So. After we woke up from our nap, and after I’d churned out a blog post, Rich and I headed out onto the streets of Miami for a drink, some food, and to try to figure out what to do next. Our first stop was at ODB – The Other Daiquiri Bar – where we enjoyed NOT a daiquiri, but a mojito. We had two. We were seated next to the marina where I spied with my little eye some kind of finned beast bobbing out of the water; shark?; dolphin?; or too much rum in my mojito?
So our plans. What to do? This whole sitch had really put a dampener on things. Carol at the visa office was apparently sorting things with the Brazilian consulate, but neither of us had much faith that things would work out in our favour. We toyed with the idea of staying in Miami for a week, but were both dead against the idea of being in a city this big and frenetic and Don Johnson-y. Should we go to Savannah? Or San Francisco? Or head back to Central America? Or tweak our plans and re-route our way through South America? The thought of all that reorganisation and cancelling plans and booking new adventures made my head spin.
After a weird and not quite delicious meal, we headed back to our room. We emailed Carol again for an update (we’d had no word from her all day – our travel agent had let us know that she was working on it, but nada from Carol herself). We looked out the window. We wondered if it would be worth booking a room for the following night, given the difficulties we experienced in getting this one.
Then. A call. It seemed that Carol had some magic wand she was able to wave. It was a fella from the Brazilian consulate in Canberra. In a nutshell, he said:
- We had the correct visas – there was no reason why the airline shouldn’t let us onto the flight to Manaus
- He was faxing through a document to us on embassy letterhead, explaining this
- He was also sending documentation through to the airline in Miami
- Finally, he had worded up the Brazilian consulate in Miami; he had given us phone numbers of his embassy contacts, to be used only as a last resort
OMG. Carol must have a super dooper magic wand!!!
We were still not 100% convinced. We put in a call to the airlines head office – at this point, it seemed like the problem with our visas was emanating not from Brazil, but from the airline! Sheesh! Rich chatted to a fella named Manuel, who confirmed what Julio from the embassy had told us – our visas were fine to travel on. There would NOT be a problem getting onto the next mornings flight to Manaus.
So then it was all systems go. We hurriedly packed our bags, set our alarms for 2.45am, organising a wakeup call for 3am (just in case), then attempted to get some shut-eye. It’s really hard to force yourself to sleep at midnight, knowing you have to get up in just under 3 hours. It was not a very successful venture. Add to this that the night before we had been in the airport for eight hours, with zero sleep whatsoever.
Alarms buzzed and phones rang and we were UP! And we were dressed and ready and outta that room in 10 minutes. In a taxi. At the airport. Straight to the check-in counter. We were not faffing around. I did something I’ve seen other people do (and always mentally strike them down) and I bypassed the queue and headed straight to the counter, seeking out our un-friendly supervisor from the night before.
There she is. I’d know her pinchy face and ‘sympathetic’ eyebrows anywhere.
We showed her our official fax. We explained what we’d been doing for the past 24 hours. We told her there was no reason at all not to let us onto the flight. We were quite jubilant.
And she shook her head and said “This is just a piece of paper. This changes nothing. You have the wrong visas.”
Despite the BRAZILIAN CONSULATE telling us we did. Aaaaarrrgggghhhh!!!! We started to get a bit tetchy then. It was becoming very clear to us that the decision not to let us board was coming from HER, not from immigration, or the Brazilian authorities. I’m not a violent person, but I’ve gotta tell you, I was so keen to flick her on the forehead with the biro she incessantly clicked throughout the duration of our dramaz.
Her eyebrows caterpillar-ing over her face, her forehead crinkling with each refusal to let us board, she finally brought out the ripper “It seems like you are having trouble understanding my English. I’ll get someone else.” And off she went.
