2 January 2019: Goodbye Rio de Janeiro, hello Rio Das Ostras. My first BlaBlaCar (hitch-hiking) experience in Brazil

I’m currently waiting at some random petrol station for my driver which I found via a hitch hiking app. He’s running late… In fact, I don’t even know if he’s coming. I wish I had someone with me because I need to go to the toilet but I don’t trust anyone to look after my bags. I think if I end up waiting over 1.25 hours, I’m just going to catch a taxi or Uber to the bus station and get the bus to Rio Das Ostras from there. I don’t want to arrive at night but I might have to. I’m trying everything I can to avoid this but I might not have a choice.

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Waiting at the petrol station for my driver

The start of the journey was not good – I got ripped off with the stupid ticket machine. It ticket machine ate 10 reals of mine without registering that I put the money in the machine. After catching a bus, train and another bus, I had to walk a little bit to the meeting point

As soon as I hopped off the bus…I felt scared. I don’t know why but the neighborhood just didn’t feel safe…I was so scared that even my hands were shaking a bit. The only thing which gave me comfort in my safety was that it was broad daylight and that there were other people waiting for different bus on the way…

So what happened beforehand?

After a week of adapting to Brazil and celebrating the new year in Rio de Janeiro…it was time for me to stop being a tourist and start my next Workaway in Rio Das Ostras. I had no idea what to expect from the journey there. I also had no idea what to expect once I got to the Pousada to work. I was already nervous in Rio de Janeiro and it was my first time venturing out to another part of Brazil without the comfort of my friend to look after and support me.

The night before

Last night, I talked to my friend about my transport options to Rio Das Ostras. I was originally planning to get there by bus but then she suggested Bla Bla Car. I’d never heard of it before. She explained – “it’s a hitch-hiking App that we use in Brazil”.

I was a little hesitant because the words “hitch-hiking” and “Brazil” combined together just didn’t sit right with me…especially because I was still determining how safe it was to travel around Brazil…but it didn’t take long to convince me because my friend was so confident in the App, told that me her friends used it before without any problems and that she planned to use it in the near future to travel throughout Brazil.

Plus…it was different, a new and adventurous experience right?

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BlaBlaCar – source: blablacar.com.br

I signed up to the App and started looking for drivers straight away…picking the one my friend recommended…

The only thing was that the meeting point was a 1.5 hour public transport journey from where I was staying. I had to go through 3 transits.. (Ugh… the public transport system in Rio! It’s actually mainly because my friend lives so far from the center)

I wanted to message the potential driver first to check if everything was OK. He responded pretty quickly and we organized everything from there. Sadly, he couldn’t speak English and I can’t speak Portuguese so I had to translate everything to communicate with him but we got there in the end…

We set up a time and meeting place and that was that.

The next day…

Nothing spectacular happened.

I simply got ready, packed, ate a filling breakfast and lunch, organised my things and washed my hair.

After slowly getting ready, I made my way…

The driver offered to pick me up from my friend’s place but for an extra 20 reals (approx AUD$7). I could have easily agreed for convenience but I was up for the challenge and to save a few bucks (as you’d know by now I like doing things the hard way and I am budget traveling so every Real, Dong, Euro, Dollar counts!)

Once I got to the BRT Station (express bus station closest to my friend’s place) I went to the automated ticket machine to top up money on my transport card but something really annoying happened…I put money in and the machine didn’t register that I put money in at all!

I quickly went to the guard and asked him to help me… but he couldn’t really do anything (his job was separate to the bus company unfortunately). The only thing he could do was point to the customer service number but I didn’t have time or faith to make a call and try speaking broken Portuguese via Google Translate.

I could only think of one solution

“Can you at least let me go through for free?”

His thumb went up and he let me through. It was better than nothing.

I stood there…waiting for a while for the bus (maybe about 30 minutes)…

When the bus finally came, it stopped far from where I was standing and I had two choices ~ I could either chase after it or wait for even longer for a bus which stopped conveniently where I was standing.

At this stage…my patience was wearing thin…I didn’t want to wait any longer.

While I was running after the bus, my phone dropped onto the floor but luckily, I managed to quickly pick it up while I was running with all my big luggage hanging all over me (what skill ;)).

