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Published: September 13th 2016
“Everything?” I asked, wide eyed with fear, “All of the bags?”
“They took everything,” the girl said, “They don’t care. They cut off the bus with their cars. They had big guns. Made the bus driver pull over to the side of the road. Another car came up from the back. Four more guys jumped out and ran up to the bus’s door. There was no fight. They just took everything and left. That’s what happened. That’s Brazil.”
The girl telling Jon and I the story was from Israel. She was of course talking about her Brazilian public transportation experience. …The same
26hr. bus from Iguazu Falls to Rio that Jon and I were to take just 24 hours from now. We met this girl on the bus that took us from the Argentinean side of Iguazu to the Brazilian side because yes, finally
my visa was granted.
…Four Hours Prior…
With a great big smile on my face, I ran up to Jon lounging in the pool next door and announced that I, Jamie Stafford, have been accepted on a tourist visa to Brazil. “Also, the bus that will take us to
Brazil leaves in three hours.” “Perfect,” Jon said, “now get on that bathing suit of yours and get in the pool. Sven!
Make my girl a drink. We are going to Brazil!” And just like that, we crossed the border with my visa in one hand and a beer in the other.
We were talking to the Israelis on the bus for some time before the girl got into her horror story. I remember this because right after her story ended, our bus landed right at our stop. Jon and I were the only ones getting off in this unfamiliar territory. We said our goodbyes and waddled across the road with our swollen bags in tow.
We got off in what appeared to be a small town’s smaller bus station. A little run-down, in need of a paint job – like so many buildings in South America did. It was around four in the afternoon, so people were out and about, on their way home from work I guess. Underneath the bus station awning, we plopped the bags down and strategized our next move. We needed to get take one of the local busses
to the main terminal bus terminal about 30 minutes away, or so what we gathered from the Spanish-speaking folks at the embassy. “I need to find an ATM to get cash for the bus tickets,” Jon said to me, “I’m sure an ATM is around here somewhere. Stay with the bags, I’ll be back soon I promise.” I nodded, trying to remain positive on the idea of playing security for our bags all alone.
Thirty minutes in, a man came up to speak to me. I soon realized all the Spanish words I began to master were now worthless. Portuguese
. I had to start all over. Through many hand gestures and slow-shouting at each other, I learned that the ATM was only five minutes away from where we were. Jon should have been back by now.
An hour went by and still no Jon. Another hour and it’ll be dark. What could have happened?
Just your neighborhood stabbing, robbery, murder maybe? I stopped myself was dwelling on this further. Repeating my Ayahuasca affirmations helped: everything is amazing. It will all work out. Not to worry.
I also calmed myself by watching Channing Tatum lip-sync
to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies.’ Two hours later,
just as the sun was setting, Jon was running up to me from a bright blue taxi. He was drenched in sweat, but a flash of his smile informed me that he was okay. Traveller’s Tip:
Apparently not all Brazillan ATMs work with international cash-cards. The only one that would was Banco de Brazil’s ATM – conveniently located on the opposite
side of town.
The taxi man drove us to a hostel in the main city square. Iguazu, on the Brazilian side, was much more metropolitan than the Argentinean side. More people. More dangerous. The taxi man told us strict instructions of where we should go and where we shouldn’t. Jon and the taxi man hugged for a long while, as if they had been through hell and back together — with the temperature being as high as it is, they might as well have.
The hostel he took us to was small, a little run down (per usual at this point). It had a pool in the front and four tiny kittens roaming free. “Pool and
kittens?!” Jon and I were sold. We
paid the deposit and got ready to bunker down for the night. The man in charge took us to our room. At first glance the room seemed okay, a bit crammed, but doable. A twin bed in the center and bunk beds nestled to the left, leaving a sliver of walkway in between. I looked around. The wallpaper was old and tearing off. The bed had three huge yellowish stains, no air conditioning and for the cherry: three big black bugs hanging out in the middle of the sheet. The man tried to sweep the bugs away, but not before I could catch him in the act.
“No,” I said firmly. “We will not take it.” I’ve done the gross hostel thing once, I couldn’t bring myself to do it again.
“I’m sorry, it is too late. Deposit non-refundable,” the man told me, avoiding eye-contact.
“Jamie, its okay. It is just for one ni—“
“No. This is unacceptable. The sheets are damp, there are bugs on the bed, its 100+ degrees in and
outside. Sir, I apologize but no. Please refund our money and we will be on our way.”
much hesitation from the man, he furrowed his brow and showed us back to the lobby. He grabbed our money and threw it back at us. We said our goodbyes to the kittens and walked on foot to the next hotel we could find. The sun on its last leg, providing enough light for us to get back to a main road. Jon and I found ourselves in the closest air conditioned hotel and threw the bags down upon arrival. Jon, covered in sweat, collapsed on the chair while I dealt with the concierge. Within minutes, we were both spread eagle on the bed. All air vents on high pointing directly at all of our under-parts.
Once we cooled off it was time for dinner. We found a great sushi place right next to the hotel. Over a big ol’ sushi boat, Jon and I plotted our next move to Río de Janeiro.
“Four hundred and fifty dollars to fly to Rio?! It makes no sense, it seems so close!” I said scrolling through Kayak.
“It seems like the bus is going to be the best option,” Jon stated with his unrelenting optimism.
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