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The other side of Brazil

Group of red ibis birds flying
Sunset in style
June 27, 2017
Gauchos in front of their house in Brazil
The stranger
July 26, 2017

He didn't make it without their help


After two luxurious weeks with Ellen and Rob we start cycling again. This time only eight kilometers to the main bus station of Salvador. The stamp in our passport says ninety days and the nearest border is about 3.000 kilometer. This is impossible so we travel all the way with the bus to Porto Alegre. A 60 hour ride, three days in total passing Brasilia and Sao Paulo and along the enormous Brazilian landscapes.

After sixteen hours in the bus we still are in the same state, Bahia, which is bigger than Spain. It is a long ride for the bus driver and a challenge to arrive with all the wheels on the other side. The roads are horrible with craters where we would disappear with our bicycles. Next to this are a huge amount of big trucks going on the road. To Brasilia stocked with gasoline and diesel, and full of soja and corn in the other direction. Uphill they almost can't reach the top, downhill they are speeding up to a killing machine. We trust our bus driver, but hope that nothing will happen because it is almost the middle of nowhere here.

The other side of Brazil
The other side of Brazil

I don't know if it was because he moved a little unstable but at that moment he attracted my attention. The man, who Olivier earlier subscribed as an Indian who only misses his feathers, sits on the other site of the aisle and didn't say a worth until that moment. He turns his head and starts talking with the passengers behind him. Curiously we try to hear what he says and while Olivier understands the words 'me paso mal', I see his eyes rolling up and his mouth opens. Before I realise what I'm doing I try to lay him down on the two seats with his legs in the aisle. Actually I want to have him on the ground, but some other passengers are pulling on his legs and counteracting my moves, so I leave it like this, sent the other passengers away and I only allow one guy to support his legs in a stable side position. I start talking to the stranger, but a blink of the eyes is the only response. I ask one of the women to talk with because I don't speak a word of Portuguese. While I give his documents to the woman, I see his loses his consciousness completely. I pinch him hard in his arms, but no reaction, and feel myself shaking on my legs while I put my hand under his shirt trying to feel his heartbeat and I put my cheek close to his mouth to feel some breathing. 'Shit shit shit' I hear myself thinking when I can't feel both of them. I try to calm my nerves and tell Olivier it is not going good at all, while I hear that Olivier searches someone with medical experience in the bus, without result. My mind gets crazy. 'Calm down Zoë' I say to myself and I try to concentrate on his breath and heart beat while the bus bumps further over the crater road. I try everything to feel his breath, holding my fingers close to his nose and make lips wet and hold them a few millimeters from his mouth to feel some air. Suddenly he starts shaking and gasping for breath. His body starts shaking in a heavy spasm. He will choke. I realise that the only thing we can do, is to make sure he doesn't choke in his tongue. The froth comes out of his mouth while I try to move his head in the right direction, being afraid to death to do something wrong. I try to remember what I have to do when he passes out completely and try to relax my mind with the words from the first aid trainer: 'you won't be able to make him better, you can only try to keep him stable'.

The spasm weakens a little bit and he blinks his eyes again. Very weak he reacts to the name Marcus, which we found in his documents. I am still shaking but feel a little relieved with the sparkles of life that he shows. All this happened in a couple of minutes. In the meantime the bus driver stopped to check the situation and we are on our way to a telephone connection. Because yes, we are in the middle of nowhere. The attacks repeat each other and are frightening. Every five minutes a new spasm comes and his heartbeat drops completely while he gasps for breath. Despite we think about epilepsia, which is confirmed later by the medical documents in his bag, I explain my doubts to Olivier. His eyelids are blue and the inside of his elbows is full with needle injections. Anyways, drugs or epilepsia, we need a doctor quickly. His situation is alarming and we can lose him any moment.

After one hour we finally reach a house where the bus driver calls the emergency with a fixed telephone line. The ambulance is coming in our direction. It takes ages and all the time I'm standing with my hand searching for his heartbeat. I'm watching at his eyes and when they close I shout to wake him up. Olivier hands over wet towels and every five minutes the spasm returns. Although I am more relaxed now, his situation isn't any better. I feel relieved when the bus stops and the medics take over Marcus. Finally he is safe. We pit him on a stretcher and he disappears into the ambulance.

Suddenly all the emotions from the past one and a half hour appear. It is surreal to come so close to an unknown person, smell his breath, count his heartbeat, smell his body odor and feel the tears coming up when you start losing him. I feel left behind because I don't know how he is doing, and if he is still alive. Later we are eating our bread in a roadside restaurant and I feel sick when I smell his odor on my hands. One of the other passengers, who helped carrying the strechter out of the bus, tells us he had heartbeat of twenty. In the bus the driver tells us that his situation still is the same and that he probably didn't survive without our help...

The other side of Brazil
The other side of Brazil

The Brazil that we know from the Northeast changes when we reach Brasilia, the capital. Suddenly we are driving on nice asphalt roads, most of them with double lanes. Along the road are big warehouses like Wallmart and Makro, and there is even a replica of the statue of liberty, which makes us feel in the US instead of Brazil. The bus terminal looks like an airport and the prices are also sky-high. After Brasilia we ride on well maintained highways along enormous agricultural fields. Endless soja, mais and wheat fields took the place of the Atlantic rainforest that strechted all the way along the Brazilian coast. Nowadays there is only a glimpse visible of the original Brazil, the rest could be France or Germany. The South is richer and better developed than the North. Well maintained parks, luxurious cars, roads without craters and organised urban planning. It feels European, definitely after the African tinted Northeast. The people are white, even whiter than we are, surely after a couple of months in the sun. Before travelling in Brazil we thought that there would be only rainforest, parrots and beaches, but Brazil surprises us with it's diversity.

After sixty hours in the bus we arrive in Porto Alegre. The last three days didn't bore us one second and reminded us on the Trans Siberian Express. The sun shines brightly like a beautiful summer day in Europe. The bicycles arrived the three days without any problems and are ready for the next 1.000 kilometer in the South of Brazil and Uruguay. Packed we are waiting for Caroline, our warmshower, who will pick us up at the bus terminal. Expedition Patagonia started!

1 Comment

  1. […] cabin. After one day we feel at home in the truck and aren't bored one single moment. Just like the sixty hour long bus ride in Brazil, time flies. The last night we inflate our small mattress and sleep on the trailer, summing up to […]

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