In the U.S. we are used to obeying several traffic laws. Of course, there are crazy drivers; those who think they own the road. In Utah, we call these "California drivers". Well, in Brazil, we have discovered that the traffic rules are really more like suggestions, and I think that even the California drivers would be a bit unused to the display. I will outline 6 of the lessons we learned here:
1. Trucks ALWAYS have the right of way.
2. The little white stripes are NOT there to delineate lane boundaries. If your vehicle can fit between two other vehicles, you have successfully created a new lane. Congratulations.
3. NEVER stop at a stop sign! We have been here for over 2 weeks, and I have yet to see anyone come to a complete stop at a stop sign, except when a huge truck is about to T-bone their vehicle (see lesson #1). If you do stop for no reason other than the false assumption that you need to stop at a stop sign and look both ways before carefully proceeding, be prepared to hear horns blaring from behind, and/or cars veering around you on either side--on a one lane road...(see lesson #2). Note: Some stop lights are optional as well.
4. Motorcycles can go wherever, whenever. This includes, but is not limited to: along the white line mentioned in lesson #2 (at times passing other motorcyclists along said white line), on the sidewalk, up over curbs, in the shoulder (traveling with or against oncoming traffic), and pretty much along any space that looks like it is not quite big enough for the motorcycle to squeeze through (please keep hands and arms inside your vehicle at all times!) These can all be accomplished by driving at high rates of speed while continually honking the horn.
5. Crosswalks are NOT recommended for pedestrian use. It is my theory that these white lines painted occasionally at intersections and elsewhere are really more of a sort of target area. Pedestrians do not have the right of way at any time. It is my assumption that extra points are earned if a pedestrian is hit within a designated crosswalk area. I could be wrong on this.
6. Hitchhiking is permitted. This is an excellent way to travel; whether you are a vagabond, or a uniformed police officer.
Now that we have the basics down-- and we learned these pretty quickly--let's talk about the trip! It was about a 9 hour drive to Rio. We saw many interesting things along the way (please refer to the 6 lessons learned above). We also learned that the gas stations have some really good food! (I'm not kidding here--it was some of the best we had!) The kids did an excellent job, even without a DVD player (thank goodness they all have Nintendo DS systems!)
The landscape is beautiful and varied. There are banana trees growing wild along the roadside. I could have reached out and picked a fresh snack (if I hadn't been afraid of those motorcyclists). We drove through one windy mountain pass that looked like a jungle. There were little stands all along the way where you could stop to buy fresh fruit. There were huge bunches of bananas hanging from the shacks, along with citrus and other unidentifiable exotic fruits.
All along the freeway, people were riding bikes or horses, or crossing the busy lanes of traffic on foot. In fact, there were designated crosswalks right on the freeway!:
What makes this even funnier, in my opinion, is the fact that there are signs all over that say "Never stop on the freeway". This just proves my pedestrian target game theory.
Along with those "Never stop on the freeway" signs, there are other signs with great tips: "Children should sit in the back seat", "Don't throw trash on the road", and my personal favorite: "Before building something on the side of the road, please consult with the authorities." I'm not sure who that would be, but it sounds like a good idea. Of course, you can have a "store" of sorts anywhere you like, it just has to be mobile:
This particular picture was not taken on the freeway, but there are vendors walking up and down all city roads, highways, and freeways selling snacks during times of slow traffic. I think it's a nice service. And now that I think about it, I've never seen one of these vendors in a designated crosswalk. Hmmm.......