Home South AmericaBrazil A funny thing happened with the dirty laundry in Manaus

A funny thing happened with the dirty laundry in Manaus

by Bernard O'Shea
Being dumped with your friends’ soiled socks and underpants as they scarper off into the Amazon jungle certainly brings you down a peg or two. Can you smell a rat?

On day 1 in Manaus we checked into the hotel with a grand-sounding name and infinity pool only to discover the pool had no water and the levels of grandeur were equally low. The most alarming aspect was the electrical wiring in the room – a mangled mishmash of red, green, black, white and grey cords hanging from the wall socket like the entrails of an animal that had been savaged by a jaguar. Chunks of plaster had been chiseled out of the wall too.

“Do you think it’s safe?” asked doubtful Diana. “We should call reception and ask them to send someone to check it out,” said zealous Zora. I picked up the 1980s-era telephone handset and dialled 0. Surprisingly I didn’t get an electric shock; astonishingly I got through to reception. We have a terrible problem, could you send a handyman up to the room, por favor.

Vanishing act

On day 2 Diana and Zora checked out. Since they couldn’t use the pool, they were going somewhere more exotic for a swim: the Amazon River. Some guy with a river taxi would take them across the Rio Negro where a guy with a VW Kombi would drive them to another riverbank where a guy with a boat would take them to his waterfront eco lodge deep in the jungle. I wondered if I’d ever see them alive again. They left me with a touching memento: their dirty laundry. For day 2 in Manaus was day 11 in Brazil and it had been too long in between spin cycles. Fresh clean socks and underwear were urgently needed! Leaving me with their lingerie, they set off to rendezvous with river taxi guy.  

It was Saturday mid-afternoon. A quick internet search on my phone revealed that the only “lavanderia” in the vicinity was open till 4pm. On Sunday it was closed. Burdened with their stinky bundle, plus some malodorous contributions of my own, I raced off to get me to the laundromat on time. But when I arrived, my heart sank: where washing tubs had once been, ice-cream tubs now stood in their place, in gleaming new freezers. The gelato shop staff wouldn’t let me in to buy an ice-cream, though – my socks (and D and Z’s) were too smelly. They kicked up a stink about the stink.

Yellow and blue brushes of a car wash in action
Just what was needed – new car smells! Photo: Svetlana Klaise/Pixabay

Brilliant solution for the dirtiest laundry in Manaus

Desperate times call for desperate measures – the car wash! I’d passed one on the way down. It was the perfect solution. You see, on day 3 in Brazil D and Z had fallen love with feijoada, Brazil’s famous black-bean dish, and they had been guzzling black beans frequently since. This wasn’t good for the world’s greenhouse gases … Grit in her fingernails, toe jam in her toes, there’s a whiff of black beans wherever she goes* … and I suspect it wasn’t good for their underwear either. What our laundry needed now, to be honest, was a good blast from water jets. To be slathered in industrial-strength soap and be whacked with mighty mops.

I’m standing at the car wash. But you don’t seriously think that I’d put money in the machine and saunter though the spray and suds holding bras and girly underwear high for maximum exposure, do you? Car washes are masculine places, frequented by revheads, lorry drivers, mechanics with dirty fingernails and the like. If they saw me parading around with D’s dazzling collection of psychedelic-patterned pink-and-white undies I’d never live it down. I don’t even know if it’s safe or even possible for a pedestrian to give himself a car wash.

No, what I was looking for was a large washing basin in a discreet corner, where clients could soak and scrub their grubby car mats; where I could secretly slip in D’s D cups and Z’s nipple knapsacks. But alas, no basins were to be found. So, having taken the collective dirty laundry out for a long walk around the city, I walked it back to the hotel again.

Travel writer Bernard O'Shea peers into the empty infinity pool at the Taj Mahal Continental Hotel in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil
Bernard wonders if there’s enough water left in the pool to do the washing, and if the tub’s big enough to accommodate all the grande grande grande underwear. Photo: Diana Streak


A hotel with no water in the pool is also a hotel with minimum soap in the bathroom, so I had to make our tiny one-bar ration go a long, long way. And I mean a long way. D&Z’s lingerie could easily have been called ‘longerie’. I mean, we won’t have any fat-shaming here but for your info, XXL extra extra large in Portuguese is GGG – grande grande grande – just saying. I’ll happily admit I’m no skeleton – I like to think I pack a lot of GGG into my G-strings – just saying, WW (wink wink).

I rolled up my sleeves, stood over the cracked hand-basin, and filled it up. The basin’s got more water than the pool! I started with the bras. A simple soak would do, I figured – if I scrubbed and scrunched them too hard their D cups might come out looking like saucers.

A bowl of feijoada, a Brazilian dish of black beans and meat.
Feijoada, a stew of black beans and pork, is a popular dish in Brazil. Photo: Gilmar Koizumi/Pixabay

Working my socks off

Next came the underwear. These, too, needed kid glove treatment. I was beginning to wish I had some gloves – rubbing cheap hotel soap over all these garments was giving me eczema.

Lastly the socks. OMG, the socks! I’ll be honest – mine were the worst. Risking electrocution again, I dialled reception to ask if by any chance they had 5kg of Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean Odor Blasters Laundry Detergent stashed in a cupboard somewhere. The answer was no.

Help arrives at last

On the morning of day 4 in Manaus the handyman we’d asked for on day 1 knocked on the door. He’d come to check the wiring. I guided him to the holes in the wall. He crouched to have a look, jangled the electronic spaghetti a little, then stood up to speak but something distracted him – Zora’s Hanky Panky Supima Cotton French Briefs laid out on a bed to dry.

His eyes roamed the room, widening as he took in the Not So Itsy Bitsy, Not So Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini briefs dangling over the bedhead; High-Rise Hoity Toity Hipsters draped over the arm rests of the chair; the Body Perfection Longline Contour Bra in Barely Nude strung up on the lampshade; Intimo Everyday Plunge Push Up Bras spread out on a towel on the floor, not doing push-ups but catching a patch of sunlight from the window, where Diana’s seven-pack of Rio undies, bought especially for the trip to Brazil because she thought it was terribly witty and liked the gaudy colours, were strung up like bunting.

GGG whiz!

Nothing, however, prepared him for the sight of my GGG Elephant Trunk G-strings dangling from the doorknobs of the cupboard. “Meu Deus!” he gasped. My God!

He gave me a funny-peculiar look and retreated to the door, cautiously, like someone on safari who had unexpectedly come face to face with a dangerous beast, not daring to turn his back on me. “The wires, it’s okay,” he said, holding the door ajar, then in a flash he was gone.

Clearly, I was the one with the terrible problem. TTW

* I don’t mean to sound ungracious,
I don’t mean to be unkind,
I can eat more black beans
Than D and Z combined.
When with me you’re out walking
A sensible strategy, you’ll find

Is note the wind direction
And do not lag behind!

Bernard O’Shea visited Manaus at his own expense. See Visit Brasil for more on Manaus and the Amazonas region. Illustration: Zora Regulic

How did Diana and Zora fare in the Amazon? Find out here
See also Teatro Amazonas – the rubber barons’ theatre of dreams
The colonial gems of Brazil

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