Most backpackers would probably agree that vacating a hostel room at dawn is never easy. To make matters worse, I was leaving the phenomenal Buenos Aires.
The idea of catching up with friends in Sao Paulo had seemed reasonable when planning my trip it in front of a computer screen back home. After all, the distance between the two cities is minimal when you look at it on an A4-size map of the world. Reality, however, was closing in; my European sense of distance had let me down again. There was no plan of action in sight. I was alone. And I had a headache.
There had been whisperings in the hostel of a bus company that operated a direct Buenos Aires to Sao Paulo route, although no one had ever considered actually confirming those rumors. Hauling an army-sized backpack on a tour of all the major bus stations (of a city the size of a small country) in search of this fabled bus company, seemed like a risky idea; the whole day might go to waste.
There is only one harbour in Buenos Aires, which was also just a ten minute ride from the hostel. The choice was obvious now; logic and laziness were on my side. Boats cross the Rio Grande approximately every hour, dropping passengers off somewhere in Uruguay. It looked like the journey was hazily planning itself out for me.
Uruguay lies to the north of Argentina, just south of Brazil, so at least I’d be heading in the right direction. The taxi driver had his doubts though, painting Uruguay out to be the Bermuda Triangle of transport and travel, and his words hung ominously in my mind for the duration of the crossing. Soon, however, the anxiety of being alone, hungover, unsure of ever reaching Sao Paulo in time and having to improvise travel plans, gave way to a euphoric acceptance of the situation and a subsequent sense of well-being.
At this point, I didn’t care about being on time anymore.
A lengthy bus ride across open country separated me from Montevideo, where I learned upon arrival that the only direct bus to Sao Paulo was scheduled to leave on Monday. It was Tuesday.
Thankfully my newly acquired zen-cape was still fastened on tightly, prompting me to take the dismal news more stoically than I ever imagined I could. I hadn’t slept since my arrival 30 hours earlier in Buenos Aires, having spent a 12-hour bus ride staring at the ever-changing landscape between Montevideo and Porto Alegre, one of the major cities of Brazil’s deep south.
By this time, my eating and sleeping patterns were completely jumbled, and the subsequent 18-hour ride from Porto Alegre to Sao Paulo kept me awake even longer. I had now been awake 48 hours—two days and nights of uninterrupted travel—split between a boat trip and three bus rides.
The landscape finally stopped moving; I arrived in Sao Paulo feeling like a broken clock. My ‘local train’ decision had paid off though. I was on time, which meant that my ticket for the Radiohead concert that night would not go to waste. And, perhaps more importantly, it meant that my passport was now the proud owner of another immigration stamp, this time from a country I sort of stumbled upon by accident, and that I hadn’t spent more than seven hours visiting.
One day, I’ll show it off to my grandkids.