Today the time had come to say goodbye to our American fellow travellers. Woody and John, thanks for being perfect travel companions, we must do something like this again sometime, somewhere!
Now that we’re just a party of three and had completed Marlon’s planned program, we needed to decide what to do for the next eight days. First priority was to get the puncture repaired or hopefully replaced and to get our spare tyre checked over as it seemed to have lost some air.
We soon found a tyre repair man near the hotel who fixed the puncture but suggested that we should use this as our spare tyre as it was in poor condition. We asked him to check out the original spare and that was in much worse shape! The tyre was so worn that the steel ply were poking through and when our man put the wheel in the bath to check for leaks, there were numerous little bubbles coming through. Now things were looking serious! It looked as though we needed three new tyres at a cost of about GBP 100 per tyre, just for the remaining eight days!
We decided to ring Budget in Porto Alegre who simply said that we should have checked tyres at the time of pick up – not their problem. Marlon explained that we had questioned the thread on the front tyres and were assured that these would be OK for our 27 day rental period. Their rep had already helpfully put all our luggage in the car when we asked to check the spare tyre and access to it. This would have meant taking all the luggage out and we had already struggled to get the tools from underneath the back seats. Clearly, this spare tyre was not fit for purpose and should not have been given to us. Marlon was quite insistent that this was a significant problem and that it belonged with Budget as provider, not with us as clients.
The Claims department in Sao Paulo was contacted and eventually we were reluctantly sent to an independent assessor at a garage 7 km from our hotel. We just made it, with the tray for the spare tyre briefly escaping its bracket and scraping along the main road. Cliff again was the handy man to fix the problem.
At the assessor, we were served quickly and efficiently. Via Marlon as interpreter we told the man what had happened. He made his inspection and said that we had been lucky to have escaped with just a few minor paintwork scratches. The original front tyres were no longer legal in Brazil and they were worn beyond safety levels. He looked at the mileage on the check out form and our current mileage and agreed that the wear and tear was far greater than would be normal for such a distance – these tyres were already worn out when we picked the car up. The spare tyre was appalling and a disgrace. Marlon was with him when he rang the claims department with this news, not mincing his words about the poor quality of the tyres. What would have happened if the passengers had died in an accident caused by these substandard tyres? That seemed to shake them up a bit and we were promised a replacement car within three hours.
Unfortunately this was followed by a second call to say that they had no replacement car available but that they would fax authorisation for the three tyres to be replaced at their cost.
We had started this process soon after Woody and John left at around 9 a.m. and by 17:00 we were finally back on the road with what felt like a totally different car – one that stuck to the road!
We made no cactus stops today and arrived in Vacaria in the north of Rio Grande do Sul around 19:15 and soon found a very nice hotel with wifi.