The last week has been an absolute whirlwind of traveling efficiency. But I’m happy to say that I’m alive in well in Sao Paulo, just a little bit out of breath from crossing overland through four international borders in the last three days.
On Friday, I bid farewell to Bariloche, and the morning of my last day of work was followed with an overnight bus to Buenos Aires. I had spent more than four months in Argentina, and a visit to the elegant capital was long overdue. On the plate for my short visit in Buenos Aires was a Brazilian visa application, a football game, and some tango.
My experience in Buenos Aires was a bit humdrum. I wasn’t exactly inspired by the tango scene, nor the architecture of the city. I’m not saying I don’t like the capital; I was there for too short of a time to critique it. Experiences are what I appreciate in my travels, not the places. And with no friends or warm welcomes, and a potentially 2-week wait for a Brazilian visa, I was ready to move on.
I made a quick visit to see Uruguay and its beautiful colonial center, Colonia. With just a few days I wanted to seek out the subtle differences between Uruguay and Argentina. My barber told me not many, and that perhaps Uruguayans drink more mate (how could that be possible I thought?) and their women are a bit less beautiful, but only a bit. Good enough for me. I guess I just needed a few days in Uruguay then and I hopped on the next high-speed 30-knot commuter boat 28 miles across the mouth of the La Plata River, and back to Argentina.
Next up, Iguazu Falls! I bought a first-class “full cama” bus (champagne-included) and 16 hours later I was face to face with the most beautiful waterfalls I had ever seen. I could understand where Eleanor Roosevelt was coming from, when upon her arrival to Iguazu, she proclaimed “Poor Niagra!” While enjoying the falls, a Brazilian consulate processed my visa, and I was good to cross the border.
The Brazilian side of Iguazu proved to be just as beautiful, and during my visit I also crossed the border to see Ciudade Del Este, Paraguay. This was the easiest border crossing I had done in years. I negotiated a moto-taxi for 3 bucks (so good to be on one of those again), and we weaved through traffic and blew by customs. I spent a few illegal hours in seldom-visited Paraguay and was back in Brazil again to catch yet another overnight bus, this time to Sao Paulo.
So after three overnight buses, and four countries in 48 overland hours of travel, I was in the Latin America’s biggest, most cosmopolitan city. For the first time in six months of travel, I was greeted by a familiar face…Julia! Julia is the girlfriend of my great college bud Rob and now a great friend of mine too. She and her family took me in for a week of fun and relaxation in Sao Paulo, and now I’m off to spend the Easter weekend at their beach house. I can’t do it justice enough to write what a wonderful family has hosted me here, so open-minded, thoughtful, and community-oriented. Every family should be like this one. Akin to my time in Buenos Aires, I was reminded that it’s not the places that make a trip, but the experiences you have. Had I come to Sao Paulo solo, I would have departed within a few hours. But because of the wonderful people I have shared time with here, I’m not ready to leave!