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March 27, 2005

chui: the ass end of brasil

When I got to Pelotas last night, my choices for getting to Montevideo were limited, I decided to take the quickest option which was leave for the border town of Chui at 6:30pm. I had been told that it would take two hours to get there and then two hours more to Montevideo. I figured I had a shot of making it all the way there before midnight. It actually took four hours. Right before the bus reached Chui we pulled over to the side of the road to go through the Brasilian checkpoint and that's when things started going downhill.

When I entered Brasil via Rio de Janeiro in February I was given some kind of immigration form, a little white piece of paper. When I left Garopaba for Porto Alegre, I wasn't planning on leaving the country so I didn't occur to me to make sure I had everything I'd need. Naturally I need this form, the Policia Federal officer was a real asshole about it too. He said I could continue on to Chui to spend the night and then head back to Garopaba in the morning, and that if I tried to keep going into Uruguay he would see my name on the immigration list and then (at this point he makes finger cutting throat movement). Nice guy. Fucker.


So I get to Chui which is this weird town with the border running right down the middle of the main avenue. On one side is Uruguay and the other side is Brasil. Both sides are crappy. There's trash everywhere and dilapidated buildings. I wander around in the dark eventually finding a hotel on the Brasilian side for R$18 a night and check into a sad little room.

Streets of Chui Streets of Chui

In the morning I wake early and go to the bus station to get a ticket back to Porto Alegre and meet frustration #2 (try to keep count).  The man there refuses to sell me a ticket out of Chui BECAUSE I DON'T HAVE THAT FUCKING PIECE OF PAPER. I was starting to feel like I was in a Jim Jarmusch movie as I walked out of the bus station and wandered around trying to figure out where the Policia Federal building was. Early morning wandering around deserted streets in this Tex-Mexish border town with piles of trash blowing by like tumbleweeds. Soundtrack: Cowboy by The Sugarcubes.

Chui Streets of Chui

I find a taxi and the guy drives me to the immigration station just outside of town. I'm able to explain my situation to both him and the officer there well enough in Portuguese, but I can't understand what they're trying to tell me. Eventually it comes out that I can pay a fine of R$165 (about US$65) and then I'm golden, I can even go on to Montevideo. I can't just hand him the cash though (so much for the bribery stereotypes of Latin America), there's some complicated procedure involving going to some website and filling out a form, then going to a bank and paying them the money, then going back to the immigration station with a receipt. I guess. It's not really all that clear. We spent a long time trying to make me understand all this, eventually a traveler came through who spoke enough English to explain the above to me, although he was also unclear on exactly what was entailed.

So great. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, today is Sunday and the banks are closed. That damn christian mythology again. So I have at least another 24 hours in this purgatory which seems to be leaning to the hellish side. The taxi driver takes me back into town and shows me the cybercafe, which is closed of course, and then takes me to the hotel. I was planning on giving him a healthy tip since he spent time inside the Policia Federal station trying to help out, but as he was running off the meter he named his own price when I left and made sure it included some extra.  No biggie though, it was about what I was planning on giving him anyhow.

I spend the day drinking beer, watching Brasil beat Peru on TV, and wandering around town. There was plenty of siesta time thrown in there too, which is probably about the best way to pass the time here. The town is mostly just trash blowing in the wind and outlet-factory-ish shopping. I walked for a bit out of town to the east hoping I'd get to a beach quickly, but gave up after I realized I could see the tops of trees way off in the distance. There's a sad little kiddie park on the Uruguayan side, a lot of beat up looking dogs and rusted out cars puttering up and down the main avenue. It gets old fast.

Chui's Amusement Park Image184

Eventually as the sun is going down I find an open Internet cafe on the Uruguayan side, which is where I am right now. Of course the first thing I try to do is type in the URL printed on the document they gave me at the Policia Federal station. Of course it doesn't work. I fiddle around a bit and manage to get a form to come up which looks like it is probably the right one, however it has several fields to fill in that I cannot, such as CPF/CNPJ # which is like the Social Security number for Brasilians. GREAT. FIGURES.