Is this too boring? I think I might crack open the nutshell again:
- A chap called Leonardo came over and he smiled a lot
- He said he was going to send through our documentation to the authorities in Manaus (which is weird, because eyebrow-face said she’d already done that)
- He said he was going to GET US ON THAT FLIGHT TO MANAUS
- He ushered us along to another check-in counter, where a lovely lass tagged our luggage and issued our tickets and made small talk
Leonardo came back, and made a number of contradicting statements: firstly, that the issue was with the federal police in Manaus, not immigration (so how does ANYONE get into Manaus?? Weird); then he said that there wasn’t anyone actually at Manaus Airport at the mome for him to talk to and word up (soooo…. when eyebrows said she’d faxed through our docs to Manaus the day before, and earlier that morning, no one was even there to receive them/tell her that they would deny us entry???); then he said that we were OK to enter Brazil via Sao Paolo; then he said that he could definitely get us on a flight to Manaus, but not this flight to Manaus. The so-called ‘connecting flight’ would get us in the next day. More than 24 hours away.
I took a deep breath and dug my nails into the counter. Rich turned away and I think I saw some smoke come out of his ears.
I’m not even really sure what happened next. Leonardo said there was a flight going to Sao Paolo in a few hours and he would put us in ‘great seats’, but where did that leave us? If we were able to get on a connecting flight to Manaus, there would still be the uncertainty of not being allowed through immigration, even if we cleared customs in Sao Paolo. Boring. Besides which, it would be at least another 24 hours of transit. We called Brad – I’m pretty sure he had smoke coming out of his ears as well. After a hurried conversation, we decided:
Rio. We’ll go to Rio.
Leonardo booked us onto the flight to Sao Paolo. Brad booked our tickets from Sao Paolo to Rio. And that was that. Because the tickets were not being issued by the airline directly, Leonardo explained that we would need to clear customs and immigration in Sao Paolo, get our bags, re-check them, get our tickets, and then get on the flight.
Which would have all been fine, had our flight from Miami not been delayed by an hour. We landed in Sao Paolo at 8.45pm that night, ready to run to immigration and to the baggage carousel and to the ticketing counter.
Then, this happened:
- The plane sat on the tarmac for 15 minutes after landing
- Rather than pulling up at the terminal, we had to get a bus from the tarmac. Rich ran down the rickety plane stairs, and I followed suit, except I got stuck behind a 100-year-man being escorted down the stairs by a flight attendant and could not get past. Just as I got to the bottom and was running towards the bus, it drove off. Rich was actually crushed in the door holding his arm out to grab onto me, like he was Indiana Jones or something. I cried “Waaaiiiitttt!!!!!” and all the cleaning ladies about to board the plane to vacuum up crumbs all threw up their hands. The bus did not wait. I had to wait for the next one
- Ironically, when we got to the baggage carousel, my bag came out straight away
- Ironically, Rich’s did not. In fact, it didn’t come our for flipping ages
Then we did the unthinkable, and split up. I ran through customs and to the ticketing counter and, after a warbled exchange of attempted Portuguese, I was told that:
The flight to Rio was closed.
Did you feel the earth move, ever so slightly, around 11am AEST yesterday? Mayhaps you thought it was a little earthquake? Nay, it was me, banging my head against the ground in Sao Paolo.
Tired and weary, we left the airport in search of a hotel with a restaurant. It was after 10pm, neither of us had eaten since the night before, so a hotel restaurant, however was revolteh, was essential. We arrived at a Comfort Inn by shuttle bus, just in time to see a VERY buxom broad (clothes two sizes too small, lots of boob on display, denim hotpants – that can only really be described as denim underpants – and sky-high heels. And… was she wearing a blingin’ lettered necklace that said ‘TRASH’ or were my tired eyes playing tricks on me?) exit the lift with her goon boyf (or p to the i to the mp?) to meet his goon friends in reception. Nice place.
I’m not going to tell you what we had for dinner last night. But if you think about what’s likely to be left on a buffet table at the end of the night, I’m sure you’ve got a pretty fair idea. As I opened the lid of each of those stainless steel servers, a little part of me died…
But that’s enough wallowing. Because guess what? This mornings venture through the airport, onto the plane, and into Rio was SMOOTH SAILING!!! We are here. The weather is warm. The dogs are woofing. The streets are bustling. And… there’s no need to set the alarm tomorrow morning… Bliss.