Sunday, December 29, 2013

Operations Uphill, Downhill and Convoy - São Paulo

Imigrantes Highway to the beach. Photo credit: globo.
I'm back in São Paulo after a truly relaxing and wonderful ten days at the beach. Okay, all of them were relaxing until the last one which involved of course packing, and also planning when to leave. The reality of visiting the coastline of São Paulo state during the week between Christmas and New Year's means strategizing on how best to get back to your home.

During the days after Christmas, almost 700,000 cars leave São Paulo, and head to the shoreline. There are four main highways that lead there, as I think I have covered in another post--Imigrates, Anchieta, Mogi-Bertioga and Tamoios. My favorite used to be Tamoios, which is a smaller highway that crosses from São Jose dos Campos to the shoreline. We used to be able to make the trip in 2 1/2 hours a decade ago. Now Tamoios is under construction (adding two lanes) and the trip has been more than four hours on the last attempt (some other poor souls spent 10 hours in traffic there during the November holiday). 
  Mogi-Bertioga is also an older smaller highway and we decided to bypass it. So that left us with Imigrantes or Anchieta. Anchieta is the oldest of the highways (built in the 1930s) and clings to the mountainside as it heads down through the Atlantic rain forest. Imigrantes is the superhighway built in 1974, and recently expanded with gorgeous high spans and huge tunnels, also connects Santos to São Paulo. Both are frequently stuffed full of cars as it is the most direct and easiest route to the beach. 

And here is where the fun begins--evaluating Operation Downhill. Wait...not yet. No fun. I must digress.

When I lived in Miami for six years (2002-2008), five hurricanes passed over South Florida including Katrina. It is one of the reasons I will never again live in South Florida, though I have good friends there and it's a nice place. When you live in any of the hurricane territory (Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, etc), you gain a whole vocabulary barely understood by those not in the know. You know about the clean side and the dirty side of a hurricane and which one you'd rather be on, you understand the "box" and you know the NOAA website like your own blog site.  That is hurricane savvy.

Here, you become Operation Downhill (or Uphill) savvy. Operação Descida is what the traffic police create when the majority of people are leaving São Paulo and descending the coast mountains to the beach. They reverse various lanes on Anchieta and Imigrantes (and Tamoios too but rarely). So, you come to know what is a 7 by 4, or a 6 by 3 or whatever. 

All you need to know about Uphill-Downhill. Folha de São Paulo.

Above is an illustration of the operation. On the top arrow-fest, you can see that Operation Downhill is at a 7x3 for the days after Christmas. This means seven lanes are heading down to the beach, and only three lanes are heading back to the capital. Anchieta highway has all lanes heading to the beach--you cannot get back to the city by Anchieta. Three of the lanes of Imigrantes are heading down and three are heading up. 

Which side would you rather be on? Yeah, me too.
 We took one of these three lanes yesterday--the trip wasn't too bad except for a fog situation at the top. Even with Operation Downhill, the traffic on the other side was terrible--because of the fog, the downhill run was also affected by Operation Convoy.

In Comboio (Convoy), the traffic is held right after the toll booth and cars from the traffic police lead each lane slowly through the fog. It is a giant parade, and not one in which you want to participate. I can imagine that the traffic to the beach was taking more than 3 hours on a normally hour-long ride. 

Operation Convoy. Photo credit: Estadão.

We got home in about 3 1/2 hours, which is a half-hour longer than the usual (now) three-hour ride. For those leaving the beach on Sunday, your Operation Uphill is 4 x 6. Good luck!

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