My birthday and the days surrounding it were filled with a whirlwind of emotions, happiness, sadness, fear, excitement, satisfaction, regret, confusion and frustration. Here’s the whole story.
I had a few things I wanted to take care of today, in order to have a great birthday tomorrow. First I wanted to update my blog with my last Pantanal tour, get $ from an ATM, book a flight to Manaus and get the 2.30 direct bus to Bom Jardin.
By 1pm I had finished my blog and wanted to go out for lunch before my bus but it was now raining heavily. I needed the rain to stop by 1.45 so I could go to the bank and get to the bus station. The rain must have known, because it did stop just on time. I got my money and with time running short, took a taxi to the bus station. I got there at 2 and went to buy my ticket. Now it seemed like there was a bus at 3.30, so all my rushing was for nothing. I was on my way to Bom Jardin, armed with just a small paragraph of information from the photocopied pages of the latest edition of Lonely Planet that Joel had at the Pousada.
By 4 my bus had still not arrived. This was unusual for Brazil, almost every bus I had taken left exactly on time. I went back to the place I bought the ticket and now the guy says the bus is at 5 and he gives me a new ticket. That bus leaves on time at 5. At 7.30 the bus makes its first stop in some place I’ve never heard of. The conductor looks at me and is surprised I’m still on the bus. He knows I wanted Bom Jardin but I didn’t know where to get off the bus. I thought we would pull into a station. He says I have to go back to Cuiaba to change buses to go to Bom Jardin. I don’t understand this. He’s trying to explain it to me and a few locals are trying to help. Usually this is the time when some random english speaking local comes out of nowhere to rescue me and translate. Unfortunately this was not one of those times. No one around spoke any english.
I did not want to go back to Cuiaba, it would be late when I got there and I did not want to sleep there again. Finally the bus driver said he would drop me at Bom Jardin. My first bus had left, this was a new bus bound for Cuiaba. They took me on the bus and didn’t charge me anything. We were on our way back to Cuiaba. At about 10pm we stopped in the middle of nowhere. The driver said this was Bom Jardin and I got out.
I looked around, hardly any lights or sign of life, I thought right away, this is not the Bom Jardin I wanted. The reality of the situation hit me, I was on a main highway in the middle of a tiny village at night with all my stuff. I was very vulnerable, I started to get a bit scared. I had to look for a hotel or somewhere to stay the night and figure out the rest tomorrow. I heard loud music and started to wander in that direction. As I got closer I could see a bunch of junk out in front of the loud music place and had second thoughts. Loud music usually means drunk people, which could be a problem. I decided against the loud music place and crossed the road. I took a road that lead to ‘Estancia Billy’. It was like a vacation home and even though there were some lights on, the place was deserted. I contemplated setting up my tent here because it was far from the road but then thought I should look around a bit more.
I got back to the main road and across the street the people from the loud music place were gathering in a small crowd. Two people were facing off in front of each other with the crowd gathered around. It looked like a fight was about to break out any minute. I didn’t like the looks of this at all. I looked straight ahead, picked up the pace and walked more. I crossed the highway further down and began to head towards some lights at a house. It was dark so I had my headlamp on. As I walked towards the house, I could see a bunch of people sitting around a table beside the house. I said `Ola’ loudly and waved my arm. I didn’t want to appear as a threat. One guy came out to confront me. I said I was a tourist and our conversation went like this.
‘Is this Bom Jardin?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Is there a hotel here?’ ‘No, nothing, no hotel, no rooms, nothing, but you can come to the house and have something to eat with us. Everythings cool.’
I wasn’t sure what to do next. I was obviously in the wrong Bom Jardin and thought about trying to flag down a bus back to Cuiaba but I didn’t like that idea so I joined the locals.
This was really strange, some stranger shows up at their house in the middle of the night but these people were super friendly and hospitable. Of course, they didn’t speak a word of english. They gave me some food and beer. The one guy said he had a big heart and could tell that I had a big heart too. There were 2 seniors here, 2 couples with 4 kids in total, 16 cats and about a half a dozen dogs and a parrot. It was a lively place but yet calm and relaxed. They didn’t have running water but I was able to take a bucket shower. This was 2 families, one lived here and the other next door.
I explained to them that I wanted a different Bom Jardin, near Norbres. They understood it was a mistake and that I was in the wrong place. They told me I had to go back to Cuiaba, take a bus to Norbres and then a bus from there to Bom Jardin. This sounded like a good plan. ‘Tomorrow” I told them. My Portuguese is still very limited but it’s getting a bit better and we could communicate most things.
I told them I had a tent and they said I could sleep at their house next door. It was now about midnight. They showed me a place I could set up my tent. It was a starry night and the place had a roof over it so I decide just set up my mosquito net instead, it would be easier. I put down my tarp and sleeping bag and started to hang up my mosquito net. I didn’t get anyones name but the wife saw what I was doing and wasn’t having any of it. They took me to their room with a large bed, single bed, TV and their personal stuff. They started to clean up a bit, they said I could sleep here and they would sleep at the neighbours. I told them this wasn’t necessary, as I was perfectly happy and comfortable sleeping under my mosquito net but they insisted. These people were so nice, I was so lucky. This night could have gone a lot worse. I finally got to sleep around 1am. I’ve never had a day like this before. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t get to the right place.
Why would the ticket seller think I want to come to this small village of nothing in the middle of nowhere? I know it’s none of his business but I’ve had other ticket sellers flat out ask me why I want to go to a place when I try to buy a ticket, not this guy, even though he was helpful. Before I left Cuiaba I asked him if I could borrow his phone to call to book my reserved flight to Manaus. The travel agency was closed sunday. His phone wouldn’t call a cell but a local there to buy a bus ticket just lent me his phone for nothing. Damn, some Brazillians are so helpful. I called the travel agent and gave her my visa number to book the flight. I felt good that that was taken care of.