Tuomas: The longest day ever – Flying to Brazil
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
I simply don't get how people can travel around the world without making decent plans. Spontaneity is great and I admire it in a person, but some countries don't. With this I mean that in order to be allowed to enter some countries you need to also have acquired the ticket out of there. I can't remember exactly which places have required this but there have been a few. Since we booked all of our flights beforehand this hasn't been a problem for us. That is, before we were trying to fly to Brazil from New Zealand. We had booked flights to Rio de Janeiro and our plan was to travel to Paraguay by land from Foz do Iguacu, but we didn't have reservations for that. It turned out to be a problem…
I'll go back a few hours. We were flying to Rio from Auckland, through Santiago de Chile. In order to be able to check in online for the two flights we waited until a few hours before we were supposed to be at the airport. We didn't get EXIT-seats for the longer first flight but were able to acquire some for the second one. We were fairly pleased with this and headed to the airport thinking that getting on the plane would be an easy matter of dropping our luggage on the belt and getting through security. It was not to be however. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 4.05 p.m. and we got to the airport at about 1.30. At 1.45 we were faced with a guy handling our tickets and asking the question: "can I see your departure tickets from Brazil?". We showed him the ticket out of Paraguay, but it wouldn't do, even though it was dated within the 90 days that you have to leave Brazil. We needed to get two tickets out of Brazil in order to enter the country.
Now how are we supposed to manage that? we asked. There was free wifi at the airport, we were directed to use it to make the necessary arrangements. Luckily we have a decent laptop with us, so we were able to do some browsing. Flights from say, Rio to Asuncion in Paraguay would have cost us over 400 euros per person and we would have missed Iguassu Falls doing that. The easiest and most economical way would have been to buy the bus tickets from Foz do Iguacu to Ciudad del Este (basically crossing a bridge) over the internet, but we couldn't find any operators selling them online. We finally figured that our best and only option would be to buy bus tickets from Sao Paolo to Ciudad del Este, costing 72 USD per person. Right after deciding to do that we ran out of wifi, because New Zealanders like to limit it to very short periods, in this case half an hour. We finished up with my smartphone, toppling obstacles like registering for a PayPal account in the process. Finally, with the confirmation of the purchase showing on the touch screen, we were able convince the check in personnel that we weren't planning on making Brazil our permanent home. It cost us 161 USD to do so… And may I remind you, this was in New Zealand and not in Brazil. No-one double checked the tickets or asked about them later in Brazil…
So we got our things on the conveyer belt, only to hear the check in guy tell us that the first plane was going to be late and thus we were likely to miss our second flight. There had been some schedule changes for the flights, both of which were operated by LAN Airlines. Originally our first plane had been scheduled to arrive in Chile at 11.35 a.m. but that had been postponed to 12.35. Our second flight was scheduled to leave at 1.10 p.m., which was cutting it close to say the least. With the first flight about an hour late there was very little hope of making it on the second one. Luckily there was another flight departing a couple hours later that would probably be able to carry us to Rio. We were given seats on an EXIT-row for the first flight also to be able to talk with the flight attendants about our options should it seem like we could indeed make it. Maybe they could get the second plane wait for us?
After we got through security in Auckland I started to look into our flight plan. We had been informed that the first flight was likely to take an hour longer and arrive at 12.35. But our itinerary also showed that the second flight was also rescheduled to leave at 2.05. It said so on our boarding cards also, which didn't seem to make any sense because the check in guy had been so worried. He said that we had read wrong when we made the check in online, where it had said that we were supposed to have an hour and a half of transit time. We decided to wait and see. The first flight didn't depart until 5.20 p.m., one hour and fifteen minutes late. Crossing the Pacific took its sweet time but fortunately for us the plane made it faster than expected, arriving in Chile at about 1 p.m.. This gave us enough time to get through another set of security screenings and still be at the gate before they started boarding for the 2.05 flight. So we made it, without even too much hurry!
In the end we arrived in Rio on schedule at about 6 p.m.. The time is important, because we left Auckland at 5.20 p.m. on the same day. It must have been the longest forty minutes of my life, to say the least. They say that time flies when you're having fun. In that case I guess it's no wonder, we were so stressed out about making it to Brazil that it's just natural that the forty minutes felt like an intercontinental flight, followed by a shorter hop of four hours. Understanding the massive time difference wasn't helped by the fact that on the first flight I watched Interstellar where Matthew McConaughey loses 23 Earth years by landing shortly on a planet inconveniently located next to a black hole…
After successfully arriving in Brazil our troubles didn't quite end, but they did lose most of their edge. Right after we made it through customs we were confronted by massive amounts of taxi touts, most of whom were easily turned down. It might have had something to do with the billboards on the terminal walls saying that accepting a ride from such people is dangerous… We asked the information counter which bus we should take to our reserved accommodation and they suggested the one numbered 2018. We couldn't find it right away once outside the terminal and were faced with the more determined taxi touts, who we were able to persuade to find other people to mess with. Our bus arrived eventually and we handed the driver the required R$14.65 per person stating that we wanted to get off at "Gloria metro" (we don't know any Portuguese…). He nodded as if he understood. The bus took us through a confusing succession of small streets that got me lost more than a few times while trying to follow our course on travel app Triposo's offline map (my phone's worthless GPS couldn't find our location). We asked a local looking guy eventually if we'd missed the stop and he went to ask the driver. Turned out we had, about a kilometer or so before (judging from the look the driver gave us it was our own fault…). We got off the bus there and walked back on the dark streets, which really isn't the way you want to arrive into a city like Rio de Janeiro. To make things even better, we couldn't find our hostel even with the full address. We found ourselves staring at an unmarked locked gate without a hint of a hostel behind it. We tried the bell eventually, a couple times actually, before the lock buzzed and we were allowed in. The place was there in the end, right where it was supposed to be, but no sign of it showed outside, which was curious.
At this point it was still May 23rd, and about 8.30 p.m.. Our day had started in Auckland, where we checked out of our hostel and checked in on the flights at a library that had free wifi, followed by a quick visit to a free art gallery. We'd worried ourselves sick about getting tickets out of Brazil, waited for a delayed flight, flown over 14 hours in total, got lost on a bus ride, found our way to an inconspicuous hostel in Rio… And it was still just 8.30 p.m.!
I'd like to say that we slept like babies after all that, but I'd be lying. We both woke up at 2.30 a.m., ready to get up. Jet lag's a b****…