Tag Archives: uruguay

I Wish I Packed Two More Pairs…

Before I left New York I had met three other solo female travelers leaving New York for various destinations in South America just a few days after me.

After one week, I sent them my advice from on the road and a couple of questions – one more urgent than the others, as you’ll see:

***

J – If you can, get another Eddie Bauer bag. Would be great to have a second. No need to duct tape logo, it peels off after three bus rides.

Day pack

Also, take less than you think you need. I did pack lightly and I still have too much. I also packed 8 pairs of underwear and have not been in a bathroom that is clean enough to wash my own underwear. Will definitely need to do a wash in MVD tomorrow. Wish I packed two more pairs.

C – Are are you in Santiago yet? I’m still in Uruguay but if you still want to do that weekend of the 10th in Vina im totally game. Soy sola Americana en Uruguay.

M – Please can you ask your family if they can recommend an English speaking eye doctor in Montevideo. I think I scratched my cornea the other day and am in pain. Have not been in a city yet so hoping to see a doc there. Will be in MVD for two nights I think. Muchas gracias!

Safe travels ladies. Hope to meet up with you soon!


Minas by way of Rocha and San Carlos

I got off the bus in Rocha and walked into the ticket shop. I asked for the bus to Minas and I was told I needed to go to San Carlos. The ticket seller rushed me through and ran me back outside to get my bus. The SAME bus I had just gotten off. So with my bag firmly under the bus I started up the steps to take my seat. Again.

I had a new seat assignment but my new friend saw me with a quizzical look and I shrugged. We both laughed and I settled in for the rest of my ride to San Carlos.

And this is where it got confusing. I needed to get another bus from San Carlos to Minas. After asking around for my bus, finally a woman took pity on my and told me we would travel to Minas together.

I spent less than 18 hours in Minas. I stayed with a Couch Surfing couple who were very kind, and I slept on a mattress in their spare bedroom. We talked for hours and around midnight they asked what I wanted for dinner. The glass of wine I had at 9p would hold me over. They started cooking around 1am and I excused myself and went to bed.

They had warned me that they weren’t morning people so in the morning, I left to explore the town. I figured I did not want to leave without saying goodbye, I should see the town and then head onto Montevideo, where I was anxious to meet up with Romina, Mariela and hopefully an eye doctor! After I spent some time wandering the town, I was given a lift on the moto to the bus station — I was assured it was the only way I’d make the next bus out. So with my eyes shut, I settled in for my second moto ride in Uruguay!

Here are some pictures from my time in Minas…

The center of town…

Minas Town Square

This was a museum under a candy store. It was noted in my guidebook but the museum may have held the record for smallest museum. I actually stayed about three minutes, two minutes longer than it took to have a look around. Upstairs in the candy shop, I was able to buy a bottle of liquor for my hosts. Liquor, candy, I guess it’s all the same.

Minas Museum Under a Candy Shop

On my walk, this was a casino. The door was propped open and I had popped my head in and this was off a residential street.

Gorgeous Architecture

A Casino on a Residential Street

My host drove me back on the moto to the bus station. The second helmet was mine.

The Moto we took to the bus station

En route to Montevideo!!


A Surprise at the Bus Stop

After my 4×4 ride back to the road, I crossed the street to the bus stop bench where I saw one other person waiting. I wanted to make sure I was at the right place so I asked, in Spanish, if he was waiting for a bus to take him west.

Tickets

In English he told me yes. I should clarify, he answered in American English! I had been in Uruguay nearly one week and this was the first American I met. Being that I had just been a little homesick it was nice to hear an American accent.

We introduced ourselves — he was from Colorado and finishing up three months of travel in South America before heading home in a few days.

I told him he was the first American that I met since I arrived in Uruguay nearly a week ago. He did not seem surprised.

We chatted about South America and traveling and why we each chose to explore the continent solo.

He had worked his was from the north to finish up in the south while I would be heading south to north. He told me that depending on where I wound up, I’d hit parts of the backpacker trail. I mentioned that after Colonia, most of Uruguay seemed to be off the beaten path. He laughed and then told me that where we currently were, was off the radar and we weren’t even on a path, much less the backpacker one!

Let me back up a second. Part of my intentions of traveling off the beaten path was to meet locals, not Americans, but after my personal pity party for one earlier in the day, it felt so nice to talk in English without worrying about double meanings or how to explain something in Spanish. We could just talk. And talk we did — for almost an hour. (Good thing I got the fluent English out of my system because it would be another week until I would be speaking English to native English speakers again).

