Uruguay at Last

Trip Start Oct 22, 2009
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35
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Trip End Apr 04, 2010


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Where I stayed
Andrea's Casa

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Monday, January 11, 2010

I haven't been on for awhile because we’ve been BUSY. We spent yesterday mostly in travel taking the Buquebus (ferry) from Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia, Uruguay, and then the bus to Montevideo.

For those of you wanting to do this I’ll explain how it works. When you get to the expansive Buquebus terminal at Puerto Madero you enter a huge lobby with one desk up front that looks like it’s where you should be, but actually we found we needed instead to go on inside further to a long counter on the far end with 10 or so lines—like an airline terminal. We found the one for Colonia, 12:00, and joined the mile long line for we knew not exactly what. It moves pretty fast though, and after checking in our baggage there (they’ll take as many as you want) they told us and our forms to go upstairs to clear customs. Customs may have heard of our nefarious natures because they took a looong time going over our passports, but in the end our charm and cuteness prevailed and they stamped us through.

Now it’s still an hour and a half before our ferry leaves and we’re stuck. We haven’t had breakfast yet, thinking we’d get it somewhere while we waited for the ferry, but now we can’t leave and come back. Stuck we are, so we settle for sharing the ubiquitous jamon y queso sandwich at a kiosk on the platform.

SO A NOTE TO FELLOW TRAVELERS: So as not to miss your ferry, but still have time for wandering Puerto Madero (a wonderful area, BTW—we’d seen it on previous trips) check your bags and then go wander before going through customs. Wish someone had told us that.

I have to admit the fast ferry was a disappointment. It’s expensive so you hope it will feel worth it, but we couldn’t go up top (can’t mingle VIPs w/tourist class) to see anything and the outside deck was closed, so all you could do was sit and watch soccer or shop the duty free shops onboard.

I saw a really cute top I loved until I was told the 152 price was in US dollars, not Argentinian pesos (at 3.7 to a dollar I liked it better). Ok, I’ll go love something else.

So I spent some time taking pictures of how others were spending their time.

The crossing took 1:30 minutes rather than the hour advertised, but the busses for Montevideo were still waiting in queue. Seven of them.

This rag tag bunch is not the beautiful people of the duty free shops. We’re the huddled masses of students and wanna be Rastafarians, the eclectic, naturists, and travel-poor older folks of hostel fame. These are the interesting people with a story to tell—of course, just that they could take the rapid ferry at all means they had some money to spend. So we’re not talking poor-poor here by any means, more like the guy for whom this is a splurge and now he’ll economize by taking the bus onward.

I’m visiting in line with a very cute little 20ish girl who was coming back from 10 days in Mendoza, where we’re going next month. You have to go to Punta de Vaca, she says excitedly. It’s a Humanist park—as though that were enough to know. She didn’t have a lot of English, but she said humanist with a capitol H—not a word on many travel guides of English words to know.

I felt like we’d been accepted into the coveted inner circle of something and must gather at the park…more to follow…feel free to join.

My seat mate on the bus didn’t want to talk much, but Bob visited most of the 3 hours with his, mostly IN SPANISH he tells me, as his seat mate had very little English. Who knew?

We arrive finally at our home for the next 3 weeks and Andrea, our host, is delightful and beautiful and makes us truly feel "mi casa es su casa."

She’s a tango teacher by profession and it’s easy to see she’d be great. She’s simply delightful. She took us for a walk around the neighborhood and down to the beach on the Rio de la Plate and I tell you. I really thought this must be the mouth and we were looking out at the ocean, because you cannot see across this sucker. It is WIDE, the widest river in the world she tells us. There’s a wonderful Rambla or walk all along the river with a long expanse of park that extends for miles. The hot, muggy air of Buenos Aires is far behind as we walk along this refreshing promenade where families and teenagers alike find a break from the city.

It’s Sunday afternoon and the park is full of folks in a festive spirit. There’s an impromptu gathering of musicians in one part, families having picnics in another, skaters on a rink in another and lots of swimmers in the river. I LOVE this place!! I have to bring my camera and catch shots of the cute little girls in their hot pink skates; the muscled, way-too-cute shore police (straight out of Baywatch) and the musicians, oh! and the lagoon with the bicycle boats. That’s what they call pedal boats here.

Andrea is just the perfect host for us—she has enough English to help when we’re having trouble understanding, but talks mostly in Spanish—nice and slow when we look really confused, but mostly fast, so she’s always having to go back and explain. But she never minds and is a patient teacher.

You know how Argentineans eat dinner so late we could never stay up long enough for a real meal? Well Uruguayans are the same and we’re eating dinner at 10pm our first night. Woooo. Maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Our room is basic. Everything here is pretty basic. But when you figure these people make only about 250 US dollars a month and rent is easily that much, you’re happy for them that they have a home at all.

NEXT MORNING

We’re LATE. We fell back asleep this morning and when Andrea woke us up for breakfast it was much later than we first thought. We’re just opening our eyes good when Bob realizes we need to be in class in 15 minutes.


DO YOU HEAR THAT LEMCKE'S? Your father was late for his first day of school!!! Bad Bob. Bad, bad Bob. Class is great though. We love our classmates—there are 6 of us and I have to tell you about one in particular because she’s fascinating. She’s from Toronto and has worked all over the world from what I gather. She knows about 5 languages: French, Urdu (Pakistan), Swahili (Kenya), English of course, and now Spanish.

We were visiting about her studies in Pakistan where she did research on the plight of women and got on to the subject of micro loans and providing families with goats and chickens, etc. She talked about how we have to stop providing goats because they devastate the countryside pulling up plants by the roots and helping to cause desertification in many parts of Pakistan, Afganistan and 12 other countries which are now trying to stop the use of them. Cows are better, she says. Even sheep are better because sheep don’t pull up the roots and don’t climb high into the rocky slopes like a goat does.

Wow. The stuff I don’t know.

She asked if we’d had any trouble at the airports this week because she had been practically strip searched at the Toronto airport as she entered the US. She has a Jewish middle name and because it’s not safe to enter Pakistan or Afghanistan with that on her passport, and those are the countries she was working in, the Canadian government gave her permission to not use her middle name on her new passport (which btw, has no Pakistan or Afghanistan stamps, since she’s now retired). However, apparently her name is on a watch list because in spite of having Vicky as her name, and no entries into questionable countries, she was searched and questioned for 4 hours.

Interesting.

I really like her and find her experiences fascinating. 

So now we're sitting at La Taberna de Diablo eating and drinking and not missing any of you. Sorry.
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