This blog has been written by Dustin.....
The time has come for us to leave Rio and make our way towards Bolivia. After a number of cancelled flight bookings for Santa Cruz and a lot of frustration we decided to just buy tickets on the 30 hr bus ride from Rio to Corumba, a town on the Brazil / Bolivia border. As we were not sure how we would feel after such a long bus ride we figured we would spend a night there before moving on to Bolivia. Our hostel suggested that we get a local city bus to the terminal, this bus ride was an experience in itself, we had to hold on pretty tight as our 40 year old bus went flying through Rio's peak hour morning traffic. Just as we neared the terminal our bus went right past a favela which was interesting to see up closer too. We reached the terminal in one piece, found our way to our platform, and settled in for our long journey. Although the bus was reasonably comfortable it did not supply any food, we expected the food that would be available along the way to be pretty terrible so we packed a few snacks. After pulling up at the first meal stop it looked like any other bus/truck stop from the outside, once we walked inside we were amazed at the quality of…everything. There was a large selection of food available as part of a self serve buffet where you pay by weight and it was all very fresh and fairly tasty. The toilets were super clean and there were even fountains and plants near the entry. It was all so much better than any roadside eateries I had seen in Australia before. Our bus continued on and went through Sao Paulo to pick up some more passengers. These passengers included a lady who you might almost think was moving house with the amount of stuff she had, and her little brat of a child who was loud and annoying whenever he was awake. Oh and yes they were sitting RIGHT BEHIND US and we still had about 24 hours to go on the trip, and they were sick and coughing their germs all over us… just awesome.
So we continue on and manage to get a bit of sleep, we're prepared for this sort of thing and both have eye masks and earplugs which help a lot. Eventually we near the end of the trip, so far the driver announced each stop we came to so we figured we would hear when our was. We stopped at one bus terminal in a small town where the driver forgot to tell everyone what it was, we figured it wasn't ours as Corumba looked like a bigger town than this on the map. The next thing we notice is a large sign which translates to "Welcome to Bolivia". So we get off at this next and final stop and get our bags, it looks like we've missed Corumba. The border crossings between the countries here are pretty relaxed so the bus proceeds through and we need to walk back to the border and get our exit/entry stamps. We probably could have caught a cab back to Corumba but met some other travellers who were moving on so we decided to keep moving and get on another overnight bus to Santa Cruz. Literally as soon as the border was crossed from Brazil to Bolivia the paved roads turned to dirt. I tried to change some Argentine peso's in Brazil and was required to present my passport in a pristine money exchange office behind plexi-glass. In Bolivia we could change our Brazillian Reals in a little shack by the side of the road from a lady sitting at a tiny wooden desk, armed with a calculator. In Bolivia it's common to see men sitting on the side of the road offering to change money with big fat stacks of Bolivianos in their hand. The next noticeable contrast that I noticed between Brazil and Bolivia was when our bus to Santa Cruz stopped for dinner. We exited the bus and were greeted by a military police officer checking out all the passengers. In front of us was a cement structure with no ceiling. A few market stalls attached to the outside sold some various items, thankfully blankets and pillows were included. The crowded 'food court' was an area out the front of the building lit by a fairly weak floodlight. The food was being cooked up outside and included skewered meats, rice, some vegetable that had a potato like texture and a fried banana, they also sold some kind of soup. Kids ran around selling soft drinks. We sat down to eat at one of the plastic tables scattered around the area. A bit different from the food stops in Brazil, however the food was still tasty and didn't make us violently ill either! We got back on the bus and managed to get to sleep soon after due to our exhaustion from the previous trip. Our $5 blanket came in very handy as the air conditioning was cranked right up and the bus got extremely cold during the night. At one point I woke up and it seemed that the paved road had again turned to a narrow dirt road where the bus had to stop every few minutes so another bus or truck could squeeze past in the opposite direction. The next time I woke, we were in Santa Cruz about 6:30am (only 2 hours late which is good by Bolivian standards!) We managed to find a comfortable room in the city for 80 Bolivianos each (about $12) which was quite a relief after coming from Rio!