The Sneaky Muriqui, And Some Instructions On Beating Cab Fare In Brazil
As you get clear of Rio de Janiero’s snarled traffic, you begin to see Brazilian life apace with mother nature. Green vistas, muggy and buggy like Southeast Asia. Smiling kids, overburdened trucks and bikes, different sounds and smells, a general
atmosphere of relaxed alertness. Under the pillar of Catholicism, people interact with more detachment than people seem to under the pillars of Asian Buddhism, Islam, or Taoism. The social contract is firmer here. A boy sells me bottled water
from the cooler on the front bars of his bike. The price is fixed at 1 Real for 2 bottles, (about 20 baht). There is no battle of wits for 10 more centavos. A lady of guarani extraction is selling fruit and flowers. She waits for an offer on the
bouquet of blue durantas, and the cup of Abiu. Tilac smiles, and offers 2 Reals for the cut flowers, 50 Centavos for the fruit cup. The native woman hands her a cup of Abiu for 50 centavos, her shiny face expressionless. In an uncomfortable silence,
Tilac asks if 3 Reals would be better for the Durantas? Searching me for a cue to her response, the Guarania sighs, and counters she would feel better accepting 60 centavos for the flowers.
Tilac, is perplexed, this is a fresh moment. My Thai goddess is having a bit of culture shock at last. She wordlessly hands over 1 Real, and is reluctant to accept her 50c change. I urge her to taste the Abiu. She is briefly irritated by the distraction – my suggestion is dragging her away from this odd confrontation, and then all is resolved. Her face breaks into a beam of pure joy as she tastes this exquisite fruit, like cream caramel. She gives a look of purest joy to the Guarania, who smiles and chuckles in reaction.
“Where is this fruit? Can I see? From tree here? In south? – Darling! Do we go south?” – I assure her it is sold everywhere, and is quite popular in Brasil. No need to buy this woman out. – Water off a duck’s back. She
buys three more cups, and a dozen of the fruits in a bolsa. I am stuck – ‘holding the bag’, as we wait for the ferry.
Our trip to Itatiaia National Park is a mixed blessing. Caught in the only torrential downpour they’ve had in two months, I am surrounded by the ravenous eyes of several men admiring their first Thai feminine figure in clinging wet clothing. Tilac is trying hardest not to notice their looks, modestly pulling her dress away from her skin. I am Nature Boy, head thrown back, drinking in the refreshing coolness of the rain, sporting a beautific smile, and lolling my head lazily to and fro, from her nervous beauty – drops of water on her chin and nose, to their seething hunger, twitching as one does when beset by biting flies. Off the boat, I work out a quick three-legged fare with a minibus driver, who calls himself Ramone – right over to a hotel, brand new clothes, the soggies to the laundry, and off to the park proper, our taxista stopping off for our things at the hotel while we tour the park.
Nature Boy gets an immediate charge from this fresh jungle highland. Nature Girl? Is getting her first look a a green-billed toucan, and gets robbed of of her Abiu by a brazen little monkey, right from her hand. I fell down laughing, as she took offense to this nasty little guy, and chases him a ways down the path, until he goes bush, and she is yelling after him. In Thai. “He doesn’t speak Thai Word One, darling”
“Brasil monkey have black heart!”
Poor mother of two Brits covers her child's ears to shield him from hearing this Chinese woman yelling GODDAMN at the animals. I – CANT – STOP – LAUGHING.
I: “Darling, would one of these other 6 Abui in the bolsa do just as well?”
Furious beauty: “Mai Ow”.
I: “You could throw it at him”
Coming to her senses: “Have they no food to eat in all this jungle?”
I, being charming: “Not something as sweet and irresistable as Abui and you.”
She smiles that relaxed smile, and I know we’re good now. I am looking for the Toucan, trying to re-acquire him in my binoculars, no joy.
Tilac: “He is up there, splitting the take with the monkey.”
Back at the visitor center, I call the Minibus driver’s cell, but get nothing. I wait until our appointed rendezvous, then call again. I call the hotel. Si. Yes he has picked up the laundry. This was two hours ago. It begins to slide from a drizzle back into a downpour. Then a deluge. Tilac smiles, looking out the window of the visitors building. “Darling no need for minibus, just wait for ferry now”.
“Our clothes are with that van.”
“Our clothing will float. Bus will not”. I call for another taxi. I figure they must have relayed the call, because in just two minutes there is a car at the turnaround, honking. Underway in Senor Guzman’s taxi on what was a highway, but is now a playground of class 4 whitewater, complete with road signs and mud-slalom competitors. I explain to Guzman, our driver: “I hope to find a minibus driver, one calls Ramone. If I can explain, he brought us to the park this morning, and has some of our things from the hotel. He was supposed to pick us up but he is overdue and I cannot reach his cell phone”
“Sorry”, Guzman says.
