Now, I'm not really yet in any position to talk with any authority or knowhow about this well loved mode of Rio transport. But its been nearly a month now, and seeing as barely a day goes by with out me putting my life in the hands of some deranged madman/woman, I thought it would do no harm to share some initial thoughts.
The buses get you there. Quick. Even if the everyday gridlock seems somehow inpenetrable, you'll make it, trust me. That is if your chauffeur of the moment remains on the case for long enough to keep his dodgem from stacking into any other game contestants in this glorious deathrace 2011.
Heres how it works. Keep some smallish money handy because the bus won't break the bank. Wait at the kerbside for your number to come up (or if, like me, you don't know all the numbers look out for a vaguely familiar destination) - When you see your bus approaching like a terrifying Indiana Jones style boulder, Jump out in front of it and flail your arms wildly above your head. If unsure, just copy the nearest fellow would-be passenger. Now if the bus stops, proceed to the next stage. If it doesn't, and assuming you are not in need of emergency first aid, you need to be prepared to flail again I'm afraid.
Once on board, hold on. No matter what. Step up past the driver (who will no doubt be back on his hell-bent mission to get us all wherever) and go to the turnstyle operator. Pay your fare, get through the turnstyle and go and enjoy your ride.
Now, if you manage to get a seat keep an eye on (a) your stuff and (b) where you are. Most of the familiar lanscape mysteriously disappears once onboard, rather like you just departed platform 13 and three quarters. Try to enjoy it flying past and marvel at your would be fellow passengers jumping into the road and flailing. Feel quietly proud as your driver pulls one death-defying overtaking move after another, and the rest of the city disappears behind you.
Ok - when you think you are approximate, pull the cord and get off at the next stop. The getting off door is at the back. As you alight, watch out for the dodgy bastards who get on via the getting off door to avoid their fare. Personally I've not yet felt particularly inclined to draw the driver's attention to their activities. Is this because of my zen-like live and let live attitude? Yes it is.
- Copacabana is currently lying confortably under a blanket of fresh tarmac. This makes the whole district smell delightful. The lack of road markings also makes for a scintilating vehicular free for all that the buses seem to particularly enjoy. Be careful out there.
- Given that there are no road markings, the powers that be have decided to change the bus stop system in Copa completely. Nice. Each bus stops at either stop 1, 2 or (yes you've guessed it) 3. Now, if you happen to be at the right stop for your bus number, great. Good for you. If you happen to have jumped out for the wrong number at the wrong stop, be careful. No amount of flailing is going to stop that bus. This could be a flashing blue light moment.
|The Fancy New Copacabana Bus Stop System. This one folks, is a number 1. If you need a number 2, you'll just have to go somewhere else.|
- Travelling with a buggy? Then you have to get on via the getting off door so that you can avoid the turnstyle. Sometimes this works well (once the guy even abandoned his turnstyle to lend a hand up the steps!) - Sometimes its a bloody rank disaster. Thankyou fellow undisirable back door embarkee for hurling abuse at the driver until he stopped squashing our son the the doors.