Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa carries the national flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Rio de Janeiro - There we were, four scribes from three of the country's leading media houses, snuggled into a yellow cab, slogging it from a post-Opening Ceremony drink on Copacabana, back to our digs, near the Olympic Park in Barra.

Our taxi driver, Felipe, like every other taxi driver in Rio, spoke precious little of The Queen's tongue, so yours truly and his Fanagalo Spangli-guest was tasked with directions.

Oh, it got heated, especially when we changed our mind and opted to try and go straight home, instead of the sanctity of the media centre, where there was a consistent bus service. But, I dragged Felipe straight into the convoys of buses that were still ferrying 10 000 athletes back to their village.

“Nao entrada,” the copper swiped, as Felipe pleaded that we needed to be on the road he was blocking us from entering.

By the third blocked off off-ramp, Felipe had, well flipped. The Portuguese that only your uncle might teach you was spewing out of his mouth, which didn't seem to have the desired effect on the latest man in uniform.

Obligatory hand gestures followed, before a Top Gear style take-off, in our severely underpowered Nissan diesel. I thought the tyres should have screeched for effect, but Felipe's glare was drama enough.

“Tranquillo, Senor Senna,” I said, trying to get him to calm his speed. “Mister Ayrton Senna is dead!,” he growled in perfect taxi English.

I was staggered. The cheeky bugger knew English after all, and had listened to us speculating about possible reasons why he was driving like a maniac.

“Enjoy the Olympic Games, sir,” he smiled once he had his tip. The language barrier has made for some truly entertaining conversations, be it in transit or with fans on the street.

Being in a country where 'Ingles' is an option and not a priority has been truly humbling, and not even our pitiful Spanish offerings have helped. It won't be the last time, but we certainly won't forget the 3am ride with Felipe, the messy one.

Independent Media