Cigar and a flapjack

Trip Start Oct 05, 2005
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Trip End Apr 06, 2006


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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Friday, December 23, 2005

I had a week to burn before Christmas and, given that Uruguay is only a hop, skip and a jump from Buenos Aires, I thought I'd go over and sun my pasty bod for a few days. The ferry arrived into Colonia, a lovely little town reminiscent of Portugal (it used to be occupied by the Portugese). It was a very peaceful place, where a whole lot of people did a whole lot of nothing, full of beat-up old cars and families on mopeds, and I spent a day walking round the old town, eating fresh fish and sunbathing on the rocks.

I then headed five hours up the coast to the self-proclaimed party town of Punta del Este. I had heard a lot about Punta, as it is where all the wealthy Argentinians head for their jollies, so was expecting a lot of action. Was quite shocked to find it very much a work in progress. Roads were being built, houses being thrown up and bars and ice-cream parlours frantically putting the finishing touches to their paint jobs. Given that it was the week before Christmas I thought this was perhaps leaving things a little late, but then I remembered I was in Uruguay and why hurry when there's always tomorrow?

I stayed in a hostel away from the town, in a pine forest, which consisted of me, a French guy, an Aussie and a half-naked Spaniard, and spent most of my time lying on the sofa outside reading my book. I did manage to persuade the Aussie to come and have dinner with me one night in the only restaurant in the vicinity, at the end of our dirt track. It was very dead, so we had five waitresses, the chef and the sommelier all fighting over us, running back and forth with nibbles to try, more wine, water - we both thought all our Christmases had come at once... until the bill came, when I nearly had to rescusitate the Aussie. Three nights' accommodation on some sushi and a glass of wine anyone?

I wanted to see more of the coast so I caught a bus to La Paloma, another small beach town not in a hurry for anything. I arrived late on a Sunday evening, just as everything was closing, and couldn't for the life of me find the hostel I was supposed to be staying in, again located in the middle of a forest and only accessible by wandering aimlessly along a series of sandy tracks. I had asked everyone in town where it was, and I was getting desperate when an old lady who had popped into the pharmacy as I was asking directions for the tenth time said her husband was waiting outside in the car and they would drive me around to help me find it. So me, Miguel and Maria cruised La Paloma for an hour, asking anyone who was sat on their doorstep where this hostel was, only to be met with blank faces all round. Just as I had resigned myself to staying the night with them in their holiday home in the next town along, Miguel swung the car forestwards and after a couple of minutes I was deposited at the hostel door - but not after Maria came in to give the teenager running the place a piece of her mind for not giving me decent directions in the first place.

Three older guys, all travelling alone, shared the boys' dorm, and I had the female one to myself. As soon as I got into bed I heard the familiar sound of a mossie circling its prey. I promptly spent the next hour, armed with my book, on a zero-tolerance murder mission - anything with wings got it. Except one. And it only takes one. Wrapped in my sheet from head to foot, with only my cheeks and nose on show, I thought I was well protected but the little blighter spent the next eight hours walking around and eating my face. By the morning I looked like a 16-year-old with rampant acne.

Back in Punta, my time passed in a haze of sunbathing and going out. There was a group of Norwegians staying in the hostel and they would kick off each night with a drinking game, ending only when all of them had passed out dribbling in the corner. Only once did I have the balls to join them, a night that ended at sunrise in a club called Soho with Nacho, the owner of the hostel, and a bunch of his mates dancing to Uruguaian techno.
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