Tag Archives: uruguay

Adios, Uruguay

Saying good-bye to Romina and Mariela was sad because I had such a good time with them. They helped get rid of my loneliness and I was well taken care of in Montevideo. After we said our good byes, I took a cab to the terminal, bought my ticket and was efficiently stamped out of Uruguay and into Argentina as I headed to the waiting room to board the ship.

Thinking the ferry between Montevideo and Buenos Aires would take three hours, I was confident I could take the time to use Wi-Fi on the ferry to make my next plan, and book that night’s accommodation (wherever I would wind up!)

Once I bought my ticket, I had some time before boarding and met a Canadian couple. They had just spent a week in Punta del Este and showed me photos of their trip, and hotel. It was definitely not the Punta del Este I saw! It was glam and glitz and luxury — which is what most people go to Punta for.

I boarded the ferry (which is a rather large ship), took a seat at a table by a window, opened my laptop and was ready to connect to Wi-Fi.

Except there wasn’t any. I couldn’t even pay to get internet.

I wasn’t worried because I would be getting into Buenos Aires around lunchtime so I would have time to figure out my plan, I just thought I’d be able to figure out my plan in the three hours on the boat. Buses in Uruguay had Wi-Fi (which I never used) and I had just assumed it would work on the ferry. By the way, I would never see the Wi-Fi on a bus ever again on my trip.

So, realizing I had three hours to myself, I watched Uruguay slip away into the distance thinking about the adventures that await as I headed into Argentina.

Adios, Uruguay. I will definitely be back.
bye2

bye

uruguay


Photos: Donkeys at Work

La Pedrera Donkey

donkey trashman 

Trash donkey – Montevideo, Uruguay

Transportation donkey – La Pedrera, Uruguay


Seeing the Celebration of Yemaja

Once the sun went down on the day where I saw the sheep’s head, Romina, her friend and I headed to the Yemaja Festival on the Rio de la Plata — on a different beach from where we had been earlier in the day.

There, was a religious festival on the beach, in the river and on the streets. Yemaja is the Goddess of the Sea.

The beach was full of people celebrating this spiritual holiday. The beach and the surrounding streets were full of people like us, who were observing.

In the sand, people had scooped out holes to put candles. Families gathered around their ‘hole’ and you could see them enjoying the company of those around them.

these were the holes in the sand

the beach was covered with candles in holes

It made the beach look beautiful but if you weren’t watching where you walked, it could have been dangerous.

it looked pretty

People were dressed in all white as they walked from the beach into the river to make their offering to Yemaja. Long white cotton gowns and pants dominated the fashion scene of religious participants.

women walking into the water

On the beach there were bands playing and on the street just parallel to the beach there was music coming from nearly every car.

It was very interesting and I didn’t take many photos, or try to get good ones, because I felt like an intruder on a spiritual journey. If you Google “Yemaja and Montevideo” there are photos if you wanted to see more. The spellings vary as this is celebrated in a variety of countries with an African influence.

And no, I did not see any other animals on the beach.


Heads Up! You Won’t Believe It Until You See It!

I know I didn’t want to spend time in cities, but after being so far from civilization for a few days, I couldn’t have been happier being in Montevideo.
With Romina's mate
As for food, jamon y queso sandwiches are everywhere! That’s ham and cheese — and they cut the crust off when you order them in a restaurant.
The other popular food item — dulce de leche. It’s very sweet and I was introduced to this during a vacation in Argentina. But the locals love it!At this point I had stayed one night with Mariela in her high-rise apartment and one night with Romina in her rented house. I didn’t want to be the houseguest that never left but the girls convinced me to stay just one more night.
My third, and final full day, in Montevideo had Romina and I heading to the beach!
View to the left…
Montevideo in the background
View to the right…
 Beach view away from the city
Shot of the city and the beach
The beach was pretty dirty with smashed watermelons and a fair amont of trash scattered on the beach.
 Dirty beach
Romina explained that this was the start of a native holiday. The fiesta, celebrating Yemaja, was for native people to send off watermelons, and boats, as gifts to the Goddess of the Sea. It was an African tradition and there would be many people celebrating again, on beaches around the city, tonight. We should go, Romina said. It wasn’t something she celebrated but it would be good to show me. I agreed.
Romina's shot of me after she took the picture of the head. Still note trashed beach.
We continued to soak up the rays and I headed to the water to stick my feet in. I walked along the edge of the water realizing that I was in Uruguay. It was like I had to keep pinching myself, knowing I was there. Being around Romina and Mariela made me a lot less lonely and their hospitality was incredible. I was having so much fun with them but I knew I needed to leave the next day. I continued along the beach until I was stopped in my tracks.By a head.

Yes, you read that right. A head.

