Brazil Expense Depression
Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil
The prices in this country are out of control. I'm really in an unhappy place (mentally and financially) when every time I reach into my pocket to pay for something I get a frown (or look of disgust) on my face.
The cost of living and transport is making me depressed—I'm close to scrapping plans to travel north, jumping across the border to Argentina, and flying out of Latin America for SE Asia.
My desire to see the coast of NE Brazil, the Amazon River, and Carnival in Salvador are the only reasons I'm still here. I have absolutely no wish to visit anything south of Salvador, except to see what the legendary beaches of Rio de Janeiro look like.
The bus ride to Rio is going to be 24 hours, and will cost at least US$80. The bus ride from Rio to Salvador is about 27 hours, with a price tag of at least US$95. Flights are currently somewhere in the US$250 range from Iguaçu to both Rio and Salvador.
I could have picked up an air pass for a Brazilian airline that lets you hop around major cities within a time limit, but my intended focus is going to be on the small coastal cities to the north. Once I'm up there I'm sure I'll be happier (sun and sand tend to do that to me), but it's the expense of doing so that's getting to me.
Factoring in the cost of Carnival, the amount of money spent over the next month is enough to let me live on a beach in Thailand for at least five.
And thus, I have reached a crossroads…
I'm considering cutting my time in Salvador for Carnival substantially to save money. I'm sure after four nights of chaos I'll have gotten the gist of things.
I accompanied Tatiana to the airport today, crossing into Argentina to do so. Brazil has a policy in these parts to skip border formalities if you're going to return the same day. Argentina plopped another pair of stamps in my passport.
The border crossing was radically different between Brazil and Argentina versus between Brazil and Paraguay. Yesterday Tatiana and I crossed across the frontier and spent a bit of time in the Paraguayan border town of Ciudad del Este.
Comparing the two (river) crossings (some distance from each other) would be like showing you an image of a pile of garbage, and a tranquil Japanese sand/rock garden. The closest I've seen to the border with Brazil and Paraguay is the United States and Mexico at Tijuana.
Ciudad del Este looks like a hole. Technically I—traveling on a U.S. passport—need a visa and a fist full of cash to enter into the country—but there are no guards, there are no gates, only chaos. A queue of cars and buses stretch further than the eye can see waiting to enter into Brazil.
Shady motorcycle taxis lined the main avenue on both sides of border, trying their best to get people on the back of their bikes. The price was only US$1, but you couldn't pay me to get on one of these things in the middle of that environment. Tatiana was game, but the possibility that these guys could divide us (and do God knows what, where they wanted) was a situation I wasn't about to give the opportunity to occur. I needed to stay in control in this type of place.
Tatiana and I ended up taking a city bus into Paraguay, and once we got off every moment that I wasn't stabbed for the contents of my pockets was a relief. Neither of us were dress appropriately for the scene, and stood out even more than normal.
Again, dismissing the motorbike taxis we walked back into Brazil—sweating like crazy. We walked straight through the poorly organized pedestrian processing area, completely unchallenged.
Jumping into Paraguay and back into Argentina I couldn't help but smile—I was never happier to hear Spanish in my life. Ahhh, communication.
An Unexpected Twist
As I'm writing this, an opportunity has presented itself. I've been chatting with a trio of eccentric, 30-something Swedish fellows here at the pool (so nice to have), and have discovered they've got a rental car—as well as extremely poor planning and navigation skills, taking them 500km off course on the way here. They say they're leaving for Rio on the morning of the 29th, and seem open to squeezing my pack and I into the car.
So instead of leaving tomorrow, as planned, I'll hang out here for another day and see if my alternate (and hopefully entertaining) transport works out. These guys could turn out to be the deciding factor that keeps me in Brazil.