This morning we said an emotional goodbye to our brother, sister and niece and left Uruguay for what we thought would be the final time, to begin our adventures in Brazil.
The gateway to Brazil from Uruguay's eastern coast is a little town called Chuy or Chui, depending on which side of the border you are on. The town is literally split in two by the main street Avenida Brasil which also acts as the border. You can tell which country you are in by the price tags in the shops, one half of the main street displays prices in Uruguayan Pesos whilst the other half is in Brazilian Reals. Despite this, shops and restaurants on both sides of the border deal interchangeably in Uruguayan Pesos, Brazilian Reals and also American Dollars to the extent that you can pay in Dollars and request half your change in Pesos and half in Reals if you so wish. You need to know your exchange rates and sums so you don't get ripped off mind!
This was actually the third time we'd been to Chuy, as our experience of Uruguay has been that it's extremely expensive. When we arrived in Punta del Diablo we'd been told about this tax free haven less than an hour away where we could buy cheap food and drink so had made a couple of trips already to do just that. There really isn't much to the town other than cheap supermarkets and duty free shops so people tend to either make a brief visit to take advantage of these or pass straight through - which is what we were planning on doing today.
Whilst it's interesting that you are able to stand in the middle of the street and have one foot in Uruguay and one foot in Brazil, it's not the type of place that we would choose to spend any amount of time in. Chuy has a reputation for being a bit dodgy after dark, maybe it's the town's transient nature that lends it this edge - people and goods passing freely from one country to the next without any border controls.
We'd arranged to stay a couple of nights in Florianopolis, our first stop in Brazil, with a new friend we'd made whilst in Uruguay. The plan was to arrive in Chuy, walk over the border to the Brazilian bus stop and catch an overnight bus, but we hadn't fully researched the journey due to the lack of wi-fi in Punta del Diablo. Unfortunately we hadn't accounted for Sunday bus times and found upon arrival to Chuy, via a fleeting free wi-fi connection in the main square, that there was only one bus - in half an hours time.
We thought we could just about make it if we skipped lunch and hot footed it straight there, which isn't so easy with backpacks in tow and midday heat, but we made it. Or so we thought. As we were only crossing a street, we hadn't given any consideration to the hour time difference between the two countries and our only bus out of Chuy had already left for the day. We trudged back across the road to Uruguay, back to the main square with the frustratingly shitty wi-fi and began our search for somewhere to stay.
After not finding a single place on the hostel booking websites that we use, we decided to cross back into Brazil and try our luck with the hotels just off the main street and settled upon Hotel Bianca. We asked to see the room before we paid and were shown to the ominously numbered room 13. We just couldn't refuse when we saw the lovely view from the window and the wonderfully novel 'shoilet' (that's a toilet in a shower for those of you who haven't lived).
As Sarah began making use of the facilities she absent-mindedly started to sing the well known Animals hit - 'We Gotta Get Out Of This Place'. Hopefully tomorrow we will.
James & Sarah x