Head
Without even taking a double look, I ran back to Romina skeeved and shaking in disbelief at what I just saw. I started speaking in Spanish and English telling her that I think it was a dog’s head. I even woof woof’d a few times to get my point across!
There was no blood but there was most definitely a head. She erupted in a fit of giggles. I was puzzled but still freaked out by what i just say so I was asking what, why?
When she caught her breath from her laughter, she said it’s probably from one of the gifts from the festival.
I said you have to go take a picture of it. I can’t go back and look but I wanted to see it again. Plus, no one at home would have believed me.
She took my camera and went to document the body- less head.
When she came back I asked more questions. And I kept saying perro (dog)? She replied with baaaa baaaa.
So sheep it was.
Another shot of the head

Even if You Go Solo, You are Not Alone

“Here was something I already knew to be true about myself: Just as there are some wives who will occasionally need a break from their husbands in order to visit a spa for the weekend with their girlfriends, I will always be the sort of wife who occasionally needs a break from her husband in order to visit Cambodia. Just for a few days!”  — Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage

The story of the New York wife, mother and solo traveler, Sarai Sierra, has gotten a lot of press around the world and especially here on the local New York media.

Once I heard the story that she was traveling alone, I got nervous, and sad. I figured all the nay-sayers would say things like ‘She shouldn’t have been traveling alone’ and ‘Why would she go on holiday without her family?’

After reading just a few articles, and their comments, it didn’t take long to see the point of view I feared.

Hold on a minute.

Not travel alone? WHY?

Sarai was supposed to go on this trip with a friend. Her friend cancelled. Was Sarai expected to cancel as well? No, of course not.

Every time I turn on the news, I see stories about assaults, shootings and stabbings and that’s just my local news. Should I never leave my home since these things are happening in my own backyard? I think not.

I traveled alone in Europe as a recent college grad and I traveled alone more recently in South America for eight weeks in 2012.

Before I left on my trip, I had read countless tips from Janice Waugh who writes the Solo Traveler Blog. With a little common sense, being a solo female traveler is not a problem. In fact, I found that people went out of their way to help me when they found out I was traveling solo.

Did the man I met on the ticket line at the Buenos Aires bus terminal advise me to hang out in the crowded and loud terminal for a few hours so I could take a later bus that would allow me to arrive in Cordoba at seven am instead of three in the morning? Yes.

Did I have lunch with a man in the cafeteria of a local market in Valparaiso, Chile where I never would have gone? Yes, and I would not have gone, not because I was afraid, but because I would have never known about its existence otherwise. (It was above the market, not in the market and I was the only gringa in there. Clearly a good, local find.)

Did a French man see my confusion in a time of chaos just shy of the Chile/Argentina border? Yes, and he kindly translated for me that our bus ‘might not make it’ to our destination 11 hours away and if I wanted to get off, now would be the time. (After a quick assessment, I didn’t see anyone else get off the bus so I stayed on.)

Did I say yes to an offer for a tour of Maipu, Argentina and its vineyards with a local man and his partner? Yes. (This offer was made in the Cordoba airport when our flight to Mendoza was diverted, cancelled and rescheduled.)

Did I accept an invitation to drink mate (and have dinner with two Argentinian guys I met at a cafe overlooking the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca earlier in the day? Yes, and they even walked me back to the hostel afterwards.

Are you shaking your head in disbelief? Are you raising your eyebrows? Are you thinking ‘Is she crazy?’

Would you have batted an eye if I said I stayed with a girl from California in her apartment in Mendoza, who I met in a tasting room?

What if I told you I traveled in northern Argentina and southern Bolivia for nearly a week with an Australian girl I met at a hostel? At her father’s request, we introduced our families via email (who were around the globe from one another) with our whereabouts.

What about the girls I met at the beach in La Pedrera, Uruguay who invited me into their homes in Montevideo when I arrived in the city? (One of whom accompanied me for an emergency eye doctor appointment at the British Hospital).

What about the couple from the US who I met at my hostel in Valparaiso? We spent the day at wine tasting at a vineyard in the Chilean countryside. That day trip had the added benefit of the discovery that I like Chardonnay so long as it’s not in an oak barrel.

What about the group of Australian girls, and one girl from Colorado, traveling together that I met at the hostel pool in Huacachina, Peru? Not only did I join their small group for dinner that night, but I met up with them a few days later in Lima.

What about the two girl friends from Ecuador that I met in Uyuni, Bolivia who, before they got on their bus, took me to a local market to sample local pastries and api, a thick local beverage made from purple corn served piping hot, that, according to them, I had to try. (Good call, it was delicious.)

What about the two Austrian girls who I met at breakfast and then spent the better part of two days with them as we hiked, shopped and went sightseeing in Salta, Argentina and the surrounding areas?

