BRAZIL !!! -- The Final Frontier
Trip Start Oct 10, 2001
79Trip End Feb 19, 2002
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We have one purpose today, to cross the border into Brazil. This was our last border crossing, our last country, our final steps of a journey started long ago in a place far away. I dreamed of this day since my first days as a traveller many years ago; we were both emotional at breakfast, and Brazil was only few footsteps across the Rio de Iguazu. Like no other country, Brazil had always being a fantasy country in my heart, famous for Futebol, Carnaval, and Beaches, and beautiful women in thongs walking on the Copacabana beach. I have heard many great stories of the Amazonas, the great empty beaches and sand dunes of the North East, the wildlife heaven of the Pantanal, the huge metropolis of Sao Paolo and the histories and celebrations of Salvador de Bahia. Those dreams were beyond us for now, today, our goal was to cross the international bridge into Brazilian soil.
We hopped on the international tourist bus that services between Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) and Foz do Iguacu (Brazil). There were only few other tourist with us onboard, most of them just planning a day trip of the falls on Brazilian side. As we approached the border, my heart was pounding, my mind was still lost in dreamland, and like young lovers' first kiss, we both felt the anticipation was reaching a climax. We got our Argentinean exit stamp, and went through the Brazilian immigration without any problems. The officer was so relaxed that he didn't even look at our "required" Yellow Fever vaccination forms. A little communication problem in Portugues delays our entry slightly that we had to go back a second time to explain to the immigration officer that we needed a longer Visa stamp than just a one day tour of the Falls. After a final stamp of approval, we were officially in BRAZIL !! At noon, Sunday, Feburary 10, 2002, on the second day of the Carnival.
The city of Foz do Iguacu was much bigger than the Argentean side, with many hotels and apartment buildings, wide boulevards and traffic congestion. The international tourist bus dropped us off at its final stop and we had to find the main bus station.
After 4 months travelling in Latin American countries, Juliette and I both spoke basic Spanish by now, although she was much more fluent than I; what we didn't realize was how different Portugues was from Spanish, especially with Brzailian accent added to it. For the first time in our trip, we couldn't communicate with the local. No matter how slow we talked, no matter how we used our hands to describe our questions, the Brazilians looked at us with confusion. They sincerely tried to help, but we couldn't communicate. We were lost, we had no Brazilian money either as there were no money exchangers at the border; with only a few Pesos, we could not take a taxi. So we walked around and after some desperate searching Juliette found a city bus that will take us to the main bus terminal (the driver kindly accepted last of our pesos).
We were relieved when we got to the bus terminal. The next difficult step was buying the correct bus ticket to Sao Paolo. I guarded our bags, while Juliette, who we both agreed had a better chance of communicating in Portugues, went to exchange some money. The Brazilian Real was at 2.5 to 1 to the US Dollar, it was considerably stable despite the Argentinean peso devaluation in recent weeks. While trying to buy the bus tickets Juliette was frustrated on many occasions as many bus companies had advertised prices and schedules but were not obliged by them. Their explanation, as little as we understood it, was many services were "suspended" during Carnival week. She kept trying, and did finally found a "direct" bus to Sao Paolo that will get us there by tomorrow morning. Our first few hours in Brazil was frustrating to say the least, but we managed as good travellers do.
So Brazil was not the land of my dreams, but it was still beautiful and hot as I imagined.