We chatted until the bus arrived and we happened to have bus tickets with seat numbers assigned next to each other so we continued to chat.

We talked about the guard versus co-pilot on the buses, the obsession with mate and assigned seats are serious business here.

We spoke in English until I had to get off the bus in Rocha to buy my connecting ticket. We bid adieu. I grabbed my bags from the belly of the bus so I could sort out my onward bus ticket to Minas.


Being Green, Really

Here, recycling is a way of life.

Recycled plastic water jugs double as candle holders. candle

Locals fill the jugs with sand, stick a candle in and the jug acts as the barrier to the wind until the candle burns the plastic so much that you need a new jug.

Nine people shared a house for a night and created less than half of a bag of trash (until I showed up).

Before I left, I cleaned out my daypack with anything that I didn’t need. Not even an entire week on the road and I had acquired so much paper — tickets, guides and receipts. Couldn’t believe that I acquired so much and made a mental note to get rid of it before it accumulates.

I saw the juxtaposition in being in a place that was so accustomed to recycling yet had caused me to accumulate so much trash in just a few days.


Cabo Polonio hadn’t changed much in twenty years

One of my roommates in the attic told me that he had been coming to Daisy’s house for two weeks every summer for the past twenty years. Living in Buenos Aires, spending time in Cabo Polonio was his way to disconnect from city living.

He went on to tell me that Cabo Polonio hadn’t changed much in twenty years.

It was, and will probably always be, a hippie haven with gorgeous and unspoilt beaches and some of the friendliest and most laid back people I will probably ever meet.

If you are up for an adventure like no other, and want to head somewhere with amazing sunsets, beautiful beaches and interesting people — and you’re willing to go off the beaten path (literally), you’re okay with just a sentence or two in a guidebook and you can stand not having any electricity —  don’t hesitate to visit Cabo Polonio. But shhhh…don’t tell anyone else!

Cabo Polonio at sunset


I Finally Met Daisy

I got back to Daisy’s and met my other roommate, Miguel, who had a late night. He and my Buenos Aires roommate were in the yard when I returned and asked what I was up to. They took me to buy bus tickets and to my surprise, the bus tickets were right next to the supermarket but keep very sporadic hours – as in an hour here, an hour there. When we arrived, it was closed.

So we headed to the beach. Miguel was also from Argentina and on holiday. In a mix of English and Spanish the three of us chatted about travel, city life and jobs while enjoying the Uruguayan beach. Once we were together chatting on the beach, I started to feel a little better and the loneliness waned.

A few hours later we went back to buy bus tickets – and got my ticket part way to Minas. They could only sell me a ticket to a town called Rocha. Once in Rocha, I’d have to buy the onward ticket and get on a different bus (or so I thought).

Hoping for the best, we headed back to the house where I needed to pay for my stay and head out.

I finally got to meet Daisy. (No photo but here’s the outside of her house where I stayed).

Daisy's House

She was probably in her 70s. She didn’t speak a lick of English but we managed to chat for a few minutes. The tall German boy was in the hostel and was able to bring my bags down the stairs. I said goodbye to everyone and headed back to the supermarket where I’d get back on the truck out of Cabo Polonio.

4x4


Cabo Polonio Exploration

Continuing from my time in Cabo Polonio…and the windy night

After what seemed like a few minutes later, the sun was up. I was the first one up so I cut a piece off from some bread we had bought at the supermarket and headed out. I wanted to explore the village, buy a bus ticket to Minas and hit the beach!

Before leaving Colonia, I had emailed with my CouchSurfing hosts in Minas, that I probably wouldn’t arrive until after 7 that evening (enough time to have the whole day in Cabo Polonio but early enough that I would arrive during daylight and well before dinner).

I headed out and literally took a hike. I walked around the water’s edge and followed the path worn into the grass. I did see a lot of baseball sized poop. I figured it was the horses I saw the previous day.

baseball sized poop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then, I saw them…sea lions or walruses (not sure which).

 

 

sea lion or walrus

Not behind barbed wire, not on display like at a zoo – just sea lions chilling on the rocks. There were a few of us that happened upon the sunbathing sea lions and we proceeded to ooh and ahh together and take photographs.

I’m not well-versed in sea lions – and if they like being photographed, or how fast they move, had they been pissed – but everyone seemed to be respectful of their space and they did not move more than a few inches while I was there.

