Having a bit of time to kill before I got the bus back to Porto Alegre, I opened up the little map that I was given by the hotel fella – one of those that’s credit card-sized; full of adverts for fondue restaurants on the back, and a load of cutesy little drawings on the map itself – and decided that something called Mini Mundo had to be worth a visit; ’cause if it was anything like the name suggested, it would be right up my alley. And it was. It was a model village kinda thing, but rather than being a miniature mundo, it seemed to actually just be a miniature Deutschland. There were tiny replicas of bits of Munich, Freiburg, Hamburg; the odd thing from Brazil; employees wearing top hats; and toilet signs in German.
The Mini Mundo cafe was pretty average, but the woman who worked there was nice. There weren’t many visitors in general – ten at most – and none of those that were there went into the cafe, so she seemed kinda happy to have something to do. Neither of us spoke each other’s language, so we fuddled along with miming and pointing. It wouldn’t be possible to have a nicer interaction with someone even if we did speak the same language. And she had braces on her teeth which always makes me like people.
A bus back to Porto Alegre, then to the ticket office, a quick and disgusting burger in one of the grim greasy spoons at the station (I wonder who first thought of that description of a crappy cafe), and then to the bus which was heading for various points along the road to Montevideo. Getting onto the bus was a right pain in the chuff, though. It’s like being at an airport with none of the obvious steps in the process marked out in a specific order. And with the added hassle of people in the queue and around the queue who aren’t travelling, just saying goodbye. There’s about four pieces of paper that you have to give the bus operator staff. They put sticky numbers on your bag and take your passport, which worried me a touch. Then I had to give a number to the operator that the baggage guy had given me. Really bloody confusing stuff. I neglected that last step, but noticed something going on out of the window that suggested I should’ve given the number to them. I got up from my seat and went down the aisle. I saw a girl who looked European and traveller-y. I asked her if she spoke English. She did. She told me that I did have to give the number to the guy. She sounded German, so – in German – I asked if she was. At that point, she suddenly got all unfriendly, which was a bit odd. Don’t worry, luv, I’m not hitting on you, just being friendly.
So, at just gone 10pm, the bus backs out and we’re haring along with the radio on a bit too loud for my liking. Much as I like “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo, I’m not sure I want it to the last song I hear before my eardrums are punctured. The stewardess, if that’s the right word, had a microphone. She was flitting between Portuguese and Spanish, and blabbering on about Coca Cola and Pepsi for a good couple of minutes. I got the impression she was trying to get some sort of party atmosphere going. Either that or she was – unsuccessfully – practicing her stand-up routine. I was a tad worried about the driver. We’d already had the brakes slammed on fairly hard once, accompanied by the sound of a passing lorry honking its horn and we weren’t even out of Porto Alegre. I felt a bit safe, though, as there was a military police man sat on the seat opposite me who also looked concerned. He had four chevrons on his sleeve, so I guess he’s some sort of super-lieutenant or something. I figured any more horseplay from the driver would see some sort of one-man vehicular junta.
After the stewardess had pressed play on the DVD player (some film with The Rock playing an American football player), we got to the refreshments. Pepsi was the only option, so she must’ve been apologising to Coke fiends earlier. We got a sandwich without a crust or, for that matter, any flavour. We got a buffet-style sausage roll with about an inch of hot dog sausage in it. And we got a cup cake with chocolate chips stuck to the cup not the cake. We were also given a knife and fork. Not entirely sure what we were supposed to use them for, but then I saw the policeman using his to eat the sandwich. Maybe he’d just seen that Seinfeld episode.
Some brief drifts of sweaty sleep, nothing too substantial, and at 4.30am we arrived at the border. Seemed to take forever on the Brazilian side. Long enough for me to go and have a fag, have another little nap, and then have another fag. Sure enough, though, we were heading into Uruguay. Wah-hoo.
Another bit of sleep, the iPod shuffling to “Tubular Bells,” and being happily aware of it until I was properly awoken by the bells themselves. Open the eyes, and it’s daylight outside. Lots of fields, lots of cows. A shit beaker of coffee later, and it’s 8.30am and I’m getting off the bus at Punta del Este.
I change up the few remaining reais I have and set about finding an ATM to get some more money. It took a while, ’cause two machines kept telling me I didn’t have enough funds. This wasn’t true, but it did worry me a touch, so I spent 10% of the Uruguayan pesos that I did have on a coffee, mulled over the possibility of all ATMs in this town telling me to piss off, and set off again, going further and further until I found one that gave me that lovely fluttering-of-money sound.
Now I’m at the hotel, which looks all swish downstairs, but the moment you get in the lift, it suddenly becomes quite ugly. It’s not really a big deal as I’ll only be here for one night, but one does get the feeling that one has been ripped off a touch. But, I can see the ocean, which is never a bad thing, and I figure it’s my duty to go and have a paddle.