The ferry was packed. So packed that some of the unfortunate people who weren’t in 1st class didn’t even have seats. As I stood in the mile-long line for baggage check-in, I couldn't help but wonder how they were gonna squeeze that many people on the boat. There were soooo many platformed shoes... I zoomed in on my camera and snuck a close up of my favorite: Barney purple Birkenstocks on stilts.
The ride was between 2 and 4 hours. Not totally sure because I was asleep for most of it. When we disembarked, we had to fight thick gauntlets of flying bugs at every light along the narrow hallway. Young girls were screeching and swatting and stomping around in their platforms. We boarded old buses that were a bit run-down for the 3-hour ride from Colonia to Punta Del Este. Does it ever amaze you the positions you can fall asleep in when you are beyond exhausted? So glad I brought a pillow!!!
El Viajero Hostel is awesome! Located in the heart of town, 2 blocks from the bus stop 4 blocks from feisty Brava Beach. It is such a relief to be somewhere for more than a couple days. I will be spending 4 nights here. It’s paradise!!! Somewhat built up though, unfortunately. High rises and hotels line the beach. But it really is beautiful. Many of the more affluent Argentinians flock to Punta del Este for the New Year holiday. It’s very expensive here. I made a quick trip to the market for some cheese and tomatoes to make a sandwich with. Even at the market, prices were astronomical!! 70 pesos for jam?? 150 for cheese?! Well, I hadn’t really read up on the currency here yet… assumed they used pesos. Didn’t realize that they use Uruguayan pesos, not Argentinian, which are exchanged at 24 per $1 US. Aaahhh! So things weren’t that bad after all.
When I came back to the hostel there was a very sweet lady scrubbing everything in site. This place is extremely clean, especially the kitchen. A skinny grey cat sauntered around. My sandwich hit the spot, especially with all that lemon-scented mayonesa slathered on. Anyone who knows me knows that I love my condiments ;) After a nice long nap, I was so excited to finally go to the beach! The entire beach was crowded with very beautiful and tanned people for miles. I spotted what appeared to be a surf break down a ways so I headed that direction. The surf was small but really feisty. All shapes and sizes of boards were out there – most with lots of duct tape patchwork. I spotted a rental shack and ran over to check out the prices. “$25 per hour” said the very tanned and freckled Uruguayan boy. “Whaaaat?? I could buy a board in 4 hours for that price!” I told him. He said he would give me a deal: $30 for 2 hours. Just then a bearded man with a bright blue rash guard exited the ocean with a 10’ Walden. A lady posed for a photo with him. “That’s Juan, Uruguayan longboard champion” the boy told me. Of course I had to get a photograph too! He’s a celebrity!
Back at the hostel that evening I met the girls in my room who had only woken up a few hours ago. It had been a long night of partying – you could tell by the smudged makeup still on their faces. 5 of them are Brazilian! In fact, everyone here at the hostel is, with the exception of maybe 2 or 3 people. And I am totally fine with that. Brazilians are the best ever!!! Bursting with life and passion for everything, and super friendly. Most of them speak English pretty well. There is a group of 5 here at the hostel that are particularly awesome. They met at a fraternity when they were in college in Sao Paulo, and are now traveling together over the holidays. Smart, good-looking, really nice, and very talented at pool. One of them – Diego – lives in the Ipanema beach town of Rio and might be able to host me for couch surfing while I’m there! How perfect is that?! The area he lives in is like the Union Square of Rio. They are teaching me new words in Portuguese. If you want to say someone is “the man”, you say “Papai da ---” and insert whatever it is they’re the man at. “Papai da sinuca!” means you are the man at pool! Another word, “crackudo!”, refers to something that’s so good it’s like crack. But they told me only to use this word with people I know, because it can also mean someone is a crazy crackhead and a stranger might be insulted by it. There were a few Papai da crackudo’s in the hostel. A couple of middle aged men who were pounding cervezas, singing at the top of their lungs, and dancing all over the place.
I desperately needed money, so I started walking along the main strip Ave Galero, looking for an ATM that wasn’t (a.) broken, or (b.) out of money. I saw a group of people huddled around an ATM and overheard them speaking English, so I decided to try that one. Someone in the group turned around and looked at me kind of funny. “I feel like I know you from somewhere” he said. But he didn’t look even vaguely familiar to me. Then another guy walked in from off the sidewalk to join the group, and he said the same thing – “I know you from somewhere!!” We all stood there staring at each other for a second, then we realized how we knew each other… we had gone to the same college AND worked at a summer camp together!!! That is a CRAZY small world right there. I could not even believe it. Julio Medina and Mark Mendizabel… of course I remembered them! Just needed to jog my memory a bit. We all went to a cute little organic juice bar and ordered fresh blended jugos and veggie sandwiches. So excited to have found some long lost friends… and in the far away land of Uruguay, of all places! Dad, this is another good sign for you that I will be ok J