After a decidedly well prepared first week, travel pre-arranged and hotel stays generously given to us for Christmas by our parents (thank you!) there still seem to be Brazil shaped holes appearing in our pockets?
While we’re not being lavish (we are after all continually pilfering ham & cheese sarnies), there are ‘standards’ to which ‘one’ has become accustomed & hence we’ve not exactly been pinching the purse-strings either. And hell, we are on holiday! So, we’ve been haemorrhaging Reals like they’re going out of fashion.
Plan of action - next stop - Uruguay! The bikini bottoms there might not be smaller than Brazil, but hopefully the prices might be.
Now connoisseurs of the local buses (which ones NOT to take at least), we hopped on the yellow bus to Florianopolis, negotiated our bus tickets to the Brazil - Uruguay border Chuy/Chui (same place different name, look & feel on either side of one road which marks the border). From there we would wait a couple of hours to take the first local bus out to a cute fishing village called ‘Punta del Diablo’.
The coach trip was 14 hours of lots of legroom, podcasts and scrabble (score update, Ian 2 games - Cass 1. Re-match soon I think!) But despite earplugs, the old lady snoring behind us made it a little difficult to sleep! It was incredible to see the lush mountainous terrain change so drastically as we headed further south. As the land flattened above a floating sunset, the horizon seemed infinite. The scenery was briefly spoilt by industrial estates outside Porto Allegre, where we experienced the more heart wrenching contrast of favella shacks & dire living conditions backing straight up against Mercedes and Chevrolet car plants.
I’d like to quickly mention how awesome the service stations here are in comparison with the UK. As you walk in, they hand you a plastic plaque with a barcode on it. Once inside there is no fast food in sight. There are buffets with an impressive array of home style cooked dishes, fresh salad bars & shops. You load whatever you want on your ‘card’ and just pay on your way out. Really simple, but so much more of a pleasant experience than a Little Chef or McDonald’s!
But then we arrived at Chui.
Now I don’t know much about towns that sit on borders of countries, but I’m learning, and this was a steep curve. The only thing we’d read was that if you’re not a dab hand at blackjack or poker, to pass through as quickly as possible.
We arrived at 4am and wanted to be deposited at the bus station to wait for our continuing bus 3 hours later. But the ‘station’ transpired to be nothing more than a tin shack and a bench, so they dropped us in the center of town which was said to be ‘safer’. There wasn’t a soul in sight other than a couple of shady guys sitting outside a (closed) cafe. A seriously desolate and creepy place that gave us the heebie jeebies I WAS BRICKING IT!! The rest of the coach was continuing onwards to Montevideo, so only us and one other guy got off. We were incredibly lucky that he spoke english and offered that we join him taking a taxi to a hostel a few blocks away to sleep until morning broke & we’d then be safe to walk around the town.
And so it was that I experienced my second ever hostel! Etnico Hostel were extremely lovely & let us kip in their lounge room (for free!) for the next four hours until we awoke to explore the saloon town of Chui, and plan our escape…
- By Cass