By Ricky Skelton
My first long-distance bus journey in Brazil, and the worst one by far. It had to get better after this one. And to think we were running through the streets of Ipanema with huge bags because we were afraid of missing it.

A late booking meant we had aisle seats near each other. As we sat in our seats, we played Bussian Roulette (Onibussian Roulete in Portuguese). Three of us in our seats watching the front for the people getting on, wondering who you were going to spend the next twenty hours sitting next to. The boys were hoping for a beautiful tanned brasileira wearing little more than a bikini. You sit, you wait, you watch. The couple? No, not them. They’re looking further back. The sweaty obese man? He sensibly booked the first row. Nobody else getting on? The bus set off. We all had double seats. Result! We didn’t know about the stop over the bridge at Niteroi. Then I saw her. I knew immediately that she was mine, my bus partner. Her and her tiny baby. I could feel it. They walked up to my seat, and sure enough, twas her. As I stood up to let her past, I could hear the laughter of the others. Twenty hours of dribbling, crying, screaming, gurgling, burping, farting, and other nasty smells. Poor them, how were they going to put up with me? We’d all lost the roulette.

As I looked forward to my sleep being disturbed by regular bouts of breast-feeding (not me you fools), as has happened on other buses before for me, my only consolation was that Barnoldinho hadn’t won either. The leggy beach-babe never materialised. He had a middle-aged woman with various smelly plastic food containers to contend with. We left Niteroi behind and headed north.

My partner and her baby lowered their seat and closed their eyes. I swear, they stayed in the exact same position for twenty hours, without making a single noise. I think somebody drugged them. The journey seemed uneventful. I slept fitfully, we stopped regularly, the usual. At one stop, the bus disappeared without telling us. It returned half an hour later, probably a little lighter, and not just because of the cleaning. At some point I noticed my bag had been tampered with but it still had the zips and padlock in place. It wasn’t until we arrived in the pousada in Arraial d’Ajuda and tried to put some music on that I realised my ipod had gone. I hate those moments. It takes half an hour of searching, re-searching, unpacking and unravelling for you to admit what you knew immediately. Your gear has been nicked. A digital camera too. With huge memory card bought specifically for taking photos of all those amazing things I would see in Brazil without ever running out of space, as had happened in other places. All of them presents. All of them gone. Amazing photos of Costa Verde, Ilha de Gigoia, Carnaval in Rio, Pão de Acucar and Cristo’s feet. All gone forever. Plus passports, documents, and other less important things. It’s always hard to accept this. I checked my bag every few minutes for the next few days just to make sure it wasn’t hiding the things from me. I still check it occasionally now, just in case I missed a quiet corner. I blamed the baby. That whole sleep thing was just a ruse.

The bus company were no help at all, even if they had the names and addresses of all the staff and passengers on the bus. Porto Seguro lawyers advised us to sue them because of their shoddy security measures. They’re lawyers. They didn’t tell us it could take seven levels of appeals until we won. They would win in any case. We would have to make regular, expensive return journeys to the place in order to pursue the case. In Brazil, the legal constitution (drawn up by lawyers) ensures that right of appeal, for those who can afford the legal fees, can be taken all the way to the Supreme Court in Brasilia. It is impossible to extract money from those who already have it. One return visit to Porto Seguro was more than enough to learn our lesson. We dropped the case.

You can visit Ricky’s blog at

Previous articles by Ricky:

Around Brazil: Cristo Redentor
Understanding Brazil: The Sellers
Around Brazil: Ilha de Gigoia
Brazil Journeys: São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro
Understanding Brazil: Dogs Part 2
Brazil: A Lie-In in Downtown São Paulo?
The Best Job in Brazil: Ankle Specialist?
Understanding Brazil: Dogs
Brazilian Places: Ilha do Santa Catarina (Floripa)
Classic Brazilian Journeys: South to Florianopolis
Understanding Brazil – The Shower
Brazil: Boats on the Amazon
Brazil: Understanding Novelas
Brazil: Bus fires in São Paulo – always a bad thing?

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