I made it! Woo! Even though I was hot, sweaty and carrying all my luggage (it’s SO ridiculously humid in Brazil)…I was so glad I managed to catch the bus. I put one of my bags on the chair and stood while the bus raced forward to the next stop…forever keeping a watchful eye over my bag.

Then came the next task… Catching the metro.

It was probably the longest distance that I’d traveled on the metro so far but it was a very pleasant ride for me because I was so hot by the time I got on the metro that I needed to be on the metro for a while to cool down (the metro tends to have air conditioning at full blast). There were almost no seats but thankfully, a lovely young man gave me his seat.

I was surprised because most of the times I’ve been on the metro, there have usually been entertainers or beggars but there wasn’t a single one this time (boo).

When it was finally time for me to get off, I checked Maps to see where I was supposed go. It was simple enough…walk along the main road for a little bit until I found a bus stop at a main intersection.

I followed Maps’ instructions and found something that looked like a bus stop. It was also at a main intersection. It must have been where I was supposed to wait!

The sun was glaring, it was boiling hot and the wind kept strongly blowing all these golden leaves around me (some almost in my face). There were two other ladies waiting at the stop and some security or police around. I waited and waited and waited….but nothing came for ages.

I didn’t know what to do. I really had no idea what I was doing and wasn’t overly confident that I was in the right spot but couldn’t think of anything else better to do than to wait for longer.

And guess what?

My patience paid off because the bus eventually came…

But I didn’t expect for the simple task of hopping on the bus to be a challenge for me…It was the first time I’d been on the proper public buses in Rio and they were structured a little…differently from express buses I caught.

I followed everyone onto the bus, showed the bus driver my stop…asking if he was headed in the same direction. His nod was enough confirmation for me but then my card had insufficient funds (argh god damn that stupid machine). I had to buy another ticket with cash even though my destination was only three stops away (in retrospect I probably should have just walked).

Why was getting on the bus a challenge? 

When it comes to going on buses in other countries, there are always different systems. The bus system in Rio de Janeiro is built based on trying to reduce people free loading. You need to pay first and go through a gate which only lets you through after you’ve paid.

Unluckily for me, my bags aren’t particularly small so getting through the machine wasn’t the easiest.

The bus driver had to lift up my backpack for me to fit through.

I hopped off when maps told me to get off and went into my little adventurous walk to the petrol station.

It’s now 4.50pm and my driver still isn’t here yet. I hope he comes soon

6.20pm

I’ve been sitting here for basically two and a half hours and my driver still isn’t here. I’m starting to feel tired from sitting and being on my phone for so long.

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The shittest sandwich I had while I was waiting

7.20pm

My driver finally arrived!

I got fed up with waiting inside so I ended up chilling outside and I met some locals who were drinking beer. While I was sitting, waiting, one of the guys walked passed and asked me to watch his bag in Portuguese.

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The workers drinking and smoking outside the petrol station – ironic huh?

I happily said yes. I mean, I had nothing better to do.

He thanked me and when he came back, he sat on a table in front of me, quietly drinking his beer.

The sun was starting to set. The sky looked beautifully orange and pastel.

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Sunset views from the Petrol Station

Then one of the guys from a group nearby offered me a Budweiser. I can never say no to free alcohol so I happily accepted his offer (the bottle was still sealed in case you’re worried about my safety).

I tried opening the bottle with a lighter and the same guy who asked me to watch his bag came to help me open the bottle.

It ended up being a ‘twist top’ (Australian slang for – you don’t need a bottle opener, you can twist the lid off the bottle).

I laughed because I felt stupid and that’s how we started talking.

Guy: “can you speak Portuguese?”

Me: “no”

I was feeling nice and refreshed being able to speak to someone in English.

We had a long conversation about what he was doing there and why everyone was drinking ~ all the people there had just come back from being on a ship for 2 weeks. They were happy to be home.

3 hours had passed by this time and my driver FINALLY came.

The guy helped me to find his car and I was FINALLY on my way!

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The lovely man I met at the Petrol Station

It was a long journey purely because I had to wait for so long (my driver was stuck in traffic and changed the pickup time without telling me) but the ride to Rio Das Ostras was very comfortable and relaxed.

My driver even dropped me off at the Pousada I was working at 🙂

And that’s the story of my first BlaBlaCar experience in Brazil. I hope you enjoyed!

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