Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beginning of the (Rough) Road

  • Get up at 8:00.
  • Go into bathroom to take shower.
  • Observe droplets of water trickling out of showerhead.
  • Decide to use the faucet situated on the wall next to the sink—the sink has good pressure, so I figure the faucet might, too. Kneel, put head under faucet, shampoo, rinse.
  • Wash face in sink.
  • Good to go.
  • Exit room and notice tables set up in reception area.
  • Ask if they serve breakfast.
  • José says yes, takes some items off a table, pulls it out from the wall, moves the seats with it, and I have a seat.
  • José moves slowly at all times and whistles. Nice guy.
  • A moment later, he brings out a table cloth, says "excuse me" and spreads the table cloth on my table.
  • I get a breakfast of crackers, with a blob each of a caramel spread and butter on a saucer.
  • He brings out a coffee. I tell him I don't drink coffee. Tea? No. He thinks to himself "what kind of idiot doesn't drink coffee or tea?"
  • I ask for juice. No.
  • I ask for milk or water. He asks if I want the milk cold or hot. I say cold. He brings me a warm glass of milk and a bottle of water.
  • I walk over to the bus station to get a ticket to Artigas. They tell me I have to take a taxi to Uruguaiana and get a bus from there.
  • The taxi driver is great. He drives me the one-hundred meters back to the hotel and tells me he's a friend of the the guy that works there. They go fishing together.
  • After we arrive at the Argentine side of the border, he walks me through immigration. No problem. Exit stamp from Argentina and entrance stamp back into Brazil. We drive to the bus terminal in Uruguaiana.
  • I ask for a bus ticket to Artigas, Uruguay. No bus to Artigas...only to Quaraí. Then I'll just walk across the border into Uruguay. Okay.
  • Get bus ticket and wait for almost three hours for bus to leave. Perfect chance to polish off Eric Haney's Inside Delta Force, the book upon which the TV series The Unit is based. Excellent read. Done. Wait some more for bus.
  • Take bus to Quaraí.
  • Exit bus and ask how to get to Artigas and if I can buy a Coke here. The bus attendant gives me directions to Artigas and points to the guy with the little cart—basically a Styrofoam container with wheels. I look over my options and point at the orange beverage in lieu of a Coke. It turns out to be a reused pop bottle filled with cold, fresh squeezed orange juice. Rock on!
  • Throw on my pack and grab my camera bag. Right turn...right turn...right turn. There's the bridge.
  • There's a little guard building near the bridge. People and cars are crossing without stopping. Should I stop? Probably.
  • The guy in the station says it's not an "official" border crossing and he can't stamp my passport. Bummer.
  • After some thought, he says he can simply take my papers, call them in to immigration and then Brazil's computer system will have me as exiting the country today. Cool. I give him the paper I was given a few hours earlier when coming into Brazil.
  • Cross bridge.
  • Realize I forgot my travel towel back at the hotel in Paso de los Libres.
  • Cuss several times.
  • Reach other side in about fifteen minutes.
  • Meet four cops/immigration guys on the other side.
  • They will stamp my passport but the main guy says I'll probably run into trouble later because I don't have a corresponding exit stamp from Brazil.
  • One of them suggests that we simply call George Bush and have him bomb Brazil.
  • We all have a good laugh.
  • Although I get the gist of what he's saying, I ask him to speak more slowly so I can pick up the details. He continues at full speed. I tell him he's still speaking too fast and the other guards laugh. One of them says that he's nervous and that's why he keeps speaking so fast.
  • Long story short, I decide to cross back over, get a bus to another city on the Brazilian side so as to avoid a headache later on. The larger city has an official immigration crossing.
  • The Uruguayan guards ask a motorist (Luis) to give me a ride so I don't have to carry my fifty-pound-plus load back across the bridge. Luis agrees and I tell him I'll pay him for his trouble.
  • We stop at the guard building so I can get my paper back.
  • The Brazilian border attendant calls immigration and they assure him that the important thing is the computer system, not the stamp.
  • Luis and I head back over the bridge, much to the surprise of the Uruguayan border guards.
  • I explain the deal and the immigration dude fills out the paperwork, gives me a copy, and stamps my passport.
  • I explain that I want to go to a hostel, a place where travelers like me sleep. One of them knows the only hostel in town. I'll write down the name, address and phone number next time.
  • We first go to an ATM so I can get some cash. First one doesn't work. We go to the bus terminal. ATM doesn't work. We go to a gas station so I can put some gas in Luis's car...we're running on fumes. I buy us a couple pops, too. The gas station changes forty bucks for me. Sweet.
  • Luis and I drive to the hostel. It looks like no hostel I've ever seen and the guy there calls it a "club." He doesn't speak English. What kind of hostel doesn't have an English speaker?
  • I tell Luis that if I had a computer, I could figure out the correct place.
  • No cyber cafe in Artigas.
  • We go back to Quaraí, where he takes me to a cyber cafe.
  • I find the hostel. It's the place we were just at.
  • Back across the border.
  • The Uruguayan border guard calls the hostel and finds out it's full.
  • We go to a hotel. The door is locked. Luis rings the bell. The attendant comes over a little speaker next to the door, so quietly, we can hardly hear. Then he pops his head out over a second-story balcony. No rooms
  • He says the nearest hotel is a block that-a-way.
  • We turn around and see a hotel across the street...they're full, too.
  • We drive to another hotel...they have a vacancy.
  • Perfect...three-hundred-fifty pesos...about seventeen bucks. AC and a shower in the room. I check the shower and plenty of water comes out.
  • I give the attendant a five-hundred-peso bill...around twenty-five bucks. They don't have change. No change for a twenty. What the heck? I'm learning that many places in Latin America can't change anything bigger than around a ten-dollar-bill (equivalent).
  • I take the room.
  • Neither Luis nor the attendant has any brilliant ideas about what direction I should head on Monday. Maybe I'll just head South and step out of the bus when I get to a town that looks interesting.
  • Work on this blog and watch Bandidas.
  • Go down the street two blocks and have a sausage and two steaks cooked for me. Those and a Coke cost me about seven bucks.
  • Everything would be easier if my Spanish were better.
  • Vamos a ver.


Cheryl said...

How can you possibly call "Dulce de Leche" caramel sauce. It's the best thing ever!! Bring me some from Argentina...:)...just kidding...wouldn't want to add anymore weight to that poor backpack of yours. Sounds like you're having fun. Where are you at now? Are you planning on going to Punta del Este? There's a nice little town on the way (well, I don't know if it's on your way since I don't know where you're at). Can't remember the name of ends in "opolis" :) It's where the guys from "Alive" were from. You know the movie about the plane that crashed in the Andes and the guys had to end up eating others that died? Anyway, take care!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jay, can we have a map like in "Indiana Jones and the Trip Over The Falls" where the little red line shows where the little plane is flying? That way we can all have that vicarious rush from following you all over the southern continent! Or at least we'll know where you are...


Jay said...


I'll see what I can do, but I'm not making any promises! It's all I can do to keep up with photos, blogging, and other stuff!