From Argentina to Brazil
After a few rainy days back in Buenos Aires, reacquainting myself with my favourite tango venues, it was time to bid farewell to my beloved Argentina and head north to Brazil. And so I weighed myself down with my bags, caught my final subte to Retiro, and trudged through the drizzle to catch my bus to the border.
The following day the bus pulled in to the familiar station of Puerto Iguazu, where I enquired about getting a bus to Campo Grande in Brazil. Buying my ticket for later that day, the operator asked me if I wanted to see the famous Iguazu waterfalls in the meantime. I gave a cheerful “no, thanks”, which elicited a confused expression, so I added “I was here a couple of months ago”. Rather than explain my terrible journey planning skills, I left it at that and headed off into the town for a stroll around. The rain had other plans, and chased me away to a restaurant to pass the afternoon.
My bus ticket had included a transfer across the border to Brazil, but when I arrived back at the ticket office, the operator decided that it wasn’t included in the cost of the ticket. Begrudgingly, I handed over some extra cash, and got in a van, which the operator drove himself. I assumed we would pick up others along the way, but it turned out I had the van to myself as we drove up to the checkpoint. I guess the lack of other customers explained the extra charge. After getting my exit and entry stamps, my driver dropped me at the bus station in Foz de Iguacu. Despite the extra cost, I was glad to not have to make my own way around a new city trying to find my onward bus.
I had about an hour to wait at the station, so I took the chance to get some Brazilian Reals from the ATM. After inserting my card and pin, I got the dreaded “your card cannot be read, please contact your bank” message (or something to that effect in Portuguese). Trying to ignore a growing panicky feeling, I opened my rucksack to retrieve my backup card. The panicky feeling then grew more when realised the card had expired several months ago. I paced around, trying to convince myself that I could sort this out when I arrived in Campo Grande. Spotting a few sockets in the wall, I remembered that my phone needed charging, and took my charger and universal adaptor from my bag. My adaptor turned out to not be that universal after all, as it stubbornly refused to fit into the socket. I gave up and started to walk away when the family next to me, who had been communicating to each other in sign language, beckoned me back, plugged in their charger, and wordlessly indicated for me to use it. Grateful, I automatically uttered “thanks… uh… gracias”, before remembering where I was and adding “obrigada”. For good measure, I raised my hand to my chin and signed “thank you”. Hopefully one of my four thanks was understood.
After boarding my second consecutive overnight bus, I reclined my chair and fell sound asleep, until I was awoken with a tap on my shoulder and told it was dinner time. I had expected dinner to be provided on the bus, as it had been in Argentina, and was a little sulky when I found we were leaving the bus to buy our own food at another bus station. When the last passenger had disembarked, the bus promptly pulled away. As the other passengers didn’t seem fazed, I assumed this was normal. Wandering around the bus station, I passed a toilet and realised I needed one badly. I couldn’t remember seeing on one the bus, so I figured I should make use of this one while it was available. Unfortunately, a turnstile and a smiling lady were blocking the door. She spoke to me in Portuguese, which, despite looking remarkably similar to Spanish when written, I was starting to realise sounds remarkably different when spoken. I tried explaining that I couldn’t withdraw any money, but she either didn’t understand or didn’t care. Spotting another ATM, I decided to try my luck again at withdrawing some cash. When I received the same error message as last time, my worry started to be replaced by frustration. Moving to the next ATM, without holding out much hope, I entered my card and pin, and to my extreme relief, heard the machine begin to whir and saw a wad of cash pop out. I returned triumphantly to the toilet lady, but my smile faded when she told me she didn’t have change for my large note. Disgruntled, I bought the first thing that caught my eye and returned to the toilet yet again, hoping that this difficulty in performing what should have been a simple task was not an omen for my time in Brazil.
Relieved to have some Brazilian Reals in my pocket, I walked back to the platform and asked someone when the bus was due back. I smiled and nodded through an answer I couldn’t understand, then paced around to stretch my legs for what must have been an hour before the bus appeared. Boarding the bus again, thankful to be getting back to my comfy chair, I stayed awake just long enough to notice that there had been a toilet on it the whole time.