Trip Start Feb 07, 2007
69Trip End Ongoing
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Tim turned 36 on the bus ride from hell from Ouro Prêto to São Paulo.... In good Catholic fashion I gave him a small and very tacky stature depicting St Christopher and bigged it up by telling him that it will protect on his travels forever more... OK, I was short of ideas. birthdays are never up to much when you're on the road.
OK, so we got a bit prematurely excited about bus journeys here in South America - but have since realised that there is a BIG difference between classes of bus here. Our latest bus ride was that kind of journey, where you drop off to sleep for a few moments and in your nightmare see a scary looking vengeful judge pointing his accusing finger at you "I sentence you to 12 hours on an Util bus. Your seat will be broken and the icy air conditioning will be blasting for the entire journey...". Well something like that anyway, I was pretty delirious, sleep-deprived and frozen stiff by the time we arrived in Saõ Paulo. Did I mention that we both sneezed on average 8 times every half hour for the entire journey??!! Did I mention it was like hell frozen over???!!! I had every item in my bag suspended from my body in an attempt to draw some warmth, but was still shaking like a leaf...
I recall a stop at 2am at some weird mall where everyone filed off the bus like zombies, taking the bar code card that is shoved into your hand by a scary bouncer dude. The line of half sleeping commuters then continues through the factory line to relieve themeselves, then water and feed themselves, each item is added to the bar code card - all at premium prices of course. Talk about mega exploitation of the weary traveller!! This place was lit up like a christmas tree and everyone looked completely dazzled and disorientated, apart from the bus drivers who use who knows what substances to keep themselves bright-eyed and bushy tailed.
Anyway, we managed to get the metro to our hotel (it's actually a brilliant system), which of course didn't have a room ready for us. So, in our half comatose states, we had to hang around the fairly seedy streets of downtown before we finally got some kip. The showers here are mad - the water heating system being in the actual shower head. My suspicions that this probably isn´t the greatest idea was confirmed when I got an almighty electric shock when I attempted to turn off my cold shower via the metal tap off (standing, of course, in a pool of water). I don´t know where all that power came from, as it certainly didn´t help to produce any warm water!! Cold, tired and with my hair standing on end I finally got under the covers to stretch out and sleep...
It's hard to make any impression of the city as we're only here for a night, however we have read that Greater Saõ Paulo had a murder rate that peaked at 700 per month in the late 1990's - nothing to sneeze at. There's a certain edge in the streets after dark and loads of sleeping bodies piled up in doorways near shops plying fashionable streetwear. We play it safe and decide that a racous night of drinking and samba-ing probably isn't in our best interests (though there's plenty of it going on). We have an early dinner and an even earlier night. This had absolutely NOTHING to do with Tim feeling old and tired. Really.
So again, we find ourselves biding time till our next journey. We did good to be Captain Sensibles and stay in last night - there's blood, shit, comatose bodies and other unpleasant remains of Saturday night decorating the footpaths in the streets around our hotel. We make a metro trip to Liberdade (home to the Asian community here) to visit the busy streetmarket. Before we leave again for the bus station we pay a visit to a local downtown Churrascaria where Tim gets the famous Brazilian 'Rodízio'. It basically involves a stream of men weilding long skewers of all types of meat visiting your table and carving off enormous slices on your plate. Tim keeps saying YES! and I keep saying NO! and the meat keeps coming in a dizzying parade until Tim is about to explode a la Monty Python. The men look hurt when Tim turns finally accepts defeat and turns down the meaty morsels they tempt him with. There's definitely a touch of the devil in these meat-pushing-men, and it was a definite religious experience for Tim - you've never seen a man look as enlightened as Tim after his meat fest.
We're pushing the boundaries on our next bus journey - 15 hours! Can you tell we're not big fans of bus rides?! Next stop Foz do Iguaçu. We're playing it smart this time and have booked a ridiculously expensive sleeper bus. Brazil has given the bank account a bashing, so lucky we'll be moving on to cheaper pastures in a couple of days when we cross into Argentina.