Saturday, September 02, 2006

Sao Paulo in a Tiny Ford

When one has a long layover in Sao Paulo with nothing to do and not a lot of cash, renting a car for the day at the Sao Paulo airport is actually less expensive than 3 people taking the bus roundtrip into the city and paying to store your luggage. To me, this sounded like the clear winning choice and that is what we did.

How naive.

First, the international airport is so far from the city that it didn't appear on any of the 4 maps that we had. So with some grunting and pointing, the man from the car rental place told us how to get into town. What he wasn't able to communicate, was that it was around an hour's drive (I think, I never actually got there or back in one straight shot).

I drove, husband crinkled the map around a lot, and son slept in the backseat. The highway consists of 4 lanes. The right 2 lanes are reserved for trucks. These trucks are barely running, engulfed in black smoke, rattling, shaking, squealing, bumper to bumper trucks. The left 2 lanes are reserved for cars. In between the 2 car lanes, along the dashed line, is reserved for motorcycles. And pretty much everybody who isn't walking, is driving a motorcycle. And they don't just dash along quickly between the cars, they honk continually to let you know that they are coming. Except they are always coming. There is never a time when a motorcycle is not passing you. This makes it nearly impossible to change lanes between the 2 car lanes without pulverizing a motorcycle.

After about half an hour of driving and not finding anything familar on the map, we realized that we were going in a big wing circumnavigating the city. This became apparent as we got into range of the map on the west side of the circle, after going around it about 240 degrees, and names started to match up with the map. We were trying to get to the Snake Park, but wound up in Jardims, a very nice neighborhood with organic food markets, high rise condos and kosher restaurants.

We tried to park on the street when I realized that I had no idea how to get the car into reverse. My wrist, 3 weeks later, still hurts from the struggle with the stick shift. Therefore, husband had to get out of the car and push me into the spot. Many loitering men assisted very pleasantly. However, upon further investigation it seemed that we weren't legally parked, so out we went and into ... a dead end, whereupon he had to push me backward all the way out of the dead end and back to the street. Next stop, parking lot, where the attendant showed me how to get into reverse. He couldn't, however, figure out how to show us on the map how to get back to the airport. I think he didn't know where the airport is. And why should he? It's so far away it might as well be in Argentina.

Next stop, gas station, for directions. Luckily there is a cop there who is very happy to grunt, point and wrinkle the map in an attempt to communicate with us non-Portuguese speakers. After a while he said that we should follow him, though we couldn't figure out how far he would take us, but it seemed that at least he could get us back to the highway. It would have been a great plan if the cop car would have started.

We did finally get back to the airport, though we are not sure how it happened because we never did find out where we were on the map, and we didn't see signs until we got quite close. It was like a magnet pulling us back.

And in the end, after the parking fees and gas, it wasn't cheaper than the bus and storage at all. But I did get to drive the tiniest car ever made for 6 hours. I am still sad that we never got to the Snake Park, that would have been fun.

1 comment:

Jeannine said...

Jill, you're a riot. Love your writing style. Jeannine