Always looking for the next adventure, it was my idea to take the bus from Sao Paulo to Rio. After all, I had spent part of my honeymoon riding in the back of a truck through the mountains of Peru. Besides, I was told that you could take a bus that was quite comfortable and included fully reclining seats, air conditioning and a bathroom. And I definitely wasn’t in the mood to drag my daughter through the airport process of standing in line, waiting, standing in line some more, waiting, etc.
We arrived at the bus station in Sao Paulo and there was nothing off-putting. It was pretty much like New York’s Penn Station (although this may be off-putting to some). It was late, as we were taking an overnight trip, so much of the retail space was closed. But there was still enough activity to feel perfectly safe. There was even a VIP lounge with television, coffee and water.
We boarded the bus and were handed packets of snacks. The bus itself exceeded my expectations. The seats were large, clean and comfortable. The bus was air-conditioned. My daughter settled into her over-sized seat happily with a juice box and a packet of crackers. It was great. And it would have continued to be great if our tickets had actually been for that day.
You see, when you book tickets for twenty past midnight of the day you want to travel, it is actually… the next day. That’s right, we were almost exactly 24 hours late for OUR bus trip.
When the first person approached me with a ticket for one of the seats we were occupying, an American woman, I quickly explained to her that HER ticket was for the next day. Being a stranger in a strange land, and already anticipating things going wrong, she willingly accepted this. We both marveled at the idea that they would let HER on the bus with the wrong date on HER ticket. She deduced that they had given her a boarding pass for her return trip instead, and she sat down in an empty seat to wait out her actual seat. She also proceeded to call her Brazilian boyfriend, whom she was visiting, and complain to him about the error, a conversation that soon led to a bit of a fight.
When the second person approached us with a ticket for one of the seats we were occupying, the reality of the situation hit me. This passenger pointed out that our tickets were for the day that ended ten minutes ago. My husband was in denial (as he was the one that purchased the tickets) and left the bus to try and “straighten it all out.” When the third person inquired about a seat we were occupying, I packed up Sophia (but not without first locating the American woman and letting her know that she was bickering with her boyfriend for no reason). Sophia, confused about what was happening, began to yell loudly “Why are we getting off the bus?! Why are we getting off the bus?! WHY ARE WE GETTING OFF THE BUS?!” This made the people whose seats we were occupying feel unnecessarily responsible and guilty about forcing a small child off a bus at an ungodly hour.
But Brazilians have a way of getting themselves out of sticky situations. My husband convinced someone to let us get on a bus that was leaving just a few minutes later. However, in this scenario, Sophia and I shared the one empty luxury seat, while my husband rode on a second level in conditions I am unaware of.
Despite it all having gone awry, it was still much easier than navigating two airports, an airplane and a baggage claim (would have been even easier if we had actually had tickets). Sophia had a great time as it was a total novelty to be sleeping in a bed on a bus (she was used to New York City buses) and we arrived in one piece in the morning somewhat rested. I would select this mode of travel (the version with the luxury seats) again most definitely. Only next time, we’ll double-check the tickets.