Getting back to Rio de Janeiro proved to be quite a challenge. First there was the part of getting out of Iquitos, Peru. Since Iquitos is the biggest city on earth without any roads leading to it, I was left with two options of getting out of there, on to Ecuador. My first option consisted of taking a flight back South to Lima and then a bus up North, which would have set me back some USD120 but would have gotten me to Ecuador within 24h. My second option involved spending another 3 days in a hammock on a boat in the Amazon basin, then an entire day of travelling over just 80km (road under construction, resulting in having to wait for 9h for it to open), another 17h bus ride and then two more buses good for another 11h of bus fun, before reaching the Ecuadorian border. Obviously, I went for the latter.
In Ecuador, I made a 2h stop in the beautiful historical city of Cuenca before travelling on to the town of Guamote, where my Belgian friend Liesbet has been working for an NGO for the past 6 months. My bus journeys continued the next day, however, since Liesbet and her boyfriend Koen invited me to join them to the DJ Tiesto concert in Quito, which meant another 5h bus ride up North. The original plan was to return to Guamote the next morning but I decided to hang out in Quito for the next two days, since that worked out better for everyone´s schedule. After another day in Guamote I returned to Quito early morning to catch my 6PM flight to Rio. I enjoyed a cheap 1 dollar meal and decided to leave for the airport early, so I wouldn´t have to stress out about anything last minute. To say that didn´t quite turn out to be the case, would be a major understatement.
The line at the check-in was long and moved painfully slowly. Still blissfully unaware of the red tape that was about to strangle me, I patiently awaited my turn. Finally reaching the check-in counter, I hand over my passport, United Airlines membership card and the yellow fever vaccination certificate I got after getting my yellow fever shot a few months ago in Curitiba, Southern Brazil. As the lady at the check-in counter examines my Brazilian yellow fever vaccination certificate, I get slightly worried as I hear her sigh a soft "Oh ohh". After checking with her superior, she informs me that my Brazilian certificate will not do, as Brazilian law requires all passengers travelling from Ecuador to Brazil to provide an international yellow fever certificate. Since any debate was lost on her, I had no choice but to follow her directions and get a cab to a nearby hospital, where she said a doctor would write me an international certificate within minutes. A 10 minute cab ride later, I find myself slightly stressed out in a hospital waiting room. I enter the doctor´s cabinet, where she informs me that this international certificate is going to cost me $35, which she later lowers to $15, as I could prove I had already gotten the shot. Apparently this Brazilian law also requires the shot to be administered at least 10 days before the date of travel, so the doctor reluctantly changes the date on her stamp and fills out the certificate. Trusting that, after many years of med school and extensive training, the doctor is capable of counting back 10 days, I don´t bother to check the date and hurry down, where the cab is waiting for me, its meter running. Time is running out and I am trying to calm myself down as the taxi makes its way back to the airport in the rush hour traffic. Arriving at the airport, I pay the driver the $10 fare and hurry back to the departure terminal.
Broad smile on my face, I walk over to the check-in counter and proudly hand over my newly acquired international certificate. As the lady at the check-in informs me that the date on the certificate is of February 5th, and therefore nine days before the date of travel in stead of 10, I find myself wanting to smash my head on the counter in a fit of distress like I´ve barely ever felt one in my life. Arguing that it would be the needed 10 days on the date of arrival in Brazil (I was supposed to land at 5AM the next day), proved to be useless. No time was left to go back to the hospital and change the date (the check-in would close within 20 minutes) yet the lady at the check-in suggested I asked one of the travel agents in the airport to help me alter the date on the stamp, using an eraser and charcoal paper. Trying to calm myself down and concentrating on how to explain this whole screwed-up situation in Spanish, I found a travel agent willing to help me, changing the date to February 1st. My third attempt didn´t seem to be any more successful than my first two, since the fraud was quite obvious. Right at the moment I started to lose all hope of getting on the plane, a senior check-in agent offered to help me out. Through a friend of hers, she would be able to obtain a false certificate, undetectable from the real thing. This would cost me another $40, but since it was the only way I would make it on that flight, I was happy to accept the deal. A few minutes later I was $40 poorer, yet the brand new owner of a very real looking international yellow fever vaccination certificate. The rest of the check-in process went smoothly and an hour later I was on the plane, ordering a double whiskey in an idle attempt to calm myself down after all the commotion and stress. The flight to São Paulo was sleepless and uneventful, and the same can be said about the bus ride to the terminal and the 6h ride on to Rio de Janeiro, where I finally arrived, exhausted after 26 hours of travelling.
From there on, things started looking up. At the bus terminal, I was awaited by my dear friend Raissa, who welcomed me to her beautiful city the same way she had done 4 months before: by a passionate kiss. After some initial trouble finding a place to stay, things sorted themselves out and Marcia, the wonderful girl who hosted me 4 months ago, took me in again. Since then, everything has been great: being in the marvelous city of Rio de Janeiro during Carnival, surrounded by a bunch of old and new friends and dating a stunning and intelligent girl. I would have died a happy man... and I almost did.
During one of the last days of Carnival, my British friend and I joined Raissa and her friends for some beers on Ipanema beach during sunset. After a few hours of pleasant chatting and chilling on the beach, we walked Raissa and her friends to the bus stop. The saying goodbye took longer than I expected and the two beers I had drunk, wanted to make their way out, so I ran across the street to answer nature´s call in the park. As I crossed the street, I had a weird feeling that something bad was about to happen. After doing my thing, without any incidents, I felt relieved that nothing bad had happened and started to cross the street, making my way in between two buses who had stopped for the red traffic light. Since my sight was obstructed by the buses, I relied on my hearing and the reflection of headlights on the street to determine if there was a car coming in the second lane. Both stimuli seemed negative, so I took a step out on the second lane. Before I could realize what was going on, I saw the world spinning around me, while hearing a loud scream from the passenger in the car who had just hit me and catapulted me in the air, causing me to smack against the asphalt some 3m farther. Much to my (and every one else´s) amazement, I got up and walked away without even a scratch, reassuring the driver and bystanders I was fine. Estou bem, tudo bom. I truly am one lucky bastard.