Tune in tomorrow, kids. Same crappy town. Same crappy trip.

02:35 PM in Travel | Permalink


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So sorry to hear about all this, baby. Just think I'll be with you soon and we can hug it all off. Hang in there. Kiss!

Posted by: mie | Mar 27, 2005 3:14:07 PM

bummer! I'm sorry to hear about your frustrations. I hope you are able to get out in the next day or so. I had the same frustration wit the christian holiday crap today, when I rushed off to Trader Joe's in the rain, trying to make it before closing .only to find they closed early due to easter. who celebrates easter at night anyway? if they're going to honor christian holidays, they should at least be practical and just open late so their employees can go hunt for easter eggs or whatever. anyway, best of luck in making it out of that twilight zone town.

Posted by: Elida | Mar 27, 2005 9:06:51 PM

Looks like I´m making it out of here in an hour (Crossing my fingers)

Thanks for the sympathy :)

Posted by: Dav | Mar 28, 2005 6:50:00 AM

i know exactly what you mean. i was at the same spot on christmas eve. chui is lost somewhere in nobody's memory. me and my sister spent hooours playing cards sitting on dusty incredible brazilian bus station.
but, hey, i still have here the phone number of this taxi driver who saved my life when i was there. his name is pili, his taxi is white and numbered 77. his parking spot is that road (the infamous one that divides the fontier), near a cassino i think. his number: 099 874076.
i think i told you i had fogotten my id card here and had a lot of trouble for that whe i was there. but he helped me out. maybe you could talk to him. i am not sure he speaks english, thou. spanish and portuguese for sure. trustworthy fella. sends my regards if you meet him.

Posted by: marta | Mar 28, 2005 7:42:50 AM


Wow, the incredible adventures continue.....you probably didn't bargain for all that hassle, but welcome to travelling amounst the pettiness of third world destinations. Peter and I experienced this kind of thing all over Central and West Africa. It makes you wonder if the country nationals (tourist ministries and such) are even aware that such admin hassles will discourage future tourists dinero from entering their coffers....it's so lame, you know, the held over a barrel thing. While travelling, P. and I spent a good eprcentage of time either recovering from such hassles or just laying low, enduring the broken-ness of the "systems." I was never so thankful for the greyhound bus system untilafter I spent those many months trying to arrange/coordinate small-town travel in C.A.R. Thankfully, in USA, it's one man-one-bus-seat. Hey, without all those Christian myths, we wouldn't be able to celebrate Saint Longinus day.

Posted by: mr | Mar 30, 2005 7:14:24 AM

Mike, well I wouldn't begin to compare this with what the Central African Republic must be like. Although perhaps I'd have an easier time there since my asian eyes would strike fear into the hearts of the locals! (Inside joke, for those of you who aren't Mike).

And a happy Saint Longinus Day to all.

Posted by: Dav | Apr 6, 2005 6:01:56 PM

hey; I lived in chuy for about four months in the year 1992. Seeing your fotos sure brought back many memories of filling out papers with the police.thanks for the flash-backs

Posted by: troy | Dec 15, 2006 5:04:53 PM

You have 3 strikes against you before you ever started!





Posted by: mark | Feb 26, 2007 1:08:27 AM

gringos ignorantes no tienen idea de nada, los sacan de un centro de compras y se ponen a llorar ¡Amargos!

Posted by: Argentina | Jan 7, 2009 7:21:51 PM

What a nightmare!!!!

I'm in Porto alegre now and I was planning to take a bus to chuy... I have troubles with my visa (I´m colombian and my time on brasil was over a month ago) Now after reading your post I´m freaking out...I see the police there is not quite charming as the ones from Iguazu...and I thing they will ask me to pay a lot....
At least I know that I have to take a direct bus to Momtevideo and not to chuy which I was planning to do before reading your story

thanks for sharing this information

Posted by: Lucy | May 15, 2009 8:29:09 AM

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