Sunday, 17 November 2019

LESSON TWO IN BRAZIL: NEVER ASK "HOW BAD CAN IT BE?"



Go travelling, they said. It will be fun, they said.

We were tempting fate when we breezily booked a seventeen-hour bus journey. “How bad can it be?” Much cheaper than flights, far more eco-friendly, we weren’t exactly in a rush and if we booked the overnight one, we saved on accommodation and could sleep for most of the way. 

Well, I should point out that I’m the one writing this post because it’s still too soon for Georgie. But: here’s a chronological recap of the past couple of days, and exactly how bad it can be.

  • We got caught in a tropical downpour
It started with the thunderstorm. Downpours are a bit of an occupational hazard in a rainforest zone like Brazil. I was in a convenience store about a minute away from the hostel when this one broke out, the sky flashing so frequently it was like Sao Paulo was under a giant strobe.

By the time I returned with the biscuits and crisps, I was soaked.

  • We got an Uber to the wrong bus station
We caught the Uber (one of the safest and cheapest ways to get around the cities here when you don’t want to lug backpacks around on a busy Metro) at 19:45 to get to the station for 21:00, despite being advised that the journey takes about half an hour.

We were singing along to the radio, rain still pummelling down, when I noticed that the estimated time of arrival at the bus station was 20:50. Station de Tiete is the biggest bus terminal in the world, bar New York, so we decided that this was enough of an emergency to pay for mobile data and try to find what platform the bus was leaving from.

Only, we couldn’t find the bus. 

After a little more research, we realised that the world-famous station was not the only one in Sao Paulo. 

Thankfully, our inability to speak any Portuguese was compensated by our desperate repetition of ‘Barra Fundra - the smaller station, and some exaggerated hand gestures. The Uber driver switched the route, and the new arrival time was 20:56.

You can imagine the anxiety levels.

  • We barged through hundreds of people who, to our ignorance, were all fed up of waiting for their buses too
We leapt out and sprinted into the station, considered waiting in a ticket queue and thought it best to just to find the bus. We had online confirmation, after all.

The station was packed. Imagine weaving through the crowd at a festival. Now imagine doing it with two backpacks - one on the front, one on the back - with hiking boots and water bottles swinging back and forth.


The bus, had in fact, not left at all. Via Google Translate, a kind woman told us that there were delays. We were relieved! She helped me find where to print tickets and helped us to the correct platform. A different lady told us the delays, which had also impacted our Uber, were on account of a bridge that had collapsed in the storm.

So we waited, thrilled.

And then we waited, less thrilled.

  • While the average delay was between 1 and 3 hours, our bus was 7 hours late
There were dance routines, there were foetal positions, there was reading and doodling and raiding the snack bag. There were several ‘I’m just going to book a hotel,’ ‘I’m not doing this,’ ‘I’m not staying here all night’s. There were snuggles. There were conversations with some very sympathetic Brazilian people.

And seven hours later, repeat, SEVEN HOURS later, after being curled up on the floor in a bus station awaiting our SEVENTEEN-hour bus ride, it arrived. 




  • The bus journey took an extra 4 hours because of a traffic jam, leaving us without any accommodation

  • 4am we set off, having been at the station all night. We arrived at Foz de Iguazu at 1:30am the following day. We’d been messaging the host of our Airbnb with updates on arrival times, but she didn’t reply once.

    • We tried six different hotels, all full.
    We weren’t the only people on our bus to have been rejected by our pre-booked accommodation, seeing as we were all arriving way after check-in time. Because it’s a bank holiday this weekend in Brazil, the accommodation was heaving.

    • We decided to cross the border to Argentina
    Booking.com told us there were some hostels still available half an hour away, in Argentina. Lowkey nervous about going through immigration at 2am and not being able to speak any Portuguese, we recruited some Danish boys. As mentioned in our previous blog post, we like being strong independent women, but we also appreciate that sometimes, having a male presence offers security. We were super grateful to have them as we got our taxi through immigration, until:

    • After three more hotels, we found a woman who had a room with five beds. 
    Great! FINALLY! Except: there were six of us.

    It took a lot of clasping hands together in desperation, promising to be out as soon as possible and offering to pay more before Georgie, Alex and I, at 4am, squeezed up into one double bed, fully aware that we had to check out in 6 hours. 

    You can imagine, it wasn’t the best night’s sleep.

    So, whilst we had the most amazing time at Iguazu Falls which made the whole thing worth it, remember that we probably won’t be posting any photos on Instagram of our 28-hour stint to get there. Seeing the world is one of the most rewarding and breathtaking things ever, but it’s important to remember that budget-travelling is not all playing with elephants and bronzing in the sun and drinking coconut water! 


    Love, Haze xxxxxx


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