Start of the Bus Travel
(Click here for complete overview)
Destination Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia
1: The bus travel from Belo Horizonte to Salvador, which took 24 hours.
Thursday, July 20, 2006. 5 pm
That afternoon I had to send some emails before I could disconnect my laptop from internet and store the device, covered with a towel – to prevent eventual shocks – in my rucksack. I indeed have a bag that is designed to carry this laptop, but I will not use this bag here: It then is too obvious, inviting to have this bag and the contents mugged. And a rucksack, as of a normal student, appears to be less obvious. Just another case of dealing with the circumstances. I grabbed my other bag, a small weekend bag, which contained my clothes and daily belongings.
Carrying my two bags, and another, plastic, bag that contained my pillow, I walked to the faculty where the bus with destination “Salvador” was scheduled to depart. According to my Dutch routine I arrived there too early. According to the Brazilian routine, no one was there waiting for the bus. It was a quarter to six, almost one quarter before the scheduled departure of this bus. The bus just arrived, on time. Ten to six. We now only had to wait for the passengers…. I sat down on the steps in front of the faculty building, with my three bags around me.
It was a quiet Friday night. Winter holidays had already started, most students enjoy their short break: at home with their family or in their rooms in the city. Even a great number of the university workers took the opportunity to spend their winter holidays. And today my winter holiday will start: a ten-day journey to Salvador, including the bus travel. Last year I spent my short winter holidays in the south of Brazil: one day in Curitiba and five days in the triangle of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Also then I spent many hours in the bus.
Dusk started at six pm. It already cooled down a bit; probably it was a little above twenty degrees centigrade now. It is to be expected that we will enjoy warmer days in Salvador, and warmer nights. I already look forward for that: finally nights again with temperatures of about twenty degrees, much better to bear than the cold nights of twelve, fifteen degrees during the past weeks. At six the first fellow passengers appeared, but the majority still had to arrive. They started their journey with drinking beer in the buteco just outside the university campus. At some minutes past six I walked with my bags to the bus.
The cargo compartments of the bus were open and I noticed dozens of trays of cans of Brahma beer in there. That sounds promising for the coming night… Two students arrived with a box that contained beakers with water, and two big bags of ice. To cool the beer. As I have mentioned earlier in my contributions, a Brazilian only drinks ice-cold beer. For me it was very enjoyable to read that recently in Holland the Heineken beer company has started to offer ice-cold beer. Using advanced and awfully expensive equipment the beer is being pulled into frozen glasses. I am very curious if this expensive kind of fashion will be attractive enough for the Dutch beer drinker. Here in Brazil beer is generally distributed from 600 ml bottles, which are kept cold in special cylinders. And they use small beer glasses, much smaller than the smallest size of the Dutch beer glass. Using these small glasses has the advantage that beer will not stay too long in your glass, but will be poured quickly and regularly in the throats of the beer drinkers. This way of drinking guarantees cold beer, without the use of expensive and complicated equipment. They only need large freezers that keep the temperature around zero degrees.
It was already 7 pm when the majority returned from the buteco. There was an animated atmosphere among them. Of them I only knew my colleague Igor and his friend Leo. I will become acquainted with the others, on the way to Salvador. But how will they see me, how will treat me, how will they judge me? A gringo, that is fluent in a language that breaks anyone’s tongue, fluent in English, and tries to become fluent in Portuguese too, but still needs a lot of time and practice. A gringo, from the Old Continent. Will they welcome me among them, or will they keep distance to me? It was as if I had arrived in traveling reality soap. A kind of a Big Brother, The Bus, but without rolling TV cameras. But with my eyes that register, pen that writes, digital camera that clicks and flashes and later my keyboard that enters this text.
The big rucksacks, sleeping mats, tent equipment of the travelers were loaded in the cargo compartments, the students embarked. It appeared that I had to deal with students that were the opposite of the stereotypes of computer nerds. No counter culturists, no toffee-noses, but a leisurely-dressed group, ‘galera’, with an apparent balance in the number of men and women. I also embarked and searched for my poltrona, or bus seat. I was happy to find my place near the window, excellent for taking pictures. Next to me a student took place. He appeared to be calm, and introduced himself as Vítor. In front of me were the seats of Igor and Leo, the only two I already knew of this galera. The bus engine protested slightly and started to do its exhaustive work. The wheels scraped with protesting sounds over the cobblestones of the main road of the university campus. The wheels rolled slowly on their way to the main exit, and turned right on the more comfortable Avenida Antônio Carlos. Our journey had begun….
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2007