Many travelers dislike traveling in local buses. They find it cheap, maybe even degrading. Actually, it is a good way to see the countryside and local culture. Most other ways of transport create a barrier between the traveler and his muse; and aren’t we – travelers – trying just to look above cultural and physical barriers?
Hence I decided to take a bus along the Brazilian coast from Sao Paulo to Chui, the border cross to Uruguay. Instead of stopping over at the main cities along the way, I treated the trip as a quick survey; I took a direct bus and flagged the places worth of a special visit in the future.
Two companies serve the line, one Brazilian and the second Uruguayan; they work on alternate days. I bought a ticket with the Brazilian one, Transporte Turismo, and was not disappointed. The only worrying issue was that they kept the passengers passports during the trip. The bus left a few minutes before midnight and provided snacks and meals stops.
Once there was light outside, the landscape was attractive despite its monotonousness. Most of the trip was through a huge plain, green, and well-watered; lazy cows enjoyed effortless meals. From time to time we stopped for meals; the Brazilian food turned out to be tasty and varied; it included barbecued meat and plenty of vegetarian dishes.
Eventually the bus did not travel exactly along the coast and the ocean views were rare. The only exception was Florianopolis. The city is split in two parts; the western one is on the mainland, while the eastern is on the Ilha (isle) de Santa Caterina. Two bridges connect between the two and the bus used both of them. The elongated island has many beaches, some of them facing the mainland and others the Atlantic Ocean. It is a main beach resort in the country and I immediately decided for a more careful visit in the future. Though much bigger and being surrounded only by salty water, the general layout of tame and wild beaches reminds of Punta del Este, in Uruguay.
Chui was the final destination and we arrived there about two hours after midnight, twenty-six hours after beginning the trip. Unfortunately the passports were given back stamped out; but getting a new entry stamp to Brazil was possible on the spot. The two countries were separated just by an avenue, and it was possible to move freely across the border.
Chuy was the name of the Uruguayan town, which was full of casinos catering for a dubious crowd. Finding a hotel there was an experience on the limit of being life-threatening, with a thug following me closely in an old, decrepit car that seemed to be the first prototype of that technology. The hotel concierge hurried me in and closed the door with a huge key.
English did not help. I had a little Spanish and no Portuguese at all. However, for Portuguese speaking people it is relatively easy to understand Spanish (it does not work in the opposite direction) and Brazilians turned out to be extraordinarily helpful people. Each one of them did an effort to understand and to answer slowly, well-pronounced simple words.
All Brazilians exuded a simple message: “Live and Let Live;” simple but few have mastered it. Smiles, politeness, and a feeling of cooperation were the norm, from the clerk selling the tickets, through the smiling waitress serving the cappuccino, and ending with a nosy kid at the bus that did not stop asking questions.
The bus was worth every penny. It was modern and comfortable and included spotless toilets. The seats were wide and there was room for stretching the legs; I slept in perfect comfort. The frequent breaks allowed studying the cities along the way. But being in Brazil, there was more good news. At the back side of the bus there was a big container of hot coffee, free for the passengers. Needless to mention, it was excellent.