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On Friday My daughter and I were to go to Parajuru for a routine woman’s health check. We were told to be at the old school in the village at 7 in the morning, where we would meet the car that would take us. We duly arrived in plenty of time, and waited, and waited, and waited. A friend came by and we asked her if we had misunderstood something, she said all our information was correct, but it was strange that there was no one else there. A few minutes later one of the health workers arrived, she couldn’t enlighten us as to why there was no one else and no car, it isn’t part of her job to organise that sort of thing, but she advised us to try to get to the clinic, as there wouldn’t be another date for woman from the village for another month.
One of the villagers drove by in his beach buggy, the back of which was full of old tyres. The health worker flagged him down and asked if he could give us a lift to the main road, from where we would be able to catch the bus to town, he said that if we could fit in, he could give us a lift to Parapueira which is a little closer to where we needed to go. We went to get on the back but an old man who was sitting in the front passenger seat insisted that I sit there and he would sit on the back, the only trouble being that he was a little short and a bit stiff, it took him a while to get sorted, leaving me a little worried he would fall off.
When he was finally in place we set off, leaving village at a very sedate pace, I thought it was because we were only a few feet from a road hump, but once we’d crawled over that, it was clear that there was a problem with one of the back wheels. I know the guy whose beach buggy we were in, he’s a nice guy but not much of a mechanic, I asked what was wrong with the wheel, he said it was nearly flat and that’s why he was going so slow. At that moment a motorcyclist came along side and said the back wheel looked like it was about to come off. We stopped and got out to look at it, the buggy owner said he had taken the tyre off to see if any of those now in the back would fit, and when they hadn’t (which was probably just as well as they were beyond bald, the wires were clearly visible) he had put the wheel back but left the nuts very loose as he knew he would have to take the tyre off again, well there’s a certain logic in that in guess, even though he would have to drive 7 km before reaching the tyre shop.
With the wheel nuts tightened, we set off again but still at a sedate pace, the driver revved through 1st and 2nd gears, tried 3rd gear but it wouldn’t have it. He explained he had crunched third gear yesterday so we strained our way up to the main road in 2nd all the way. He left the spare wheels at the tyre shop and got the back wheel sorted, then we continued at our sedate pace to Parapureira, from where we picked up a taxi which took us to Parajuru.
The taxi’s only ply the main road and we now had a 2 kilometre walk down to the health centre, as it was early in the morning, it wasn’t too hot for the walk but we were glad when we reached the clinic non the less.
Exams completed, we had to get home. One of the staff asked an ambulance driver who was going to a town in the opposite direction from us, to take us to the main road from where we could get a taxi, he obliged and shut us in the back, letting us out in front of an alarmed looking woman also waiting for a taxi at the curb side on the main road. We picked up a taxi within a few minutes which left us at the road that leads down 7KM to Canto Verde. I thought about waiting for our friend Jeorge who might have been on his way back from another town, but on the other hand he might not be, I had no way of knowing when he would come by or if he was already back.
A young man with a motor bike said he would take us both (at the same time, with out helmets and in our shorts and flip-flops) for R$4.00. When I said no he said “OK R$3.00”. He probably thought me terribly tight-fisted when I declined his offer.
We began the walk down the road, by now the sun was high in the sky and I was very glad we had some water each, we certainly needed it.
We had been walking about 20 minutes when a large flat backed truck, that looked like it had been put together from several others judging by it’s technicolour paint job, came thundering up behind us. The driver pulled up alongside, the cows in the back lurched and then settled to a joggle, the driver gave a beaming smile as he rattled heavily in the cab, water poured from the front and steam hissed away in delicate clouds, while smoke poured out of several places along the exhaust. The whole vehicle looked like it was on the verge of flying apart in all directions at any moment, but we were very glad to accept his offer of a lift. After a high climb into the cab, which had lost most of the unnecessary additional items such as rear view mirror, door handles and window winders, and whose dashboard presented an interesting arrangement of holes where metres had once been, the driver told us he wasn’t going all the way down to Canto Verde but some of the way would help, at least that’s what we think he said, it was a little difficult to hear over the sound of crunching gears and the roaring engine.
Pulling up at a turn off the driver, bouncing in his seat, said he was sorry he had to leave us there, I looked for a way to open the door but couldn’t work out if the bits of nylon line that criss crossed the door, actually worked as a handle in some way. At that moment a man who had been stabilising the cows in the back, arrived at the door and helped us out. Waving goodbye, the truck driver and crew left us in a cloud of dust, we had about another 4km to go.
Just as we arrived on the outskirts of Canto Verde, where we turn off for our house, Jeorge drove by, tooting a greeting as he went, great timing! Still it had been a nice walk and we agreed we needed the exercise.
We got home at mid day, a five-hour adventurous round trip to the health centre.

©Claire Pattison Valente 2010

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