a big steel gate, and Napolećo spoke to two men who were standing there. I saw him give the men some money, and they passed it to a woman on the other side. The gate opened, and Ney took the bike inside the courtyard where he parked it. We followed.
All it turned out to be was a nightclub on the roof. Napolećo had paid the cover charge. We climbed the stairs and found seats at a table at the back of the large floor area. Napolećo went around greeting many people, and he dragged me over to meet the owner, Estrella. I know that Estrella means "star," so I assume this was a nickname. Estrella looked just like the dancing Six Flags guy, except with a bad toupee.
I didn't have my camera, but Lohanna and Glenda took some photos with their cell phones, and I hope to get copies to put in here.
There were a lot of people there, and the band that played was pretty good. They did a lot of rock-and-roll songs, mostly translated into Portuguese. I had a hard time identifying Elton John's "Yellow Brick Road," and I had never before heard the song "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden" done in Portuguese and at a much faster tempo. When they tried to sing the songs in English, it wasn't much better. Pink Floyd's "The Wall" fared much better.
Between songs, Estrella would talk to the crowd with a cordless microphone that he kept on a large acrylic stand when he wasn't using it. Ney told me that he was usually just kidding around with the crowd, but he sometimes made small, philosophical speeches about whatever was on his mind. Usually, it ended with a laugh. Twice during our stay, Estrella came over to me and made me say something into the microphone. Both times he made me talk longer than I wanted to, and I just said that I thought that Brazil and Manaus were wonderful places, and the view of the river from the rooftop was beautiful. It was enough to satisfy everyone.
Once, Estrella was obviously talking about me to the crowd, and everyone laughed. Ney told me that Estrella had just told everyone that I didn't have a woman with me tonight, so I would be looking for a date. Within a few minutes, I got more than a few suggestive looks and a couple of "come over here" waves that I pretended not to understand.
There were many younger women with much older men, and Ney saw me watching a table where an old, fat guy was sitting with four pretty women who were in their late teens or early twenties. He told me that in Brazil, the culture is such that age is not a factor in relationships. I assured him that I had noticed.
I also noticed that there were no older women there with younger men. Hmmm.... Seems to be a one-way thing.
The first time I came out of the men's room, Estrekla asked me (through the loud microphone) if I had peed in the correct place at the urinal. I had wondered what all the markings and numbers were for, and now I understood that it was a joke. You were supposed to stand at the urinal trough according to your penis length. At least I hope it was a joke. Everyone laughed, and the band played on.
Many people danced as the night wore on. Brazilian women must have some special joint in their hips, because I don't see how they can have four hip shakes for every one step. It seems unnatural. Nice, but unnatural.
We drank a lot of beer (Glenda and Lohanna had Cokes). Had a few munchies, too.
When The Beatles' "Long And Winding Road" got completely trashed (in bad English) by the band, it was time to go, even though it was relatively early. Tomorrow was Monday, a work day.
I told Napolećo that I planned on working on the bike on Monday, then heading onward on Tuesday. He said he would miss me, and that this was a good-bye party for me. We all got hugs back at Joelmir's house, and they drove off.
After I let myself in through the gate, I saw that the car and all the bikes were there, but the house was dark and quiet. It was only about 21:00, but there were no signs of life. Oh, crap, I thought. I wonder if I missed the planned trip to go see Rayane's parents! It was supposed to be a late visit, so I hadn't expected to have missed it. What the heck?
Yup, the doors were locked. Normally, they would be outside on the patio watching TV. Uh-oh.
I sat on the patio for a while, then decided to do something productive. I went to the driveway and re-attached my tool tube and bash plate. That was harder to do without someone helping on the other side, but I got it done. I planned on snoozing in a chair if necessary, but just then, Fabio came out of the house. He was surprised to see me, and asked if I had just gotten home. I pointed out that I had been working on the bike, and he showed that I should have knocked on the door. Everyone was inside, asleep.
Okay, no problem. Everything eventually works out.
Monday, 20 April, 2009
I heard Fabio and Rayane leave for work early, dozed until 07:30, and got up to find Joelmir snoozing at his computer. He had been reading my ride report on the Internet. For some reason (maybe the arguments they had had the previous day?) he hadn't been able to sleep well, so he decided to see what I had written about my visit here.
I agreed to make a few edits (ahem) to the report, especially about our trip to Itacoatiara, so I have now done that. If you hadn't read what was there before, you aren't missing anything special--just a few things to make Joelmir more comfortable.
(It is a little awkward to write about people that I am living with at the moment, posting updates along the way. More assurance to you, gentle reader, that I write nothing but the truth. Maybe not all the truth, but what's there is true.)
Joelmir had told me that he knew a guy who could cut new treads in my worn-out tire, so it would get me to Venezuela. Once across the border, tires were cheaper, and there should be a Firestone shop where I can get new tires.
We rode from one tire shop to another, but they all either had lost or broken their tire tread-cutting tool, so we had to keep looking. We eventually found a guy whose heated cutter was just barely still working.
