Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No Food Except Jam

Sorry for the long silence on the blog. My brain is like a traffic jam these days. It keeps getting stuck. Ah well, there are good days and bad days, right?

Now, on to the story! :)


Of the 5 glorious days in Florianopolis, we spent 1 day sleeping in, 3 at the beach, and 1 day looking for a way to get to Rio de Janeiro.

It did not look like we had many choices. Either pay about 200+ Reals per person (1 Real is about SGD 0.80) for a 20-22 hour bus ride, or pay 400+ Reals and fly.

Well... the Asia Travel Tips article DID mention that connectivity of Santa Catarina is a main obstacle for greater tourism numbers. Now we know why. We were getting quite disheartened with our options when I spotted this little travel agency and decided to just check with them for options and prices.

And it was a good thing we did. Because we were given an option to purchase bus tickets to Sao Paulo for about 85 Reals per person. From Sao Paulo, we could get cheap bus tickets to Rio, generally at about 70 Reals. That translated to a savings of at least 70 Reals per person, enough for us to immediately put our money on the table and say, "We'll do it!".

Oh, and being able to visit a real restroom in Sao Paulo instead of using the same toilet as 50 other people for 20 hours was quite a deal-sealer too!

So we were quite happy to board the 5pm bus from Florianopolis, to arrive at Sao Paulo by 7am the next morning before hopping to the next available bus for another 6 hour ride to Rio de Janeiro.

What we didn't contend with was heavy rain the night we were on the bus (I stayed awake as long as I could, hoping to see another spectacular lightning display, but this particular storm was pretty boring).

When we forced our eyeshit-laden eyes open the next morning, we found a bright sky signaling to us that it was way past 6am. Sitting up, we reassured ourselves that we did not miss our stop, and the bus would not be depositing us into the Amazon River instead of the January River (yeah... thats what Rio de Janeiro is called).

Buggeration! The on-off rains over the night have caused a massive, massive traffic jam on the roads! Yeah, those recent flood at Bukit Timah a few weeks back was peanuts compared to this.

An entire city, gridlocked

See the river on the left? Well, that overflowed, and no one could pass. So, as a driver, you have 2 options:

1) Stay in the jam and wait for the waters to recede, OR
2) Somehow make a 3 point, 5 point turn, or 35 point turn in the heavy congested road, and inch your way out of the jam, going against the flow of traffic (is there still a direction flow if everything is stationary?), get back home, take a hot shower, and plan to go wherever you wanted to go tomorrow.

Time to decide... are you a quitter or a stayer?

Quitters! For shame!

More quitters!

Well, it was easy to take the moral high ground since we were not driving, because we pretty much didn't have a choice. The driver has to get to Sao Paulo. There was no turning back. So we waited in the jam. For 8 frickin' hours!

8 frickin' hours is the supposed time you spend at work each day. It is a long time, when nothing is moving. The driver switched off the engines to conserve fuel. No air-condition, though if you felt like it, you could get off the bus to stretch your legs a little.

8 frickin' hours is longer than the time you take to fly from Singapore to Sydney. On a flight, the crew takes pains to ensure that the toilets remain odour-free and usable. Food and drinks are served. On the bus, you have about 75 people using the same toilet that has already been used for the past 12 hours. No one cleans it. Oh, and by the way, the toilets on this buses use recycled water to flush. Or should I say, recycled pee? You realise after a long bus ride that the flush water is a very distinct yellow, accompanied by a stink that makes you dry-heave. After awhile, it is really better not to flush. Stifle those civilised urges!

On the other hand, we were really lucky not to have children or Australians on the bus. We might have gone nuts. There was a Englishman who was seated next to us though. And he was nice enough that we decided to reward him with a biscuit and a chocolate. Heh.

Eventually, the waters subsided enough for motorists to start their engines again, and slowly move through the worst parts of the floods.

Bystanders waiting to see if anyone stalls. This is called "schadenfreude"

Motorcyclist had to gun his engine all the way to prevent water from getting into the exhaust

The wife just had to show off her pretty, dry feet

As we moved on in the rain-soaked streets, we were amused to see the entrepreneurship of the locals. Knowing that those stuck in the jam would be hungry and thirsty, we could see kids moving amongst the cars with drinks and snacks. Another was selling umbrellas. Yet others were just generally having a ball of a time splashing along the streets.

Let's play Hide-and-Seek. You can hide anywhere amongst the buildings, but not underwater, okay?

Practicing on a waterlogged pitch for World Cup 2016

It was with great relief when we finally pulled into the Sao Paulo terminal at 3pm. We now had to decide, do we push onwards to Rio de Janeiro another 6 hours away, and arrive after dark at a city with a bad reputation for safety and security, or do we spend the night in Sao Paulo?

We made the decision to push onwards. We already had our accommodation in Rio booked. Upon arrival, we would just jump into an authorised cab and go directly to our guesthouse. Should be safe, we tell ourselves.

And it was pretty safe, though we got a little scare. Tell you about THAT in our next entry! :)


Rhys said...

What an adventure! The toilet bit is really gross.

Tracy Su said...

Eyeshit bit is also very gross. Information overload, innit?

The people waiting on the flyover...looking for 4D opportunity hah?

Dannie said...

Rhys: Haha... well... it's the same type of bus as what you've (probably) been riding in Peru and Argentina too!

Tracy: It's immersive imagery to draw the readers in. Works, right? :)

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