“Ramone is not available. He is stuck. His bus is flooded. We must go a long way around to avoid a washout on the main road.”
Suspicious, I ask if we can make the ferry, or just try for the hotel. Knowing already from the timetable we have only 1 hour to make the last scheduled run, I await his estimation of our chances.
“Ferry will be no problem, but two hours.” He says.
Now this, I don’t like. I quietly make arrangements in the back of the car, feeling that this is going to be a robbery. Imagine my delight when the ferry office answers my phone call!! How you can get great cell service out there in this storm, I can’t even guess.
“When is the last ferry eastbound, today?”
“6:30? That is in one hour, no?”
“Yes, One hour ten minutes, sir”.
“Well I am in Atlanticos taxi number 31 with senor Guzman, and we departed the national park twenty minutes past. We are going the long way down the Matas Highway, because the main road is flooded, did you know?”
“Yes, have they reported the road is flooded up here?”
“Sorry sir, no we have no reports. You cannot make the ferry if you go through Catias, sir.”
“OK, thank you”.
“Senor Guzman, I am sorry. The ferry office says we cannot be there before the last boat at 6:30. So there is no hurry, and we are hungry. Can you stop at the next market we come to?” Fate smiles grimly at me again, as we are approaching a cluster of buildings and I can see a familiar Coca Cola sign. Guzman is very agitated, and does not answer.
As we near the market, he says they are closed. I step on his last word with my first, as I say “No they are not. Look! They are open. My lady needs to use the bathroom. I need to get more money from the ATM. We will just be a minute.”
Silently he slows, and we pull into the yard in front of the market. I am first out of the car, and run straight into the market. I look right at the woman at the table, and tell her – “Tourist Hijacking. Be very careful when the other man comes in. He is the driver. I need police.” Tilac comes in just at this moment.
“Banyo alli, segnora. toilet.” I say.
“Our driver is not good, darling” She says.
“Yes, now be in control, my sugar” I assure.
La Mujera gets up when she sees my Tilac’s worried face. She steps past me and locks the door, then calls to the back of the shop. In walks probably the third or fourth fattest Brasilian presently in-country. He looks at his mother, and she tells him to do something. I am not getting this, as it's not Portuguese, Spanish or anything I can stay with. He turns slowly, like a boy sent to chores and disappears out the back. I am explaining to Tilac why the door is locked and we are all waiting inside. I turn to see Mujera staring out the door intently. A long, very quiet minute drags by. A Police vehicle suddenly comes around from the side road behind the market, and it heaves to a stop in front of Guzman’s taxicab. Who should get out of it but the King Obese, our Paolo. His mother is watching intently as he talks with Guzman. He asks to see his license, and Guzzy gets it into his head he should shout at Officer Paolo. This gets him pulled out of the car, sat on in the mud by a big boy, and handcuffed. It is raining cats and monkeys while all this is happening. Mujera makes a phone call, now.
In twenty minutes a cruiser and a 4WD arrive, and we are all out front giving statements and sorting out the situation: Guzzy is indeed a bad boy, our little adventure was a match for three hijacking MO’s that went to murder here of late, the park road and main highway are not flooded out, but are clear, the police are looking around now for this Ramone character, and we are just presumed to be damned lucky. We get a free ride to the hotel from the Jeep driver, and a big meaty hug from Paolo.
Senora Cardona is added to my Christmas List. I don’t even want to think about my sweetheart seeing the other side to me, the side I keep out of our relationship. I leave work at work. If my buddy Guzman had not stopped the car at the market, but had gone ahead with his plan, there would have been quite a messy drama in that car. And I am not sure my Thai girlfriend would have handled it well, seeing me do those things that I do when my life is put up against it.
We arrived yesterday in Cartagena, Colombia, which I am given to understand is much safer. Ha. I may as well be sending these submissions to Mr. Pelton for his next edition of MDP. What could possibly go wrong in Colombia, right? Anywayz, the damage is done. Tilac responds with a distracted “Huh?” when I ask her if she is still upset about the hijacking. Hmmm. She cannot take her eyes away from these beautiful Latino boys on the beach.
“You see, Tilac, In this part of the world, a tan is sexy, accepted. These boys are proud of their brown skin, not trying to be whiter.”
“Darling, I cannot return to Thailand with a vacation tan. I am a Thai lady."
“Well, would you like to return from vacation with a pet monkey?”
She: “Mai Aroi.”
Tonight we will dance Salsa, and try out the swimming pool on the roof of our villa. Next submission: Colombia, Thai style.