Well I am off to Brazil in a few days to prepare the trail for this year's UVU Jungle Marathon. (http://www.junglemarathon.com). Always a hugely exhausting few weeks as the Brazilians in the Amazon region do tend to have the "never-do-today-what-you-can-put-off-until-next-week" syndrome. It's hard to motivate them and often frustrating. When the runners have almost landed at the airport in Santarem, we are often still finishing the trail... I do keep myself going by drinking a huge amount of maracuja, which is fresh passion fruit juice. Passion fruit grow in the region and the juice is used by locals as a tranquilizer! It helps keep me sane.
Thankfully I now speak Portuguese so I can at least communicate with the locals more easily. Despite reasonable fluency, I do screw up now and again - my biggest language mix up still haunts me to this day...
There are two very similar words in Portuguese - "pico" which means hill, and "pica" which is a slang word for male "private parts"... at the time of the incident, I only knew the "hill" word.
So, the story goes like this. A couple of years ago I was working on the trail in a village called Sao Jorge with two young guys from the village helping me. This particular part of the route has two hideously steep climbs, probably the toughest of the whole course. I was chatting away as we reached the first climb, and as we ascended I said to the guys "you know, you have the biggest hills in the whole jungle." They looked a little surprised and one of them started to laugh. "No, really" I insisted... "huge". I continued, "Everyone talks about them. This village has the biggest of all, they terrify me. I always warn our competitors". By now these guys were hysterical with mirth. "I can't cope with these big hills, they are too much for me at my age". By this stage, the two were almost crying and they could hardly walk! Thinking they must be amused by my accent, I didn't think any more of it. An hour or so later we reached the second climb. "Jeez", I muttered "more giant hills. I guess all your villagers are used to them, but imagine the shock foreign competitors get when they see them - they are terrified." One of the guys couldn't cope any more. "Dona Shirley" he said, "I think you have mixed up your words. 'Pica' means a man's sexual organ. Do you maybe mean 'pico', which means 'hill'?!"
To this day, they still laugh about it.
I'm off to finish my packing now and buy a few last minute items from the new UVU Jungle Essentials shop http://www.uvuperformance.com/jungle-essentials. My favourite is the new waterless shampoo and conditioner - perfect for outdoor pursuits where water will be limited. We ladies can now look glam even in the sticky, humid jungle. Now all I have to wait for is for someone to design a solar powered hairdryer...
You can follow our crazy race online, on Facebook and on our sponsor's pages through the following links from 4 October.
Follow Shirley Thompson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@jungle_maratho