|We thought since we had
missed the Carnaval parade in Punta, we would try to get some distance
behind us and maybe catch it in Porto Alegre. It was Monday, and since
the main Carnaval activities are Tuesday night, we thought this would be
do-able. Brasil had other plans. I remember reading that American tourists
needed a visa to get into Brasil, but I assumed that it was like the visa
that one gets at any border crossing into Mexico. When we got to the crossing
at Chuy on Monday afternoon, we were told by the officials at the border
that we had to return to the Brasilian consulate in town and procure the
visa or we could not enter. We were told it was not expensive. In the two
guidebooks that we carried, one said it was free, and the other said it
was $28. When we got to the consulate, we were told that they were closed
for Carnaval, and to come back Wednesday at noon. The officials who were
there behaved sullenly, and were anything but sympathetic. The border crossing
at Chuy is set up as follows: about one-and-a-half miles south of Chuy
you pass through Uruguayan customs; about one-and-a-half miles north of
town you pass through Brasilian customs. The town itself is a duty-free
zone. It is laid out around a main street--actually a double main street
with areas to park in between. Each half has traffic in both directions,
and one side is called Rua Brasil, and the other Avenida Uruguay. The town
on the Uruguay side is Chuy, and on the Brasil side is Chui. It is an example
of all that is unpleasant about border towns.
Since we had already surrendered our vehicle documents on the Uruguay side, we were in kind of a tight spot. We certainly did not want to stay in Chuy. We rememberred passing a sign for some hotels about 20 miles back, so we decided to head back to the Uruguay border and see what we could do. The officials there were totally cool about the whole thing , and restamped our passports and simply returned the same vehicle documents with a note on the back that we had been refused entry. When we got back to the town of La Coronillas, a young boy in an information kiosk directed us to a hotel about one mile south of town. When we got there we started to think that maybe things wouldn't be so bad. It was a beautiful place called Parque Oceanica that looked like a working ranch, and was right near the beach . Unfortunately they were full, but the owner made several calls and found us a room for one night and we made a reservation with him for the next night. The room we had for the first night was spotless, but about the size of a postage stamp. When we got back to Parque Oceanica the next day, we found that they had made a mistake so they ended up giving us a suite for the price of a room. It was a fantastic place with three swimming pools--a heated indoor and two outside, one of which was always in the shade.
We decided that we would do our documents on Wednesday at noon, and leave early Thursday morning. We had already missed any chance of seeing Carnaval. We arrived Wednesday at the consulate at noon sharp, and were told to come back the next day at 9:00 am because they were closed. After about 20 minutes of whining and complaining, we finally convinced someone to help us. He said the fee would be the equivalent of 125 US dollars, and they would only accept Uruguayan Pesos. He said if we could get back with the cash and two passport photos each within an hour he would issue the visas. We new we were being robbed, but there was little we could do.