I got in a few photos and then watched in awe. They love the sun as much as I do. They lounged around and hardly even moved for the time I was there.

As I walked on the beach in Cabo Polonio admiring the sea lions, I was joined by a few other people doing the same thing. One person in the group spoke English and asked if I was traveling alone. I said yes. She shared the info with the others, and then said that I was very brave. They all nodded in unison.

At this point I wasn’t feeling so brave.

While I was enjoying the rustic nature of Cabo Polonio and was really trying to immerse myself in the relaxed feel of the village, I couldn’t get this nagging feeling to go away.

I had spent a few hours alone watching other people enjoy their vacations with their friends and I was feeling kind of lonely.

I was missing the company of Laura in Colonia and Romina and Mariela in La Pedrera. I wasn’t really certain about what to expect in Minas since I had only exchanged a few emails with my hosts. My eye was really bothering me and I was envious of the other people I saw having fun with their friends. I wasn’t sure if I was homesick or if I just really wanted running water. Pity party for one, please.

I continued my walk around to the other side of the village where there were a few stalls/trailers selling jewelry and food. I stopped at a beach shack to buy an apple juice and asked where I could buy bus tickets. He shrugged. I wasn’t sure if my Spanish wasn’t great — donde esta comprar boletos de autobus — or if he didn’t want to deal with me. I continued my attempt at asking around town and either no one knew or I didn’t understand the reply.

Since it was nearing late morning, I decided to head back to Daisy’s.

I still wanted to spend some time on the pristine beach, and I had to hope that someone would have more information on the bus situation.


12 of My Favorite Places in 2012

Full disclosure: I started writing this post in 2012, but I finished it in 2013. I’m going to go back in time to let it post in 2012. Forgive my tardiness.

Following the lead of Katie at Katie Going Global, and her 12 Favorite Places list, I decided to create a list of my own favorite places.

While it may not be the most representative photo of a place (or the best photo), the photo and the place struck a chord with me.

In chronological order, 12 of my favorite places in 2012…

1) Cabo Polonio, Uruguay

This coastal village, accessible only by a 4×4 truck, is a 30 minute ride from the nearest road. Cabo Polonio has no electricity, a dusty supermarket and a peaceful way of life. Just a handful of residents make Cabo their home year-round, including sea lions. As you’d expect, the population peaks throughout the summer with those looking to disconnect.

En Route to Cabo Polonio

2.) Montevideo, Uruguay

I saw four new capital cities on this trip and of those, Montevideo was my favorite. The architecture in the old city is beautiful. Beaches line the Rio de la Plata in the middle of the city. I was fortunate to have new friends as local guides and saw many neighborhoods, and a brief stop at the British Hospital. I was there during the festival celebrating Yemaja, the Queen of the Water. Even though Montevideo is a major city, donkeys still help with garbage collection.
Montevideo

3.) Maipu, Argentina

Vineyards always make me smile. This was a really fun day in a really beautiful place not far from the bustle of Mendoza. This particular vineyard’s property extends to the trees in the far back of the photo. I had always thought I don’t like chardonnay because of it’s oaky taste, but I learned that there are options and I do enjoy a chardonnay from a stainless-steel barrel.

Maipu

4.) Valparaiso, Chile

Before arriving, I was told that everyone finds that they either love it or hate it. From the art on the streets, literally, to the spectacular views, I fell in love with Valpo. I had only planned on staying one night only because I couldn’t figure out where I was heading next yet I wound up staying in Valpo for four nights. Art covered the streets, there’s a lively community and the sea breeze doesn’t hurt.

Valparaiso
Valparaiso_2

5.) San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world. When I arrived, it was experiencing the worst flooding in over a decade.  Here’s a shot of my bus driver calling to find a different route since, yes, that is a river flowing through it. Buildings in town were mostly covered by thatched roofs. Outside, they were mostly covered with layers of plastic tarps to prevent any more water. Inside, buckets were set up to catch the water.

San Pedro de Atacama

Two of my friends arrived in Chile and we spent an amazing few days together navigating the new normal of San Pedro.
SPA2
6.) Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The world’s largest salt flat is simply surreal. I was there in the rainy season which creates a mirror effect from the salt and the flooded flats. You can play with the perspective but the scenery around you is simply jaw-dropping and reminds you how little we are in this thing called, Earth.

