Got myself organised and down to the quay in plenty of time for the ferry. In fact I was second in the queue for tickets but the ticket counter wasn’t open yet. Just like the one for the bus it resembled a junk room more than an office. We waited and waited and by the time it got to 10 a.m. there was still no sign of the ferry arriving, let alone being ready to leave. In the meantime I had been idly reading a notice on the wall which confirmed that services would be running normally on 21st April – that is, today even though this was a national holiday. This rang a vague bell – remember thinking that this would not be a good day to travel! The ferry arrived shortly after 10 but it soon became apparent that half the population of Brazil had arrived to take their long weekend holiday on Ilha Grande and they were taking to disembark. Just as In Spain, if a holiday falls on a Thursday, or presumably a Tuesday, a lot of people also take the day between that and the weekend as a holiday, giving them a four day break for only one day’s leave – some businesses shut for the whole period.
We eventually left dock about half an hour late so I had definitely missed the bus that I was aiming for at Angra dos Reis (thank goodness the ticket office was never open) and I could also spend the rest of the time worrying about what the implications of the holiday were for the rest of my travel plans and, in particular, the travel time into Rio de Janeiro bus station. The Dutch couple had told me that it had taken them six hours to do the three hour journey last Saturday!! As there was nothing I could do about it decided to play it by ear when I got to the bus station. In contrast to the number of people arriving on Ilha Grande, the number leaving by ferry was tiny so plenty of opportunity to walk around and take photos without worrying about baggage. Realised that if I had looked at a map I would have had a better idea of whether I was looking at other islands or the mainland but it was all very pretty anyway.
We docked at the port after 12 noon. Started walking in the direction of the bus station after asking a policeman , unnecessary really because there were a lot of people pulling cases heading in the one direction. However had already walked about half the way if the estimate of 15 mins I had been given by the bus company employee was right and no sign of the bus station or of a taxi which had been the original plan. It was about 35 degrees and there was no shade. I had just stopped to swap hands – these cobbled pavements were all very pretty but not very practical when an older respectable-looking gentleman stopped me and asked if I was going to the bus station – in Portuguese of course. When I admitted I was, he replied firmly that it was much too far for me to walk in that heat and that sun – it was OK for the young ones but definitely not for me! He would show me where I could catch a bus. So we started walking back the way I had come. I said I had been hoping to get a taxi but hadn’t seen a single one when, low and behold, one appeared in front of us. He stopped it, spoke to the taxi driver and told me that the fare was 15 Reais – about £3 so that was me sorted! It appears that Brazilians don’t believe in minding their own business – and what a good thing that is – at least it has been for me.
I ended up catching the 1 a.m. bus to Rio, instead of the 12 noon one. so was already going to be later than the estimated time of arrival that I had given Miriam, my next Airbnb host. She had twice asked me for my ETA , the second time after I had already given it to her, explaining that I couldn’t guarantee it – everything depended on the buses and the traffic. This bus, unlike the one I had travelled in going west to Paraty appeared to take a different route – it literally went all around the houses and there seemed to be speed bumps to negotiate for at least half the journey. It was obvious that it was going to take longer than the three hours the staff had predicted. After three hours we had scarcely reached the suburbs of Rio. Fortunately , in contrast to the outward journey, we whizzed through these without any delays at all.
Thought that finding the right ticket office at Rio Bus station would be a piece of cake as I remembered seeing the one for Petrópolis when I caught the bus for Paraty – it was was downstairs on the same level as the actual buses. However couldn’t see it anywhere and the signs said the ticket office was upstairs – so I went upstairs, asked at least twice and went all round the ticket hall which was enormous. At this point I realised I had only seen a tiny part of Rio’s bus station during my previous visit. No wonder I had thought it seemed small! When I asked for the third time I failed to understand the reply which was ’em baixo’ , in spite of the fact that it had been in about lesson two of my Teach Yourself Portuguese Course and had it translated for me – downstairs! As soon as I got to the right part of ‘downstair’ I recognised it, of course. Should have had more faith in my sense of direction.
Had already sent Miriam her a message via her Airbnb UK number (don’t know how this part of their system works at all) saying that it would be at least 6.30 p.m. before I arrived.However she had wanted me to WhatsApp her. Managed to get connected to free wifi at the bus station without having to give my passport number, maiden name of mother and all the other info they normally require. Was somewhat alarmed to see that she apparently received this and had sent me a Whatsapp about an hour beforehand asking me to let her know about any delay as it was her mother’s birthday!. I replied to this straight away but began to think that this was a major drawback of Airbnb. If you are travelling by public transport you simply cannot predict your arrival time accurately – it really wasn’t my fault I was late and I didn’t want to feel guilty about it. That and the possibility that when you arrive your host is not going to be there seem to me to be the most problematic aspects of the system. At least when you book into a pousada or hotel you can be reasonably sure that there will be somebody there to let you in.
Paradoxically, the bus to Petrópolis only took an hour, when I am sure I had been told it would be an hour and a half so now I was going to be ‘early’ ! It was a pity the journey took place in the dark as we were climbing continuously after leaving Rio – the scenery must be spectacular.. Prayed that the taxi would get stuck in traffic but it didn’t. Anyway Miriam was in, greeted me enthusiastically, showed me one room then suggested I would be better off with the other, had a few problems with the hot water boiler, which she apparently sorted, showed me where the nearby restaurant was and disappeared saying I could Whatsapp her if there were any problems. She lives in a house in the same grounds about 20 yards away!! (In fact I realised the next day it was all one enormous house.) There were problems – the restaurant was shut – because of the national holiday She came over and suggested I order a pizza for delivery – she was concerned about me wandering around at night in a city I didn’t know, so was I. I suggested she might like to do the ordering on the phone for me – which she did. Have never eaten so many pizzas in my life – this must be the third or fourth since I arrived and to add insult to injury it was a Domino’s one!! I didn’t come all this way…. Actually it was quite good! Watched a bit of Brazilian TV before I went to bed; aging male presenters – not even distinguished looking and glamorous young female ones half their age – it’s as bad as Spain and worse than the UK. And to make things worse they all seem to be light-skinned unless they are doing the weather!