Thursday, February 23, 2006

Just popped over to Uruguay.....for a day or two!

Feb 23rd. Dominique and I took the 7:15pm ferry from Buenos Aires across the water to Colonia, in Uruguay! Funny - only takes an hour to get there...just enough time to give you a tiny bit of info on the country. It is about the size of the state of North Dakota in the US, with a population of 3.5 million people. Its claim to fame lies in winning the very first World Cup in 1930; and of course its beautiful beaches! Unfortunately, when we arrived, the weather didn't seem to love us, and we certainly couldn't see any beaches, as we stumbled around in horrendous gale force winds and heavy rain, trying to find our hostel!

Feb 24th. This morning, we had hoped the weather would lighten up! No such luck, but intrepid travelers that we are, we braved the rain and set out to check out the town of Colonia del Sacramento (described in Lonely Planet as "a superstar"...hmmn I beg to differ). This small town had little to offer; even the Barrio Historico, with its thick fortified wall at Puerto de Campo (built originally in 1745 and one of the highlights of the area) although nice, wasn't really anything too exciting. Maybe it was the rain that dampened my spirits...not sure but as we stood watching the waters rise higher and higher, we thought, might be time to head up the coast to the warmer weather - specifically La Paloma, which we had heard was a lovely town, with great thats what we did!

Feb 25th. Arrived in our newest destination after 6 hours on a bus.....but it was worth it. The weather was beautiful, sun was shining and you got the feeling La Paloma (pop'n 5,000) was defintely a laid back, surfie/beach bum kind of town. It's all flip flops and swimsuits here! Surprisingly for once, the local tourist office was really helpful (our previous "tourist office" experiences had not been quite so friendly!)...and the woman helped us find a room at Hostel Cribbel... funny name.. but ok kind of place (check out the shot - just kidding, but thought this looked like the perfect kind of beach hut..).. Dom and I decided to take a romantic walk together (haha) along the beach ... which was still packed in the early evening. We watched the sun set over our cocktails and were just saying to each other "Ahh this is the life" when the bloomin' rain came down in buckets out of nowhere!!! So we rushed indoors and finished off our drinkies....As we sat there, we chatted to our waiter, and he told us a bit about a great club called "Achacas" (I think that was the name?), which was about 30 mins away, but well worth the visit, or so he said! So later that night, Dom and I headed there to check it out! It was kind of in the middle of nowhere and looked like a giant, trendy campsite at first.. but once you got through the massive line (where we encountered our first very vocal, anti-American - who was rude and drunk, so we just ignored him!), you came upon this incredible scene, with lots of different sections; each area had its own thatched roof bar and different type of music playing, from chart stuff, to Latin, 80's, reggae and techno - even a live band! Somehow they managed to have all this music playing at the same time, without it overlapping so if you got bored with Bob Marley you could walk across and check out the techno hut (aka electronica in South America!) instead! Great place, mainly Uruguyan people there on holiday from other parts of the country; alot from Monte Video, the capital.... so all in all, an interesting evening!

Feb 26th. Another gorgeous day today. Took a walk to another beach about an hour away and just relaxed and enjoyed the sun!!! AAhhhh this is what people call chilling out.. got to try this more often! Had a lovely time here; visited the beach bar for a late lunch then headed back to town...and who do we bump into but Alain and Julia from Switzerland, again! See - small world indeed! Dominique and I decided to take a walk around town, and as we walked, we began noticing a strange phenomenom. Lots of groups of teenage boys throwing water balloons, at cars as they went past. Now one or two groups, fair enough, no big deal! But it felt like on every street where we walked on, there was another group of boys! Was this "National Water Balloon Day" in Uruguay? seemed too bothered by it, although when the police drove past, the boys did scarper pretty quickly! So there we were just minding our own business, and then from nowhere (ok from across the street!) comes this big balloon - that hit me!!! What! I looked over to see the boys laughing their heads off - yeh, very funny hitting an old lady like that!! Actually it was lovely 'cos it was so hot but I wasn't letting them know that! I managed a good, stern look before regaining my dignity and walking away....hahaha!

That night, we decided to have a fabulous "last supper" as I would be leaving the next day to head back to Buenos Aires and Dom would be staying on in Uruguay for another week or so! Had an incredible meal - I won't bore you with details but it was scrumptious ! - and as we sat chatting, who walks through the door but Nir! Of all the restaurants in all the beach towns!! We had such a laugh about it! He had just arrived on the bus and took a chance we might be in this particular restaurant... what are the chances! (ok we did know he was coming to our town as we'd been emailing but still, there were about 30 restaurants in La Paloma so obviously we all have excellent taste !!). After Nir had a bite to eat, and analyzed the hummus ingredients with the waitress vs. traditional hummus recipes in Israel! (you can rest easy, the missing ingredient was tahini paste - yes, it does taste different without it, I will agree!), we headed back to the hostel via a late night bar where a cover band were playing ...a nice ending to my short but sweet visit to La Paloma! And goodbye to Nir and Dominique - what would I do without my travel buddy - we had spent almost all of our 4 months in South America together, had an absolutely fabulous experience; we saw so many different and amazing things! Def felt sad at leaving the wee girl....but onwards and upwards we both agreed!! Just glad we managed to have such a great time and loved exploring SA with her!!

Feb 27th. I snuck out early this morning to catch my bus back to Monte Video where I thought I could just book my ferry ticket, grab another bus to Colonia, pick up the ferry, and get back to BA that night! Ahhh sounds easy doesn't it! Hmmnn - not so much! Due to an ongoing dispute between Uruguay and Argentina regarding Uruguay wanting to build a huge paper plant close to the water that connects both countries, which Argentina felt would be a huge environmental disaster, protestors were marching on the bridges and they were closed to bus traffic. Which meant everyone had booked the ferry. Which meant i couldnt get a ferry for 4 days ...ahh slight problem as I was leaving in 2 days from BA to fly home to Boston! How could i get out of Uruguay I asked - no buses, no ferries......Long story short - i ended up flying home AFTER i bought my ferry ticket in a panic, which 20 mins later, when i actually managed to get a flight (it was also a public holiday in Uruguay so lots of ticket offices were shut!). I went back to the ferry office to ask for a refund (which he said he would give me if I was back in 10 mins!) and huh! he wouldn't give it to me at all! I eventually put on the "I think I'm going to cry" look - to my feminist chagrin but still... - so he ended up saying "You are very lucky, I'm only going to penalize you 30% of the total price" You came back in 20 mins not 10"!!! Puuhlleeease! At that point I just took my refund and ran! So you see, what with the rain and the stinky ferry man, I don't have too great a love of Uruguay! What can I say - I'm shallow!! But anyway, off I headed, back to BA for the last time before flying home on March 1st!!


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