Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brazilian Roadblock

We hit a Brazilian roadblock.

After leaving the Internet cafe we returned to the bus station to spend our remaining hours in Chui. As we walked up to the desolate old building, an old man was pulling down the metal gates and locking the doors. Frantically, we ran up and tried to explain that we had left our bags inside the station and we had to catch a bus to Porto Alegre in three hours. For a brief moment we thought we were going to have to wait to morning to get our bags. Turns out they were just closing the station for dinner (8:30-10:30) and would reopen 30 minutes before our bus left. We were invited by the barmaid to pass the hours at the local watering hole next door: a trailer with a 40 watt light bulb, ice cold beer, and a stray dog for every customer. The hours passed quickly as we sat in the chilled evening air and watched local dramas unfold.

After what must have been a lovely supper, an old woman reopened the bus station. We retrieved our bags and gave our passports to the Portuguese-speaking bus driver, explaining in Spanish that we had to stop at Brazilian immigration for our entry stamps. He seemed very familiar with the process as he took our passports and wrote down the numbers and visa information. We thought, people do this all the time.

We got on the bus and a few minutes later arrived at the Brazilian border. The Brazilian Federal Police boarded the bus for a security check. Our passports were out, thinking at any moment we would be shuffled off the bus to the immigration building, similar to the experience in Uruguay. We weren't. As the bus driver got back on Temple tried to explain again in Spanish that we needed the entry stamps. He seemed to explain, in his native tongue, that it was all good. The bus pulled a way and we were now in Brazil without entry stamps.

We consulted our guidebook and it said, "entering Brazil the appropriate form is completed by the rodoviaria staff when you purchase your tickets into Brazil [which made sense because the ticket woman had checked our visas]. The bus stops at the Policia Federal and the conductor completes the formalities while you sit on the bus." That's a relief! That completely explains what just happened. It was late, we were tired, so we accepted this explanation and fell asleep.

We woke up at 7am at the Porto Alegre bus station and realized that there was something rotten in the state of Rio Grande do Sul. We headed to the tourist information booth for an explanation of the passport stamp procedure. The tourist info woman said immediately, "you need a stamp." She was very helpful and explained exactly what we had to do. One, go to the airport. Two, find the Policia Federal office. Three, explain your situation and ask for an entry stamp. It sounded either extremely easy or nearly impossible. She gave us directions to the airport, only three metro stops away, and explained where the police station was. On the way out the door she said, "its no problem." We hoped it wouldn't be.

We followed her instructions and made it to the police station at the airport. We expected to find a mustachioed tough guy cop but in reality it was a cute girl in a middrift and denim capris. After explaining our situation she asked us to follow her. She took us through every emergency exit, employees only area, and secret passage way in the airport before arriving at the completely empty customs area. She explained our situation to two increasingly confused looking customs officers. They asked us to sit in their office while they discussed what to do. After a few minutes, a more professionally dressed woman entered the office to ask us some questions. She then left for more discussions with the others. The longer the conversation the more difficult this is going to be for us, we were thinking. After only a few more never ending minutes she returned with the entry forms and a stamp. Obrigado! Now, we were officially in Brazil.

1 comment:

Bett Addams Williams said...

glad we can be along for the fun w/o the hassle!!