Salar de Uyuni

7. and 7.5.) Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Lake Titicaca, Peru

I guess I hit on a few superlatives during my travels and here are two more. Lake Titicaca is considered the highest lake in the world, and the largest in South America. Bordered by Bolivia and Peru, I spent time on both sides of, and on, the lake. In Bolivia, I happened to be in town during the weekly blessings of vehicles. In Peru, I stayed with a local family on Amantani, an island on the Peruvian side of the lake.

Lake Titicaca, Bolivia Bolivia

Lake Titicaca, PeruPeru

8.) Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Accompanied by a guide, I felt like I was on a school trip. The coolest one ever. I learned so much. Wildlife and nature are pristine in this paradise. Animals and plants found here are found nowhere else on earth. Here, a blue-footed boobie.

Galapagos 2

9.) Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Nashville has my heart. I love country music, I love live music and I love Southern hospitality. I have never had a bad time in Music City and there’s something to be said about traveling with your girlfriends.

Nashville

10.) Taormina Mare, Sicily, Italy

A beachside town just a few miles away from the tourist mecca of Taormina, this was the start of the off-season. Restaurants were filled with locals, the beaches empty since it was a little chilly but the scenery and the weather excellent for sightseeing, relaxing and just taking in the views.

Taormina Mare

11.) Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy

Driving from the autostrada in Sicily, you can’t help but notice the mountain as it gets closer. And then as you head up, it gets colder. But the height gets you above the clouds and reminds you of the past explosions. If you kick up some dirt and feel the ground, it’s warm from the cauldron bubbling inside. Super super cool.

Mt. Etna

12.) Gozo, Malta

Malta is an archipelago situated just 90 miles south of Sicily and just north of Tunisia in Africa. Gozo is one of the three islands in the Maltese archipelago and is surrounded by water, rolling hillsides and amazing formations like the Azure Window.  Villages dot the island each offering delicious meals, warm locals and stunning views. The pace of life on Gozo is noticeably slower and more relaxed than on its larger neighbor, Malta.

Gozo, Malta

And the trouble with lists, is that I can’t include each and every place.

Just because I left you out – La Paz, Bolivia; Mendoza, Argentina; Arequipa, Peru; Salta, Argentina and Santiago, Chile – doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy you. As for Minas, Uruguay; Vina del Mar, Chile and Villazon, Bolivia, well, I’m probably not headed back your way anytime soon, but thanks for the memories – including the trying time to get my Bolivian visa.

Thanks for reading! A happy and healthy new year to you and your family.


Back at Daisy’s

Back at Daisy’s we met the rest of the house. We sat around the candles, ate dinner in the grass and finished a few beers before the last candle went out.

Once our candle burned out, we said goodnight. My excitement for a good night’s sleep soon fizzled. There were no locks on the door of the house, and I certainly didn’t have a door to my room. (Remember I entered my room through a hole in the floor). Oh, and one of my roommates was missing. Hopefully they wouldn’t be too loud but we certainly didn’t have to worry about anyone coming back and waking me up by flipping on the lights – since there weren’t any.

Climbing up the ladder to my bed for the night, I mentioned to my new friends that I hope I don’t hurt myself climbing in the dark. One of my roommates told me “It’s best if you don’t. There’s no hospital in the village.”

Knowing how my eyes ached, I had a twinge of nervousness. Knowing I wouldn’t be seeing an eye doctor until I reached Montevideo in a few more days, I was hoping for the best until then.

Once I got into bed I realized the sound of the wind. Not sure if the roof was sturdy, but I didn’t have much to lose. My backpack, holding everything I owned, was on the floor next to my bed. My headlamp, my iPod, my glasses and case joined me and my sleep sack in the bed. If the roof blew off, I only had a few things to hold onto.


Cabo’s Supermarket

My new friends and I headed back to the supermarket to get provisions for dinner. It seemed like everyone had the same idea. The supermarket was jumping!

Stepping into the supermarket was like going back in time.

An old icebox held milk, eggs and yogurt.

fridge in the supermarket
The scale was rusty from years of use and it was so charming. The man behind the counter had a manual weight to check the price against what was on the scale.

scale

In the corner, stacks of boxes housed batteries and flashlights.

The three of us chipped in for a variety of vegetables, breads and cheeses, and beer. Once the sun went down we had headlamps and beers. And candles like these found on tables at a bar on the walk back to Daisy’s.

Heading back to Daisy’s house, I really took it all in. My parents were probably freaking out because they wouldn’t hear from me for over 36 hours and here in Cabo Polonio I couldn’t even contact them if I wanted to.