Saturday, July 8, 2006

Report # 3

Greetings to all my friends out there,I am now living in luxury in the house of Margo''s friend Dora and husband Geraldo. They are absolutely spoiling me with kindness so I may stay here for the next two months instead!!

As I said the Falls were great but hugely reduced in water volume so I decided that the view from the Brazil side would be less than worth while. So I left the next morning for Foz do Iguasu which is about 30 mins from the Arg town. Bought ticket got on local bus and takes us to Arg border control - easy, took 2 mins; then to Brazil border where you must disembark and wipe your feet on wet pads to remove contamination - I didn''t know about this and did not see the pads so did not do it till 30 mins later. We had to go thru formalities here so bus goes on and we are to catch next bus in 20 mins. Formalities take 5-10 mins but easy, then we wait and wait and wait. During this time I realised what people were doing with the pads (I''m pretty quick you know!!!).Eventually after about an hour or so another bus came and 15-20 mins later we are in Foz. The Arg Pto Iguazu is small town, but Foz is 280,000 so very bustling city. We drive past the Terminal Urbana (I need the internat terminal) and I wondered if we should get off there but only one foreign couple did so; so I waited. 5 mins later we all have to get off and I am in some unbelievably busy crowded (dangerous?) place which is not on my map and I have no idea what to do.

That''s when I start to learn that maybe I am a Control-Freak because suddenly I am out of control; my language is absolutely minimal and I don''t know where I should be. So I clutch my two mochilas to me and start walking (where?)ask one man and he says go this street and find bus. but no buses; stop and buy choc and juice, ask girl how to get to terminal; she is very kind and speaks slowly and says cross the street and take bus from this side and go to urbano then at urbano go to International terminal - emphasises two buses - clever girl. I take bus to Urbano and as you enter bus there is a very narrow turnstile where you pay the ticket person and squeeze thru the stile - try this with two mochilas on. I have to remove both and the man helps me but is frustrated that I turned the style without going thru - probably it counts the numbers?? But we arrive safe, ask policeman how to get to International and he says wait over there. I wait 30 mins no bus so I ask bread seller how and he says there is a better place and takes me - very kind - to better spot where any of 5 routes will be okay. Ten mins later I take bus but we all get in rear door and don''t have to pay; I worry so go to ticket lady and tell her I am going to terminal when do I pay; she says you don''t pay ??? OK Still don''t know why.

At the terminal I look for company going to Sao Paulo (16 hrs trip) ask about tickets there are 4 leaving during next few hours and seller says the 7.00 pm one will get me in at 9.00 am . I am so confused I didn''t do the maths and work out that 16 hours will be 11.00 not 9. Anyway I get ticket for 7.00 and have 3-4 hours to kill. Food inside is fast food USA style and nothing substantial. SO I check my big bag and go outside and find a market with all sorts of locals and food and cafes etc so I ask in one and they have buffet for $2 (all dollars I quote are US) so I go in and get meat rice and 5 salads. Good stuff.

Inside I note that people are going thru Customs. The bus area is all fenced off with high chain-wire and entry is only thru customs door - like in an airport. I go and ask my seller if I have to go thru customs and he says yes be there 30 mins before. I am a bit concerned because they are opening every bag of every person and I have medicines in my first-aid kit and if he asks what-how and why I cannot fully explain except I have Doc´s script for them all. Meanwhile I get confused and think I have to be at customs at 7.00 (clever, huh?) and only at 6.55 do I realise my mistake so scurry to collect bag and run to customs. Lady looks at me and sees I am honest so she waves me thru !!!! Kisses for her!!

I get on the bus and there are only 10 people so when I sit in my seat next to a guy he says why don''t you sit somewhere else - look there are plenty of seats. SO I move then later when others get on they all sort themselves out and no-one worries about seat allocation.

Later a lady comes along asking everyone something and half the people give her money (??) (?a hooker) she asks me and I say no understand, my seat companion gives R10 ($5) and recommends to me to give but I refuse. I sleep well on and off then many hours later the bus stops and guys get on and there is much arguing from everyone for 15 mins and they check all tickets and argue and open the cargo doors and argue and then all get back on and we move on still discussing it. I recorded a bit of the noise and Geraldo told me later the lady was collecting to pay off the customs duty people and the stop was a contraband bust. Things come in cheaply from Paraguay and get sold in black market in Brazil .

