February 19, 2004

Multiple adventures, both on and off the beach.

had a bit of a late start (by my (Jim’s) standards, it would become the norm for the group). Mike and the 3 gringos headed to the beach (praia) to soak up some rays. Buck arranged for a cab for us which proved to be quite an adventure….

I think the original idea was to hire a taxi that spoke some English, though the elderly gentleman that arrived at Buck’s did not quite live up to that billing. Not a huge deal, given Mike’s command of Portugese. However the driver’s driving ability seemed to match his linguistics. The ride to the praia entailed mountainous grades, a good deal of traffic and a smattering of rain –featured gear grinding, downshifting from 5th to 2nd, that whiplash style of braking, 2 stops for directions and simply bad driving all around. I think the driver sensed he was in over his head because he suggested getting a new cab for the way home.

however with a few Capirinahas -- pretty much the national drink of brasil featuring Cashasa (sp?) a liquor distilled from sugar cane + lots of syrup and lime -- under our belt we set off on the return journey with little more than fumes in the tank.

After a Bill Murray/Lost in Translation-esque conversation with our faithful driver we learned that we had to find a gas station that sold natural gas – that which fueled our chariot. Turns out the only purveyor of this automotive elixir was not quite ready for prime time. Standing between us and our ticket home was the station’s Grand Opening – quite an affair for in small-town Brazil, featuring film crews, models and no less than 10 men in their Sunday best, beaming with pride de Brazil.

Unfortunately for us, Le Grand Opening also meant the owners wished to keep their prized petrol purveyorship pristine for a few hours, stranding us until they were ready to dispense with the formalities. Our savvy cab driver suggested we (and we only) could speed up the process by falling back on our touristo status.

Low and behold – our nationality actually proved a boon – we struck up a conversation with an English-speaking owner and, after explaining our plight, convinced him to allow us a few litres of gas-o-natural. As we popped the popped the pump's cherry the co-owner shed some light as to just how savvy the taxi driver was: turns out that all cars that take natural gas also take regular petrol – but natural gas is cheaper. The co-owner offered a bit of advice to his befriended gringos – be wary of the Brazilian thriftiness. The cabbie sensed his secret was being revealed so he smilingly ushered us back to the taxi before we learned more.

Later that night we had some of the great aforementioned sushi and - believe it or not - mustered the stamina to stay out to the wee hours You’ll have to get this story in person. Keywords: Caipirinha, pole dancing and purging ;-)

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