Sunday, January 30, 2011

A new hitchhiking strategy in Brasil

It has been over a year since we had to learn a new language, but here we had to start over again. Portuguese is not very different from Spanish. The difference is something like between Ukranian and Russian. A lot of the words are similiar, but pronounced with a different accent. If both people talk slowly and listen, a dialogue can be maintained.
So, we entered Brasil. As soon as we crossed the border, we flagged down a pick up. The Argentinian couple (biologists running a private nature reserve)inside gave us a ride to the outskirts of Foz do Iguacu, a much bigger town than its couterpart on the Argentinian side. That was a good start. We walked to a suitable take off spot and let the thumb fly. 1 hour, nothing. 2, 3, 4 hours... People were going by not even turning their heads, looking straight. No smiles, no waves. We were invisible. It was getting depressing. When you get depressed while hitch-hiking, walking takes off your mind from the bad vibe and situation soon gets fixed. You arrive somewhere or you get picked up, which ever comes first. After 2 hours of walking in the hotest sun ever, we arrived at the biggest truck stop we have ever seen. There must have been over 150 trucks parked in the immense field around the gas station. There was a restaurant with good food (a plate with enough food for two - R7, around US 3.50) and free showers.
We have arrived late in the day, so all we did that night was ask the permission to camp, put up our tent where we were told, and went to sleep.
The next morning, we made a tour of the parking lot, asking truckers if they were heading our direction, Sao Paulo. No dice there. Men turned their eyes away and came up with all sorts of reasons for not taking us. Going the other way, not moving at all at the moment and no permission to take passengers were the most common. We had nothing else to do, but to sit on our bags in the shade of the huge roof, near the bathroom door. We had a sign propped up against our legs, `Sao Paulo`. We read our books (one by Lecompte de Nouy `Human Destiny` and the other `Viaje a Rio de la Plata` by Ulrico Shmitdl), played chess and observed the workings of a big truckstop.
By the end of day 1, we briefly chatted with three truckers. The last one gave us a very good advice: `You guys look Argentinian. Here nobody likes Argentinians because they are all worthless thiefs and robbers. You should write on your sign that you are Russian.`
We did so and wow! what a change! The truckers who the day before walked past us as if they did not see us, said hi and some of them even smiled! During day 2 we had about 4 conversations, all stemming from the little line on our sign: `two russians to... Sao Paulo`. On day 3, we began receiving offers. Luis, a black Brasilian from the state of Bahia, offered to take us to Sao Jose do Rio Preto. It was a very good offer because it would stear us clear from Sao Paulo, a big city that we would have to take a bus to get out of. Furthermore, Rio Preto was on our chosen route, BR 153, also known as Transbrasiliana. Luis was waiting for his partner to be loaded and than they would leave, any moment now... Another offer came from Allan, a co-worker of the fat Elder who gave us a lift in Argentina a few weeks before! Allan had a very concerned look on his face, he inquired if our papers were in order, if we carry any drugs on us, if we have enough money to eat... After some chatting, he warmed up to us and invited us to stay in house for three days until he had a load going to Sao Paulo. Unfortunately, we could not accept his kind invitation because we were already waiting for Luis, seldomly taking eyes off his white truck. `Is he moving yet?`
Luis´ partner, Fren, finally got his load ready and tied down in the afternoon of the next day, and we left our by-then-beloved spot near the bathroom door, after 4 days of sitting there.
Luis was not a talkative person. Moreover, he did not like to explain. He had a heavy accent from his state Bahia, making him ever harder to understand. He spoke no word of Spanish, of course. He spoke with us with frases whose translation in English would be something like that:
`Ain´t this babe hot, I`m tellin ya`
`Where youall headin`, anyway?`
`Get down, there are cops up ahead`
Most of our two-day ride with this stern but kind man was spent in silence, which was only interrupted by the static of his CB radio. Luis would mummble something into the mic, and listen to the reply, which sounded little diffrent from the static. After the reply was over, Luis would errupt in laughter, and chat excitingly into the mic again, hitting the driving wheel with his powerful hand. We were understanding nothing.
Luis´ partner Fren was more understanding, more curious and more talkative. Every few hours, the pair would stop, either to refill up some 50 liters of burnt diesel, to have a snack, to eat or just to rest. In these frequent periods of rest we were actually learning Portuguese from Fren.
At the end of the second day, Luis and Fren dropped us off at a spectacular truck stop a little outside of Rio Preto. They shook our hands and hugged us. Then they each popped a no-sleep pill and rolled off into the night. We camped on the cobbled (!!!) parking lot and walked into town in the morning in search of the long needed coonection with the WWW.


  1. как полезно быть русским! :)

  2. Did you guys change the blog or it's just me? :)

  3. Rodgar: Yeah, if we would have been Argentinians, we probably would still be hanging out at that truck stop in Iguacu!
    Alex: We did, you like?