9.00am comes and goes and we are still many miles from SP - I had rung Geraldo from Foz (now that''s another challenge!!) and he was expecting me during the morn. So I am concerned for him. We get to outskirts of SP (22 million!!) and the 6-8 lane motorway is at a semi standstill. Takes another 1-1.5 hrs to go 20 kms so we arrive about lunch time.

I ask how to get a bus to Geraldo''s city of Mogi das Cruzes and get three conflicting stories - the moral: never believe people in company ticket booths as they don''t know and probably don''t care. Eventually info desk man takes me to correct location and get ticket and bus leaves I get to Mogi at 3.00 and ring Geraldo - no answer; repeat 6 times till 5.00 and he answers. Telecom were working on line and so his line was out. He picks me up and speaks great English - what a relief!!. Dora doesn''t get home till 7.00. Beautiful and charming lady who looks 15 years younger than she is and so kind as is Geraldo. They have a 2 hectare farm on outskirts of Mogi which is itself 350,000. Charming spacious 3 b/r and 3 bath/r house so I have private bath and double bed.

We talk till late then Friday when Dora goes to her classes (doing 2 year full time course in Altern medicine and massage -finishes this Sept) she takes me on train and sends me to city with wonderful map and directions. I visit the municipal markets and see the streets around there, visit a famous church and monastery still in use but monastery is closed. Church is cathedral size and dark and beautiful with many locals praying. I return to the streets and get coffee and Churro - caramel filled cone of doughnut-type pastry. The sights of the street when I exited the station were mind-blowing. Wall to wall people like I have never seen, with sellers and their tables all down the street (on the roadway and footpath - and it is a narrow street) all shouting and yelling and blowing noisy instruments and cars and motor bikes weaving thru the tangle - especially the bikes they drive fairly fast with their horn beeping continuously and hope the people get out of the way. A total assault on the ears and eyes and mind. I was fascinated!! The market was in wind-down so was not as crowded but it is like Vic-markets or Adelaide and the variety of meats cheeses meats fruits and every other foodstuff was beyond belief. Even little entire piglets fully skinned hanging up, steaks about 50 cms long - just amazing. But I spent most of my time walking up and down the street looking at all the sights - very memorable. Then train/metro back to meet Dora at her station. The trains ran every 5 mins and every one was jam-packed like sardines and every platform had people standing 3 deep the entire length of the platform so when the doors open and 100 get off and 200 get on you can imagine the scramble. When we had to change trains the people getting on were 3 abreast so we had to fight and push to get off while they tried to get on. I have made contact with the two guys I met in Spain on the Camino and we are going to get together this weekend - Alex our `adopted` son is at the beach and returns tomorrow and will come to this house. Silvio has not yet finalised but we will meet.

I will spend a few more days here and perhaps get to meet some of Dora''s children; We will try to pre-arrange accomm in Rio before I leave - I think it is only 6 hours to Rio . Dora and Geraldo say I MUST see the Carnival in Fortaleza . and Dora''s uncle has a modest hotel in Manaus and he may be able to arrange trip to the authentic jungle where he has a primitive hotel.Have just spoken with Gustavo - Dora''s 32 yo son - who wants to take me to SP with his girlfriend. They come at 11.00 am . Can you believe such kindness! He speaks very good English My Portuguese is so minimal - I can say things but cannot understand much of what is said back to me. My pronunciation was so bad - now I am learning some better sounds from Dora and Geraldo. Hopefully in next month I will improve. But the sounds are so opposite to what my mind thinks it should be: the o at end is said like u, the r is said like h, the rr is said like h, the -on -om - ã o all sound like a strongly nasal ´ow´ - so my mind knows how to spell it but it takes several seconds before the brain can work out how to make the correct sound. OK all you students of mine can stop laughing!!!

I am off to have shower and get ready for Gustavo. Cheers for now, hugs to all and special one for you Margo you must be needing it by now!!