08 January 2009

In Country: The Longest Night of My Life, or How to Catch Hypothermia in the Tropics

Bom Dia!

Tuesday night the team boarded a bus for Belo Horizonte, which is where we are now. Actually the trip consisted of three bus rides: a city bus in Campinas to the bus station (45 minutes), a longer bus ride from Campinas to Sao Paulo (2 hours), and then the longest-night-of-my-life bus ride from Sao Paulo to Belo Horizonte (8 hours). Hyperbole aside, by the time we finally caught the overnighter in Sao Paulo it was 11:30pm. The bus station itself was huge and in many ways reminded me of an airport. There were several levels with many food vendors. Numbering about 15 people, our team sprawled across the waiting area. Needless to say, it was a little bit chaotic just trying to move from one part of the station to another.

Once we got on the long bus, the trip really began. Perhaps the most significant factor about this bus trip was the air conditioner which was set on high, supposedly to induce hypothermia. In other words, the bus was a moving freezer. Once the chill factor set in, I realized why Thabiti had bothered to carry blankets along with all his other bags. As we plowed through the tropical night, I stuffed my stiff hands into my armpits and vowed to get myself a "bus blanket" before our next trip.

The speed at which our driver found himself most comfortable also ranks compellingly high in significance. Since there was a curtain separating the driver from his cargo, I could not get a reading on the speedometer. However, it would be safe to say that the speed was high. As in fast. And this was not just a straight shot from Point A to Point B. Rather the road consisted of hairpin turns on high mountain passes. It occured to me that perhaps the bus company schedules this route at night hoping that the passengers will fall asleep and therefore not realize that they are careening dangerously close to the edge of 1000 foot drop offs. It wouldn't do to have 100 screaming riders to disturb the driver's concentration.

But alas, despite the cold and treacherous speeds, we made it into Belo at 8:00am.

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