Once I left the supermarket the sun started to make its way down and I knew I wanted to head back to the hostel pretty quickly. Not having spent any time in town I didn’t have any markers of where things were, other than the ones I used to get to the supermarket.
And so, not surprisingly, I got lost on the way back to the hostel. Not like “Oops I am lost” but “Panicked, Holy Shit, Where Am I?” Kind of Lost.
The hostel I was staying at was a house in a quiet neighborhood, a ways off the main Punta strip. It was dark, it had a very suburban feel and no one was outside. A car would speed by every few minutes or so.
There are no street lights, there are no sidewalks and it’s now officially dark. Not sundown. Dark.
There are loads of trees – old, big, leafy trees – and my imagination has gone wild. I am imagining someone jumping out. Or worse, a stray dog.
I may have grown up on a quiet tree-lined suburban street, but I am a city girl. I like noise. I like knowing there are people around. This was not the Punta I had heard and read about.
There are no street signs so I can’t even begin to figure out where I am on the map.
I see cars pulling up to a place so I walk towards it. It’s a small restaurant in the middle of this residential neighborhood. There is a valet service and I ask one of the valets for directions.
I have to step back from my situation and realize the absurdity. I am in suburban Punta del Este, which in itself seems like a juxtaposition. The restaurant is tiny, men are in jackets and ladies are in long dresses. There are maybe three lights on.
And there’s a sign for valet parking? What? Where am I?
Thankfully I had the business card of the hostel with the information. What I didn’t have, and usually do, was a sense of direction.
With my headlamp illuminating us, the valet very slowly gave me directions in Spanish emphasizing exactly where I needed to go with his hand gestures.
I translated the directions, thanked him and hoped that my translation was right and crossed my fingers that I would remember what the heck he had just told me.
Before I walked away he offered me a ride, but I declined.
Getting into a car with a man who knew I was lost, with a language barrier, just did not seem like the best idea of the night.
I was wrong. It would have been better than the events that followed.