Let's make something clear - if you are Canadian you need a visa to enter Brazil. And not a stamp that you pay for, like in Chile or Argentina, but a visa you need to apply for in advance. Somehow, this detail escaped my wife's beautiful head and we found ourselves wondering about the visa (Thank you Lindsay for the heads up!) on the afternoon of the day when we were supposed to travel from Uruguay to Brazil.
Needless to say that I was not impressed, but I think considering my usual irritability at unplanned delays and mis-haps I took the news pretty well and told Jenn that I didn't intend to lose 125 dollars of bus tickets and a night's accommodation in Floripa, and that she can stay in Uruguay to sort out her visa while I travel as planned and we will meet one day later. Another option on the table was to sneak Jenn across the border without stopping at the passport control, but that option had many pitfalls and although the only Brazilian person in our hostel (a VERY gay guy called Ricardo) said "oh, you'll be fine!" - we weren't reassured and were worried what would happening when leaving the country, so that option was scrapped.
So as the time for me to leave got closer and closer, Jenn got quieter and quieter, and I got more and more worried about her wellbeing while on the road by herself. Eventually, 5 min before leaving for the bus I broke and booked us in for another night in Tranquilo. Whatever the tickets cost and as much as I want this to be a lesson for J, it just wasn't right to leave her alone, definitely not to sort out visa and cross into Brazil on an overnight bus.
We spent the night drinking beer and catching up on some emails. I discovered that there are four Israelis that checked in that day and had a long chat with one of them. Brian, the hostel owner, offered us a ride to Chuy the next morning with his girlfriend, which we were grateful for, so we hit the sack around 1am - early so we can get an earlier start the next day.
I'm not used to being woken up by someone calling my name anymore. Jenn usually wakes up after me, so when my sleep was interrupted it took me some time to understand what's going on. When I opened my eyes and saw a bearded face everything fell in to place, I checked the time - it was 6:30am. Brian told me that his girlfriend had to work the desk at the other hostel they run and won't be able to give us a lift to Chuy. Very nice of him to wake me up... With that thought I fell back asleep and was woken up again one hour later, by Jenn, I guess shame didn't let her sleep. I managed to mumble something about the bus and try to fall asleep again, but she wasn't having it. So I dragged myself out with as minimum noise as I could manage not to wake up our roommates. By 8:00 we were at the bus stop. We had a bottle of water and a bag from the bakery - well equipped.
When we got to Chuy we headed straight to the consulate, which turned out to be a nice little building painted in pink with a big well kept loan. It was open however the guard told us, in Portuguese, through the open window that consulate will open at noon today - holiday hours. So to burn two hours we headed to the local duty free shops, which are available in abundance, to browse the wares and pass the time.
As a side note... I've been lobbying Jenn for quite some time now about getting an Argentinian-Brazilian style bathing suit bottoms. This week, after looking at all the tushies in Punta del Diablo, she finally warmed up to the idea of having hers out for public viewing. So while in duty free we tried on a pair or two, I say we because I was just as involved in the process as she was, and although we didn't find the right one we did have fun trying.
Anyways, two hours later we showed up at the consulate and after waiting a little bit a nice gentlemen came out through "employees only" door and asked us about the nature of our business. He then directed Jenn to a computer to fill the web application and print it out, took her passport and one passport photo (we made them ahead of time just in case), and told us to come back in an hour to pick up the passport. Happy that everything went so smooth, unlike things usually do in South America, we headed to the bus terminal on the Brazilian side to get new bus tickets. After explaining to the cashier about our mishap with the visa he agreed to exchange yesterday's tickets to today's, which was great because it meant we weren't losing 125 dollars.
With our moods lifted even further we headed back to the consulate and after a short wait got Jenn's passport with the spanking new visa inside. While waiting for the visa it started to dribble rain and by the time we were ready to leave the dribble turned into a tropical rain shower, pouring like from a bucket. People were running on the streets covering their heads with grocery bags, and the amount of water flowing along the sidewalks was increasing by a minute. The rain kept changing in strength and we, covering my daypack with a grocery bag, made our way towards the bus stop running from one shelter to another when the downpour got weaker. Running in wet flip-flops can be challenging to say the least, and jumping over meter wide streams of water when crossing the streets while dodging the rain and sprays from the cars adds another twist to it. By the time we got to the bus stop we were completely soaked, but the rain was weakening and stopped completely while we waited for the bus.
