Often touted as the longest bus ride in the world, Ormeno's Lima to Sao Paulo clocks a fine 5600km. Surprisingly, the same company's Lima to Buenos Aires only comes in at about 4400km. But, Ormeno also operates Caracas to Lima, coming in at around 4400km. Pluma's direct connection between Santiago and Sao Paulo is 'only' 3300km.
The latter is the journey I'm taking. After being deported from Brazil four weeks prior, short term one way plane tickets turned out to be unreasonably expensive. But, while the direct connections leave only 1-2 times a week, I ended up choosing a broken journey via Buenos Aires, which will see me travel for about 3700km, with a 12 hour layover in the Paris of the Americas, bringing the total duration of this journey to close to three full days.
In BA, I arrived in the morning, leaving at night, I had enough time to stop by a few museums. Except that it was Monday and they were all closed. So, I worked, and marveled over the high prices of, well, everything (was it that bad last year?) in the Argentine capital.
Finally getting on my second bus, with only a handful of other passengers, suggesting this particular long distance connection, all the way to Rio, won't survive for much longer, we were offered a piece of hard candy to suck on and, moments later, whiskey on the rocks, immediately making this the most fancy bus ride I've ever been on.
This was followed up with a very liberal refill, somewhat of a challenge on not overly smooth roads, and, later, where am I?, champagne.
At the border, similar to my previous attempt at getting into Brazil, Kafka would have been proud. It took them an hour claiming that i needed to pay fines for previously overstaying, even if I had proof of payment on me (which they seemed baffled by). Huffing, puffing, checking my details in multiple computer systems later, I could sense there was a leaning to letting me in the country. Finally, my passport was handed over to a clerk to be stamped, only to be told that, now, the story was that I only could come back into the country many months after having previously left.
Nonsense. What this shows is that no one working immigration in Brazil actually knows the law and, worse, their computers are not configured in accordance with the law.
I told, now a crowd, in Portuguese, that I was, in fact, allowed back in the country. Not only does the law, of which I carried a copy, confirmed this, it was what I had been told in São Paulo and what was confirmed by the executive director of the federal police (a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend), a letter of which I had a copy of.
More huffing and puffing, until what seemed to be the senior officer on duty came over to me and, annoyed, made it clear that the law was different from what I claimed and that the letter I carried from the executive director was no legal document.
Callimg Natalia, who was going to call in reinforcements, I had to ask several times when I then would be allowed into the country.
December 23, I was told. But, the story wasn't over. Although I had been given back my passport, staff was still clearly not finished with my case. After a few minutes, one of them picked up my passport again, stamped it, gave me three months, and that was that.
What made them change their minds? It's possible that our ambassador friend had quickly stepped in, but I think time was too short for that.
I did mention near the end that my girlfriend is Brazilian, which seemed to ameliorate the crowd, but that was already after they seemed to want to try to figure out how to get me in.
I suspect that my showing them the letter from the executive director annoyed the highest ranking officer, possibly through creating a sense of going over his head. His first reaction was to deny me entry, but his second might have been the realization that I, or rather, the letter, was probably right and that, not letting me in, might come to haunt him at a later date.