Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We have arrived in Uruguay!

It was a lot easier to leave the hostel in Buenos Aires than I was anticipating. I had begun to feel rather comfortable with the staff, as well as the city itself. However, with our bags packed - the mobile spirit returned.

We spent most of the morning in a café on de Mayo. Marvelling at the porteño obsession with media lunas (croissants) as well as the general activity of the city center on a Monday. We stayed for some time, reading and writing, relishing the custom that you pay when you are ready to leave.

Back at the hostel we scheduled a taxi ride to the ferry and then waited about thirty minutes. Getting into the cab I was hit with that exhilirating sense of the unknown that had more or less faded after our second day in Buenos Aires. Yet again, we were at the mercy of strangers..

The taxi ride was fairly uneventful - as was the check-in for the ferry (though I was more reluctant this time to hand over my backpack). We had our passports stamped while still in Buenos Aires with a thirty minute wait for the bags to be loaded and everyone to be boarded.

During that wait we encountered only our second and third Americans of the trip (the first being a sixty year old California man named Terry {whom we met only two nights ago} who has spent the last five months driving with his son from Sacramento - through Mexico and Central America - through Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, up through the Patagonia, and is now on the last leg of the journey in Buenos Aires - truly impressive!). These other Americans though, were disappointing. They talked boistrously about their unwillingness to partake in the custom of sharing a mate because they are "germophobes" and "it tastes like dirt anyway."

It was a bit of a reality check. Everyone we had encountered previously had been so open-minded and excited to learn about new things, that I think I had constructed this happy little "The World is One" bubble around myself.

Fortunately, once we made it to Colonia (a harrowing hour on a ferry that was driven more like a speedboat) - these young gentlemen made their way towards the tourist trap/destination town - while we boarded the bus for Montevideo.

It was as the bus was pulling away from the harbor that I remembered again what we were doing. I had not seen so much green vegetation since our taxi ride from the airport nearly two weeks prior. It was pretty amazing how the verdant landscape lifted me and though I was in need of a nap - I kept my eyes on the molehill farmland, the cows, the tiny little sheep, the tidy little modern bungalows that lined the highway, the locals out for an afternoon joyride on their scooters or motorcycles (sometimes a family of three on one modest Yamaha dirt bike), just to see people in the sun again was nice - rather than watching them scramble across busy intersections.

Eventually, we approached the outskirts of Montevideo. As we made our way through about a mile or two of thoroughly distressed shanty towns we began to see these flags everywhere:

My initial suspicion was that these flags were in support of one of Uruguay´s two biggest futbol clubs who have the same colors, Club Nacional de Football. However, some Google research has turned up "Frente Amplio" - a "left wing" party with ties to trade unions and a cooperative housing movement (according to Wiki). Of course, it is very possible that there is a correlation between the two as futbol and politics are never too far removed, especially in SA (the socialist/anarchist songs at River Plate come to mind). Perhaps conversation with locals will shed more light on any relationship..

Ultimately, we arrived at the bus depot, received some very good information from the tourism representative there (who even knew where South Carolina is and the capital of Colorado!). Before leaving the depot we purchased our 7am bus ticket for Punta del Diablo and took out about 2,000 Uruguayo pesos (about $100 US). Just when we were starting to feel comfortable with the exchange rate in Argentina..everything gets thrown out the window.

From there we caught the city bus which lucky us had three attendants to help make sure we did not miss our stop. One to drive the bus, one to doll out tickets and change (a machine did this in BA), and one gentleman who went around checking ticket stubs to make sure we all paid - a pretty impressive display of beaurocracy if you ask me.

That brought us to the streets of Montevideo´s Palermo barrio. A neighborhood that we wished to have found in Buenos Aires. Not as scary as La Boca, but still possessing that gritty flavor. There are two other reasons why I am already looking at this city with more fondness than Buenos Aires - people were playing futbol everywhere here, in private and public parks, and in the streets (that´s more like it!) and the ocean. Montevideo sticks out into the ocean (whereas BA is situated within the delta of the Rio de la Plata) - the water is visible from our hostel door..and from the incredibly comfortable terrace on the roof (complete with hammocks and a grill).

I am feeling well rested (despite still being rather congested) and am more than ready for a hard day of walking down the ocean front boulevard and then up through the old city.

We are able to access the USB port on the computers here, so it is likely that I will be able to upload some pictures from our excursion today.

We are considering spending a week or two somewhere (either here or Buenos Aires) before we head south so that I can get some tutoring in the language. Before we left BA I was pretty set on returning, but now I would be very interested to find a school here so I can enjoy the sea breeze while I toil. Hard life!

More later..and hopefully pictures!

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