We got back to Punta D only around 5pm, another day gone. We went one more time to the restaurant under the beach hostel for dinner, organised our packs, and around 9pm bided farewell to Diablo Tranquilo and headed to catch the bus back to Chuy, this time with our luggage and finally ready for Brazil. Everything was going smooth. The bus stopped and waited for us at Uruguayan passport control, and after we were done continued into Chuy. In Chuy we decided to walk to the bus terminal on Brazilian side, it didn't seem dangerous despite the darkness. We met an Italian girl that was on our bus from Punta and was travelling to Brazil as well, so the three of us walked together. At the terminal there were quite a few people waiting for the bus to Puerto Alegre. Besides the locals there were two guys from Denmark, one from New Zealand and one from the Norway. All heading to Florianapolis like us.
The bus terminal in Chui, Brazil, is a very old and battered structure. There is four diagonal parking spots for buses to pull into, under a dirty roof some 6-8 meters high and supported by two crumbling concrete posts. On the other side the roof is attached to terminal building, which is just a big space with faded walls, dirty tiled floors, three benches along the walls and urin smell coming out of the bathrooms. In addition to being a dump, the whole place is a party ground for mosquitos, so we both hurried to apply some bug repelant to avoid being eaten alive.
While waiting for the bus everyone was wondering what will it look like... Will it be just as great as the terminal? Or maybe we will be lucky to get something with soft seats and airconditioning. To everyone's relief a nice semi-cama bus pulled in. We quickly loaded our luggage into the hold, took our seats and were off only 3 minutes behind the schedule. Just outside the town we stopped at Brazilian customs and got our passports stamped. Welcome to Brazil!!!
It was raining. And the further we drove the heavier it rained. Around 3am our bus pulled into a small town and stopped at a local bus garage. Our driver came out, yelled something to wake everyone up and then spoke for about a minute in Portuguese. The only words I was able to catch were 'agua' and 'motorika'. I had a suspicion that the whole thing had something to do with the rain, but there was no one around to ask so I went back to sleep. Jenn never really woke up, lucky one. We spent about 4 hours at the bus park, the skies were getting light when the driver came in with an announcement again, and again the only two words I was able to catch were 'agua' and 'motorika'. That sealed it, we were delayed because the rains were flooding the roads and it was dangerous to drive. It was good news that they cared about our well being and safety. After that second announcement we set off again, hoping for no more delays.
By my calculation, we had another 4 hours to Puerto Alegre, but we drove and drove and there were very little signs of civilisation around us. Around 11am we pulled into a small highway stop for a break and after talking to people from the bus we found out that the main road to Puerto Alegre was washed out and we are taking a detour - why we stayed for 4 hours in a bus garage then is beyond me... In any case, the detour was a longer and slower way to go so we arrived to Puerto Alegre only at 1pm, 6 hours behind schedule. Jenn and I quickly grabbed our luggage and went looking for a bus company to take us to Floripa. We asked at the information, were pointed to the right counter and got our tickets. Luckily the next bus to Floripa was at 2pm, so we had less than an hour to grab some lunch and exchange money. We quickly scanned around and went into the first place that served hot food, a little diner that smelled better than it looked - a good sign in my books. I ordered chef's special and Jenn got meal of the day, as usual pointing to other people's plates to explain what she wants. She even had to walk over to some poor man's shoulder and point to the black beans on his plate to get a serving. The meat was ok, but the rice that it came with was wonderful - especially with black beans on top. After the lunch we quickly used the bathrooms, exchanged Uruguayan pesos to Brazilian reals, got some cash from the local cash point, and boarded our bus. The bus left on time and we had another 6.5 hours of journey ahead of us... sigh.