July 12th, 2008
Our plan was to take the 3pm bus, straight to Campo Grande (12 hr bus ride), from where we would take another bus to Corumba (6 hr bus ride), then a Taxi over to Puerto Suarez, Bolivia, where we would spend the night and catch our flight to Santa Cruz the next morning at 11am. Since the 3 o’clock bus was already full, and the next bus leaving at 6 was also full (it actually filled up while Karthik was at the agency trying to buy the bus tickets), we had to take an indirect route. So this is what ended up happening:
- We took a bus that left Iguassu Falls at 5pm, going to a small town called Cascavel – 2.5 hour bus ride. The bus ride was fine – it was only two hours, and since it wasn’t dark out yet, we got to see some Brazilian country side. Beautiful green land…with some interesting trees, and dark green fields.
- From Cascavel our bus to Campo Grande left at 9:10 pm (we got to take a break for 2 hours there). The bus station was much nicer than we expected, given it was a small town. The ground floor had all the ‘bus station’ type shops – cafes, souvenier shops, tour operators, bus operators, and paid bathrooms. Upstairs there were quite a few offices, including internet shops, Alcoholic’s Anonymous, Adult video store, Gay and Lesbian resource centre, and other unmarked offices. Interesting!! We hung out downstairs in front of a cafe, and picked up some coffee and Fanta Special Edition (Thailand – Orange/Mango flavour)…oh so yummm! We actually picked up the last three they had of that Fanta and stocked up for later (as we had never seen this flavour anywhere else in Brazil before). We also tried a coffee flavoured candy which was out of this world. At R$0.10 a piece, we decided to buy worth R$5…also to stock up for later.
- The seats of this bus were super comfortable…they reclined back almost fully, and also had this huge, padded foot rest that connected to the seat – when fully stretched, it was like a bed. We slept about 8-9 hours out of the 12 on that bus ride to Campo Grande. It was sweet! And oh – the bathroom was clean as well. We realized that since in this huge country buses are a major means of transportation (because the British didn’t colonize it and introduce good railway systems here..as per Karthik), that they had to make them this comfortable.
July 13th, 2008
- We reached Campo Grande 10 hours later at 7:15 am, and were not feeling too tired. We bought our tickets, and paid again to use the bathroom to freshen up. We were hanging at one of the waiting lounge areas, having our coffees, when we decided that Karthik should go to the travel agency right beside us, to ask about options we would have to get to Bolivia from Corumba. The owner, George, spoke English fluently (he was Brazilian, and an English translator). He advised us that we would have to stay overnight in Corumba since the Military Police would need to stamp our visa to exit Brazil, and they will not be operating at the time our bus would reach Corumba. Also, Puerto Suarez in Bolivia was not a safe or clean town. We ended up talking to him quite a bit, and felt glad to have met him. He insisted we have another coffee with him, and of course Karthik had no problems with that (He’s a coffee monster…like the cookie monster…get it?!)!!! We exchanged our contact information and headed off to the bus that was leaving in 2 minutes.
- This bus ride seemed to be taking longer than expected. The last two hours felt simply torturous – miles and miles of uninteresting scenery of the Pantanal (a large area of marshlands and swamps), same bumpy roads, tired of taking naps during the day, and multiple stops in small dirty towns along the way.
- We finally got to Corumba – and as we were getting our luggage from the luggage compartment of the bus, a man and a woman came up to us and asked “Karteeek?”. Confused, we responded “yes”. They were friends of George, and also owned a tour agency here. They said that George had called them and asked them to take care of us and help us out. Corumba, being a border town with Bolivia, is not the safest place. The lady, Raquelle, took us to the hotel they suggested – El Dorado, but we told her we thought it was too expensive and asked her to take us to a cheaper hotel. We decided on one, and she left, telling us that she would pick us up the next morning to take us across the border. We dropped our bags in the room, and headed out to get some food and bring it back. When we got back and sat down to start eating, we started to notice all the ants that were in the room. Then, we heard some noises, and before we knew it, the bed broke! Having had enough, we checked out of the hotel immediately and went back to El Dorado!
July 14th, 2008
Today Raquelle took us across the border – and we’re so glad she was with us, as we definitely would’ve been lost without her. The Immigration office at the border looked like an old storage room, with a beat up motorcycle and other paraphernalia still around. She dropped us off at the airport, prevented us from getting scammed by the porter, and waited till we went through “security”. We were happy. The flight was short – 1 hour – and we were in Santa Cruz, Bolivia!