The whole contraption glowed red from the heat, and he had to hold the loose wires with his hand to keep them from touching. He worked fast, but that wasn't good enough.
Partway through the re-tread work, the wires crossed and the thing went *Pzzzzttttt!* and sparks flew from where the copper melted in a small explosion. He tried to fix it, but he would have to get someone else to do a better job.
Where my tire was cut, it looked pretty good.
A MotoTaxi guy was examining my bike, and the guy who has a moto shop next to the tire guy wanted to know all about my travels. He opened his shop early just to show me his little bike that he had ridden all around Brazil once.
Joelmir and I rode to an in-street cafe and had breakfast there. I had an egg and tocuma(n) omelet sandwich, which was very good.
We had parked in the street behind other cars, but when the cars were gone, our bikes looked odd sitting out there like that.
Joelmir had a client stop by and hand off some papers, then we headed back to the house. I took a shower, did some laundry, wrote a little. Joelmir tried to get others to join us for lunch, but all were either working or didn't answer their phones.
At noon, we went out and Joelmir stopped to meet with a client. We then stopped at a bike shop where Joelmir needed to order a new speedometer cable. His had broken somewhere recently. I bought some more chain lube, and we walked to another bike shop to look at the 2005 KLR650 that a guy from the U.S. had abandoned there a couple years earlier after getting malaria. The bike had New Mexico plates, 27,000 miles on the odometer, was mostly stock, and looked to be in pretty good shape. Joelmir said that they take it out for a ride every now and then. I wished again that I could buy only the motor for a cheaper price than the US$2,500 the shop wanted for the whole bike. It wasn't likely to sell, because it had no papers and no one (except me, it seems) had any interest in the parts.
We then drove to Joelmir's favorite restaurant, KoroKawa, a Japanese buffet in the Millennium Center mall. We had eaten there once before.
Back at home, I wrote and Joelmir slept in a hammock on the patio. Other errands popped up, and I was glad to get the tire re-tread completed today. By then, we had tentative plans for the next day.
Rayane got home sooner than expected, but everyone just lazed around the house. I took a nap, but the nap lasted until 21:00, and by then it was too late to make plans. A couple hours later, everyone sacked out again. There might be something happening on the river again the next day, since it was a holiday.
Tuesday, 21 April, 2009
I woke up early, but managed to fall asleep again despite how much I had slept yesterday. When Joelmir left on his bike, I got up. He returned soon after with a woman who I learned was a housecleaner he had gone out to hire. Fabio then arrived, and we all went out to find a car wash to get our bikes cleaned. That was a good idea for my, since my bike was so dirty around the motor that I would have a hard time seeing any new leaks. Plus, there was maybe a couple pounds of dirt on the bike that I could do without.
We went to one jet wash place, but their power sprayer was broken. At another, they told Joelmir that they don't do wash vehicles anymore. Rats. Back to the house to write and goof around.
While the cleaning woman worked, Fabio and Joelmir started another BBQ. They wrapped some ribs in aluminum foil and put those on the grill, adding other meats later. I must say that I do look forward to more vegetables on the grill when I get home.
People started arriving at 11:30, and I got to greet Franco again, which was nice. Fabio rode out and brought back a pretty gal who hung out with us all afternoon.
Ceara and his wife, Cleide, arrived soon after. He had his Nirvana t-shirt on today.
I had many good-bye hugs from Tapajos. From Maggie, too, but no photo. Sorry, Maggie.
Fabio's friend, Helena, was a nurse for geriatric patients in one of the hospitals here in Manaus. She surprised me (after having been there a while) by suddenly speaking English to me. She had been studying the language, and we talked for quite a while so she could practice. Joelmir's English was much improved from his practice with me, but sadly my Portuguese was not much better. I could understand more of it, but could not speak it well.
I later learned that Helena spoke some German, too!
The beef steaks were done first as usual (thin slices), then the pork and chicken brats got devoured. Finally, the ribs were done. They were fatty, but were very tender and moist. Very good. Fabio had gotten a bottle of pickled onions (which I love) and he and I got to share the whole bottle. The small jar at the bottom of the next photo is a pepper and oil condiment. Very tasty, and not too hot. The farina on the plate is a special grind of manioc root, and was supposed to be the best of all types. I have gotten more used to it since being here.
It was a warm day, not too hot, and there had to be another beer run before the day was done. It was a nice time, and I was sorry that a few other new friends couldn't make it.
Joelmir and I had a long, sincere talk about how we would miss each other. His father in dying of cancer in Sao Paulo, and he will bring his mother here to live with them when she is ready to move. He is a great guy, and Rayane was wonderful as well. I will miss them both, and I look forward to our next meeting in the U.S. or back here in Manaus.
Helena wanted to see my ride photos, so we went into the dining room to look at my computer. Unfortunately, we were busy there when Ceara left, so I didn't get to say good-bye to him. I did exchange phone numbers and hugs with Franco before he left. All good people, very open, welcoming, and generous.
Fabio left with Helena, and Joelmir and Rayane and I said our good-nights and zonked out before 22:00. I was getting up early in the morning to leave.
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Part 25 - Manaus... again
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