Destination São Luís, capital of the state of Maranhão.
An adventurous bus travel from Belo Horizonte to São Luís, lasting more than fifty hours.
Two full days
The travel from Belo Horizonte to São Luís was a two-day bus trip. Two days, that’s right, more than fifty hours one way. Because the distance between these cities is about 2700 kilometers. Twenty degrees to two degrees south latitude. Closer to the equator, but still in the summer of the southern hemisphere. When one may have a closer look at the route map below, the first thought may appear that the bus has made a considerable detour. Since the drawn green line is far from straight. Also my personal thought was that the westward route – from Minas Gerais, via Brasília, Goiás, Tocantins, and then Maranhão – would be shorter. Rodrigo, one of our experienced bus drivers, explained to me that the western route is not that much shorter, and the that quality of that highway is much worse. Once, he was driving only sixty kilometers in a full day, due to the many holes and pits in the highway. And why not straight away to the north? This is easily explained due to the fact that the state of Minas Gerais and the southern part of neighboring state of Bahia are quite mountainous. There, the highways follow the meandering slopes of the mountains.
In general, the main highways in Minas Gerais are of a reasonable quality. En route, we suffered occasional delays due to roadworks. One lane is closed then; traffic at both sides must wait for each other to pass the roadworks. Bahia also may count on highways of reasonable quality, although there were some tracks with pits and holes. More in the northeast of Brazil, the highways of Pernambuco, Piauí and Maranhão were followed. The worst highways were located in Piauí. Ricardo, the second bus driver, sometimes has to use his forces and skills to maneuver the bus skilfully between the holes and pits in the road.
The bus drivers did not complete the route without intervals. Before the travel, it was agreed that every four hours, at maximum, there would be an interval. To allow us to go to the bathroom or take a shower, to drink some coffee and have a snack. The interval should last no longer than ten minutes, and twenty minutes at the time of breakfast. At noon, the break should last one hour, to allow us to have a hot meal. On the way back, everyone was eager to be home as soon as possible. To be at home, to sleep in the comfortable beds, to take some rest before returning to work or to college. Therefore, the intervals were every six hours. In this respect., the bus travel to Belo Horizonte took about two hours less.
Never say never…
The reader might frown his brows when noticing the travel time of fifty hours. A bus travel from Amsterdam to Paris, that lasts about FIVE hours, is already being considered as a long travel. A bus travel to Spain? That will last 24 hours. But who is crazy enough to travel to the Spanish Costas by bus? One friend from Lithuania visited me in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Her bus travel took almost thirty hours. At that time, I had the serious thought that I never, NEVER would travel like she did. I remember how exhausted she was, when she arrived in Amsterdam. And what to do inside the bus, for thirty hours? Well, also for me: NEVER say never…. I even have broke her record travel time with at least twenty hours! And.. Lithuania is located at the border of the European Union. São Luís is located at the Atlantic Ocean, but Belo Horizonte is still far from the southern border of Brazil…
How did I experience these 100 hours, inside the bus? The fellow travelers were far from quiet: sometimes they were really noisy. A crazy gang, they laughed a lot, they sang a lot, accompanied by percussion instruments and a guitar. We were watching DVDs: music, predominantly rock music, from Brazil and abroad. From the sixties and seventies. Raul Seixas, Pink Floyd, Nando Reis, Lenine, Led Zeppelin. Sometimes we could watch movies. I really enjoyed these DVDs. Besides, I was taking my photographs of the landscape that was passing us.
Since I had my seat in front, I had more space for my legs, compared to the others. I was able to put my feet upward, against the board, that separated the passenger compartment from the compartment of the bus drivers. I did not have real problems to sleep inside the bus, although my neck was hurting occasionally, because of the uneasy sleeping position when seated. Sometimes I got awake by a cold breeze that touched my bare legs. We had to survive fifty long hours in the bus, to reach our little paradise. More about that in the coming chapters…
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom