¿Donde estamos?

Estamos en Uruguay. I think.

Whenever we travel without solid plans or reservations, luck is always something I think about a lot. I remember the first time I travelled like this, my friend Darren and I got to CDG airport in Paris and turned to each other and said ¨Why did we think we could do this?¨ Neither of us spoke any french and we had never traveled out of the country before. We got on the nice metro bus heading to the center of Paris and ended up in Lyon, a city 2.5 hours sounth of the city. I now know that there aren´t any ¨nice¨ metros and I have some sort of understanding of some of the language. Since then, I have developed a more healthy and aware attitude. I now know how lucky I am when the blob on the map that we are walking towards for an hour in the sun turns out to be what we thought it was. We are lucky when the bus comes when it says or the bank is open on whatever day you need it, because once you get out of the US, where professionalism is inborn, it is not a given that these things are certain.

This last week has been both a test of attitude and of luck. I am happy to say we managed to stay positive (except for the 15 minutes about an hour ago, where I was resigned to the idea that Uruaguay, and apparently Brazil did not take Visa and having 6 different Visa cards with us, we would not find money anywhere).

We left BA on Thursday morning and headed for the ferry to Uruguay. Like good travellers, we showed up for our 9:30 boat at 8:45. But the boat was actually at 9:00 and we were some of the last people to clear customs and make it on. We´re so lucky. We got in to Montevideo around 4:00pm and wanted to go to a place called Punta del Diablo because Mike had seen on Lonely Planet that is was a really great fishing village with some nice beaches. We went all around trying to find a bus, but the last bus to PdD had left an hour before. Crap! But, there was a bus that left in an hour that went past PdD and stopped at the entrance to the town. Perfect. So lucky! We easily took out some money and found our bus. The farther and farther we got away from Montevideo and the darker it got, the more we wondered if it was such a good idea to get dropped off at the entrance to a town. We were told, or so I thought that there would be a taxi or something to get to the center, so we had to go on good faith, because you can only ask someone to repeat something so many times before you realize that you just aren´t going to unerstand. I kept asking the bus driver how many more minutes to PdD and as the time got smaller and smaller and there still weren´t any lights, we definitely got ourselves prepared to walk the 5 km from the road to the town. The bus finally pulled over and we got off in the dark in the middle of nowhere, but luckikly, so did another couple. She was from Germany and He was from Nicaragua and they both spoke great spanish. We started to walk together, when the girl noticed a car and went over to them. They had offered us all a ride. Lucky, lucky lucky!

Getting dropped off the bus at “Entre” Punta del Diablo. The ocean is 5km behind us in the dark.

When we got to town, we started looking for the hostel that we had booked for the night-see how we plan ahead. The ¨only taxi driver in town¨ told us that we would never find it without his help, so not wanting to be ripped off, we left and set out to find it ourselves. We were just going to go along restaurant by restaurant, asking along the way. The first place we went was this pizza place in town and guess who we saw? Pretty much the only people we knew in all of South America, the Irish guy and British girl from the Mendoza wine tour! They had been staying there for 4 days and had rented a hut by the beach. They had extra beds, so we stayed with them. It was fun to sit and have some beers and feel so relieved that heading into the middle of nowhere in Uruguay, you always end up having a great time with nice people.

Nick and Sarah were gracious hosts. They gave us a place to sleep and showed us the ways of shrimp

In the morning, we went for a walk around town. It was what Lonely Planet had promised- a small fishing village with some nice beaches. Very humble places and very nice people. On our walk, we went by a small house with a sign for rent. Since the guy was there we asked him about it and 40 minutes later, we were moved in to our little home for a week that is right on the beach road right up the street from all of the fishing boats and beaches. It really was perfect. It had an indoor and outdoor cooking area and we can see the rocks and ocean from our kitchen window. Later that day, Sarah and Nick (the couple we know) showed us how they had been living for the past week. They bought fresh fish from a guy named Robert, who got a fresh catch daily and cooked it over the fire with some vegetables. Of course we fell comfortably into this life. It was fishmas every day of the week.

Robert, the fisherman gives fish on credit. What a great system.

Everything was perfect when we went to bed, but when we woke up, we realized the catch. Mike had 104 mosquito bites and I had 23. We feared that we would have to leave our perfect house, but we had to go to Chuy that day anyway because there are no ATMs in PdD and apparently Chuy is big (You can even see it on the map!), so we thought we would look for a mosquito net there. It turns out Chuy is not big. It is a small border town and has tons of duty free shops with liquor and other gear, but no ATMs that take Visa, or at least not on Saturays and no mosquito nets. Our plan became this- buy enough food with our credit cards to last us for 2 days and come back on Monday. Live off nothing until then. So we did, we learned how to cook beans and bought some fish from Robert on credit and lived fairly well. We also bought a tent! So now we sleep in a tent in our room on a bed and it is great. no bugs, very nice.

Our tenty-bed setup

Today, Monday, we are back on Chuy or Chui depending on which side of the street you are on, since one side is Uruguay and on is Brazil. The ATMs still didn´t work in Uruguay, so we went to Brazil and found 1 ATM that worked, but it only had some money. We took all the money we could from the machine and were told to come back when the bank opened 10am. We got the rest of the money we needed, walked back across the street, changed it into Uruguay pesos and are now living in luxury. Mike is looking for some sandals and I am sitting here online. Yay. Again, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that we are so lucky. We found money, we are headed back to our nice house with its tent and kitchen and great fishermen and beaches. And I just feel really lucky that we got do have these problems. It is sometimes hard not to get angry when things I take for granted at home are different here. The first time we went to the bank it was going to open at 1, when we went back 15 minutes later, they had pushed it back to 3. WTF??? It is a bank!!! But it is always interesting to see how people do things elsewhere. I guess if I want consistent hours and products, I should stay home. Ok, off to buy Mate cups and try sipping Mate all afternoon because we are suddenly rich!

Merry Fishmas to all and to all a fish tonight


1 Comment

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One response to “¿Donde estamos?

  1. Anonymous

    The beach huts are nice in Punta Del Diablo. I preferred the community over at the new hostel. But if you need to figure out how to get something done in PdD, head over to see Heidi or Brian at El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel. They are from Wisconsin and Brian has just opened up the place. They can get you some money with your VISA card also 🙂

    Hope the weather is as nice as it was at thanksgiving when I was there…

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