Remarkably, both the officers spoke English, and the woman with some fluency. Neither of them had any recommendations, but they assured me I’d find something within my range. The woman had good reason to be uninformed, as this was just her fourth day on the job and was new to the area having grown up in Rio de Janeiro. The guy just wasn’t paying attention, as several miles later I came upon a hotel with a large sign advertising rooms for 49.90.
Though they didn’t know anything about hotels, I next asked them the million dollar question, “Are either of you familiar with peanut butter?” Both were and the guy actually had some in his house, as he had an American staying with him. He didn’t know if there was a store in town that sold it, but wanting to be helpful, he said his friend might let me have his as he hadn’t eaten much of it.
“I’ll give him a call and see,” he said. When he didn’t answer his phone the officer, ever wanting to please, said, “I know of a supermarket that might carry it. If you’ll wait here I’ll go and see and bring it back if they do.”
“How far away is it?” I asked.
“Just a kilometer.”
“How about if I just follow you?”
“Sure, that would work.”
Before they sat back in their vehicle I got a jump on them, hardly believing my good fortune—a police escort for a jar of peanut butter. A minute later they flew by me with siren blaring. I feared they had gotten a call and were on a more important mission. After two kilometers and no sight of them, that definitely seemed the case. Oh well, at least they made the gesture, I thought.
A mile later I came upon a hotel that was too fancy for my tastes, but not much further was the one for less than fifty. I was happy to make it my abode for the night after four straight nights in the tent since Christmas. I would have kept my string going, but I’d had a particularly aggressive ant attack the night before, the ants chewing their way through the mesh on one of my doors, leaving five quarter-sized holes.
This was my fifth ant invasion, the last a week ago, and the second where they’d chewed their way in. At least the first was through the bottom of the tent, which I could easily patch. This was a different matter. The holes were high, so I could drape a garment over them to keep out mosquitoes, and maybe even crawly bugs, so it wasn’t a full-blown catastrophe.
I didn’t discover the ants until eleven, after I’d been asleep for a couple of hours and the late afternoon rain that had led me to this tree-shaded campsite had stopped. I smashed them all and returned to sleep. Three hours later I was awoken by another ant nipping my hand, but there weren’t even a dozen others in the tent. I offed them and then slept until daylight at 5:30, only interrupted by occasional visions of ants that had intruded upon my dreams.
When I spread out my tent to dry outside my hotel room, a few ants emerged, and some from my panniers as well. I hung my sleeping bag on a clothesline and out came a few more. While I was washing clothes, someone knocked on my door. My jaw dropped when I saw who it was—the woman officer bearing a kilo jar of peanut butter. It was the Power One brand marketed for athletes that I had seen in Brasilia and had the added distinction of being just over a kilo, giving its contents as 1,005 kg.
This was absolutely amazing. Not only had the officers found peanut butter, but they’d found me. They had to try a couple hotels, but they weren’t to be deterred. This would be my most treasured peanut butter ever.
“How much do I owe you?” I asked.
“Nothing. It’s a gift. Happy New Year.”
I knew it wasn’t cheap. I had earlier paid two dollars for a 200 gram carton. This was extraordinary. Edmilson told me he wished I would meet good people in my travels after I left him in Brasilia. He set the tone and the goodwill has not stopped. Now if only the ants would leave me alone.