What about meeting a girl from Andorra because our current hostel had no vacancies for each of our individual requested extra days because we both fell in love with the same city. Together, we moved hostels, became roommates for two nights and shared a lovely Valentine’s Day dinner in Valparaiso?

What if I told you I made my way alone from my hostel to a restaurant to meet up with my newfound friends from Amantani Island, Peru – from Canada and Brazil – for dinner in Puno, Peru?

What about the group of solo travelers from Canada and the US – who were all traveling solo – in Paracas, Peru? Even when our tour left us at the bus station in Ica, Peru, we counted on each other to make our way back to our respective hostels in Huacachina.

What about the Dutch couple who I met at breakfast in the hostel in Tupiza, Bolivia? They were witness to the first time I publicly cried on my trip. And I had just met them. I traveled with them from Tupiza to Uyuni, Bolivia on a harrowing bus ride. In Uyuni, we shared a dorm room, and raised beers to the craziest bus ride we each had ever endured (and they had been in Bolivia for a few weeks at that point).

What about the Australian guy/Canadian girl couple who I met at the ‘airport’ in Uyuni, Bolivia? I did not have accommodations booked in La Paz and they invited me to join them in the taxi to their hostel to see if I could grab a spare bed. There was, and we had a great, albeit mostly out of breath, day in the highest capital city in the world. Oh, and together we discovered amazing Indian food in La Paz.

Now you’re probably not even batting an eye.

But guess what? All of these people were strangers when I first met them.

Did I say yes when my seatmate from a 12 hour bus ride wanted to share a taxi from the bus station to my hostel in Salta, Argentina? He didn’t have a reservation and it was after midnight. I had spent nearly half a day in his company in the seat next to his and I had a weird feeling. So I went with my gut, and my own taxi.

Sure, there are risks. There are always risks. But isn’t the bigger risk not to go at all?

I had the opportunity to spend the night with a local host family on Amantani Island, an island situated on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca where most of its inhabitants speak Quechua. Three women and I were assigned to the same host family. We were all in our thirties and we were all traveling alone. The four of us represented Canada, France, Argentina and the US.

As we got to talking about travel, and more specifically, solo female travel, we shared the reactions of our friends and families once we had announced that we would be traveling alone. For four girls from four countries, the reactions we received weren’t that different. The net net: We all had nervous moms and dads awaiting our safe return.

And then, on a little island where lake front property is a given, eating locally is the only option, and there’s no electricity on the island, I realized that I wouldn’t be traveling alone for the next two days and thanks to everyone I had met along the way, I hadn’t been alone most of the time I had been ‘traveling alone.’

So I say, to any woman (or man) that may have some hesitation about taking that solo trip, you should go. Because even if you go solo, you are not alone.


Livin La Vida Local

The rest of the day in Montevideo with Romina and Mariela was quite fun. We joked that I was livin la vida local since Romina had a lot of errands to run and I was happy to go along with her. Mariela worked during the day so she would meet up with us afterwards.

Some of the things we did —

  • Romina had an interview and I found an internet cafe nearby
  • Romina needed to get approved for an apartment and I went to the bank with her
  • Romina had to pay her phone bill
  • Romina needed to look at an apartment (2 blocks from the beach in a nice neighborhood, $300USD/month) – my artsy shot from one of the windows in the apartment we looked at

Apartment

  • I had to go to a hardware store for a converter
  • Romina took me to the old city and gave me a tour of historic Montevideo

MVD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought this facade was so elegant and pretty. The dark doors are simply gorgeous.

Buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Famous theatre – we went inside for a peek before a show was to start.

Teatro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then the mate canisters…more on this later!!

Mate


Visiting the Hospital in Montevideo

The next morning, I called the Embassy again and they told me to go to the British Hospital — which, thanks to Lonely Planet, was where I was going to visit anyway.

I didn’t think I needed a hospital for my eye but I wasn’t about to take any chances. Romina and I went to the British Hospital. On the way there she told me this was the ‘posh hospital.’ I was intrigued.

We arrived and went to the floor for eyes. I signed in and took a seat.

No more than 15 minutes later my name was called. We were brought into the room (yes, I took Romina with me!) and we met my doctor, who spoke excellent English, and I had a full exam with a diagnosis and a prescription, less than one hour later.

Eye doctor

British Hospital

My total bill? Approximately $100 USD. I had travel insurance which I would need to submit this to but $100 USD for an out-of-pocket payment for an emergency room visit, in a private hospital. Not sure how the hospital industry works but this would NEVER happen in the US. A trip in an ambulance alone costs over $400 in New York City.Outside the Hospital

The prescriptions would mean no contacts for another week and eye drops for the next three weeks but I was well on my way to recovery!