Viagem Sem Assalto


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South America » Brazil » Pará » Belém
July 6th 2009
Published: July 7th 2009
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The title means, "voyage without assault"

Well, whether or not the shifty eyed creepy people had anything to do with it, listening to this bad feeling was absolutely the right decision. On the bus today we spoke to a woman who has been robbed 4 times on the buses between Maraba and Belem. She said that out of every 5 buses traveling the roads at night only 1 will make it safely and that these robberies happen every night.

We were having this conversation as the sun was setting on our 9.5 hour journey and we still had 2 more hours until Belem. This was quite the funtastic event. All the lights were out in the bus except for the headlights so as not to attract attention and being that we were in the middle of fucking nowhere it was pretty much pitch black outside aside from the full moon bathing everything in a soft light. The buses here cannot travel very fast because of the condition of the roads. (In some places the roads even have trenches dug in them by locals to prevent speeding. They do this because the area is obviously not well policed and some locals are occasionally killed by hot rodders and since they can't rely on Brasil's government to do anything about it they take matters into their own hands and dig reverse speed bumps.) Every time the bus slowed down for a trench or a speed bump or whatever so did my heart rate and as the bus would sometimes almost come to a stop (or did stop several times) so did my breathing. Eventually it began to storm outside, which made me feel a little better because I figured they were less likely to try to rob us in the rain. This is the very first time that I have been legitimately afraid of being an American in Brasil and even took measures to find a place to hide our passports on the bus in case of an assault so no one would know. Our friend that was explaining this to us did say that they don't hardly ever hurt anyone and simply want money and valuables. They will not take credit cards and only take clothes they think are expensive. She said that one of the times she was robbed there was a guy on the bus dressed like a rock star and he wound up in just his underwear. She also assured us that they don't really care where we are from and take no measures to figure it out, that a foreigner is just a foreigner and they will sometimes tease the foreigners, but don't necessarily hurt them unless given a reason to. I was afraid that perhaps being American was a reason to and I wasn't really given a direct reassurance that it wasn't a valid reason to hassle us further only that they wouldn't look into it.

As is hopefully obvious by you reading this we have made it to Belem safely though and we are very grateful. I believe this will be my last inter-city bus ride in Brasil; only boats and planes from here maybe a car in the daytime, I do not want to go through that again.


So while pondering these things we have begun to wonder why there is nothing done about it. They could reinforce the buses to prevent these attacks, put armed guards on every bus, police the road better, or even more practical than all of the above: STOP RUNNING BUSES AT NIGHT!
Now for all practical sense I do have to realize that reinforcing the buses is costly and impractical as well as policing the road better, but armed guards on every bus or better yet not running buses at night seems totally logical. I do wonder what would happen though if they put these guards on the buses. Until now they have been mostly non-violent towards their victims and if armed guards began to fire back, would they get the hint or would it escalate. From history lessons around the world, I think the latter is the more likely to occur. And if they stop running buses at night would these criminals be driven to act in the day. I say this because they have an industry running off of this and many people are reliant on it and if you remove an industry without replacing it with another one what happens? More violence and more crime, you actually escalate things. What could be done here to remove these ongoing “violent” crimes and replace the industry they are built upon with something more productive? I don't know, but I will be pondering it for quite some time and if anyone has any advice I would love to discuss it or even try to find an outlet for it to take action.

Our friend has brought us to a place that takes care of travellers in Belem who do not know the city. It is a church run place for people who need help and we are told we are an exception to stay here because of our friend. For $R 20 per person they are going to give us lodging, breakfast, lunch and dinner, and show us around the city to help us get a feel for the place. Tomorrow we will be checking on boat tickets, but we will be here for a few days. We are safe, we are comfortable, and we are again having a great time.


Oh yeah and our friend also told us that Maraba is not really any more violent than anywhere else in Brasil and that it just gets bad publicity. She told us that when she first came to Belem she was told all of the same things about Belem as we were told about Maraba. And sure there is crime in Maraba, but like the bus assaults, most people just want money and don't do any real harm to your person. We were however in not such a good part of Maraba and were correct in our extreme cautions.


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p.s. the photos for this journal entry are also for the previous one


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some guy on his motorcycle in the middle of nowhere
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fish farm! I think... I don't really know we were on a train
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what other doors/walls look like
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what our door/wall looks like


8th July 2009

hmmm
I wanted to come to South America as my birth father was south American, but after reading that, I'm re-thinking my lone venture to Brazil....is it all this bad here?
8th July 2009

Don't cancel on my account
This is my first trip out of the country and have only been to Brasil... the poorest regions of Brasil might I add... I can only speak of what I have seen and not even for the rest of Brasil itself. I would not discourage you from coming, but a good travel partner would be a wise decision. And of course just be safe and ask lots of questions about everything, the more you know the more ready you are. The lady on the bus told us, "If you do not react or give them a reason to hurt you they won't," and I have no reason to believe otherwise. Be smart and be safe and if you don't feel comfortable with something don't do it. Only trust cabs with uniforms with a name and a logo on the car, don't take the buses between cities at night, stay in well populated areas when the sun goes down, you know things of this nature. If a hotel seems a little strange get another one you feel more secure at.

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