CouchSurfing In La Paloma

Trip Start Oct 17, 2012
Trip End Mar 27, 2013

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Flag of Uruguay  , Durazno,
Monday, October 29, 2012

La Paloma October 27-29

For those who don't know, is an online database connecting travelers with hosts around the world. The traveler gets to meet locals first hand and gets a couch or extra bed to crash on for free while the host gets to meet new people and learn about them. It's kind of like Facebook or a dating website where everyone creates a profile detailing their interests etc and you find people you think you'd get along with. We have decided to use CouchSurfing to not only alleviate some of our travel expenses but also to gain a more well rounded experience.

La Paloma was our first CouchSurfing experience. Originally, we had contacted Alejandro (mentioned in the previous Montevideo post) to stay with him on his farm outside of Punta del Diablo, a laid back surfer town that sounded interesting. Upon meeting Alejandro in Montevideo, Uruguay he decided it best that we instead stay at his cousin's rented beach house in La Paloma, another laid back surfer town. Though we had heard of La Paloma we had no intentions of going there, but seeing as how Alejandro was already such a friendly host and we never ones to turn down a free place to sleep we rolled with the change of plans.

The house was obviously rented out and lived in by boys ready for beach parties in the summer- not the cleanest or most put together, but it was happily home for the next 3 nights. Our first day there we immediately went to the beach and walked around, taking it all in. We were both amazed by how clean the beach was. People in Uruguay seem to really respect their beaches and pick up after themselves/don't use the ocean as a trash can. In addition to the pristine cleanliness, the beach was a ghost town! There were just a handful of people on it at any given time over the next three days making it all the more beautiful. After exploring the beach, we decided to headed to the supermercado to purchase some refreshments and carne. This was actually difficult because most stores observe a siesta in the middle of the day, sometime between 12-4pm. But after much walking we found an open store and proceed to take it easy the rest of the afternoon and in to the evening just drinking Uruguayan cerveza, brands Pilsen or (the house favorite) Patricia both traditional commercial lagers and enjoying carne asado.

As many of you know, Uruguay's primary export is beef. Carne is taken very seriously around here and asados, or BBQs, seem to happen whenever there is any type of gathering. It's probably safe to say that we both consumed more meat over the next three days than we probably had in the last year.

Aside from asado, the other main interest of Uruguayans is the tradition of drinking Yerba Mate. Everywhere you go you see people carrying their mate (the cup that holds the drink, traditionally a gourd) full of yerba and a straw with a filter on the end, as well as a thermos of hot water. Literally everyone has both in their hands, there are even carrying cases made specifically for you thermos, mate and large bag of Yerba which is basically just a tea. We saw babies drinking it- it is a countrywide obsession. The flavor is Unami, very earthy, we both enjoy it and are offered it often. Even at gatherings where everyone is drinking and carrying on, there is often a Yerba Mate being passed around from person to person.

A hand full of friends as well as Alejandro's cousin came in and out over the next two days. It was really nice and everyone was very warm and welcoming. The main problem that finally smacked us in the face was how little Spanish we knew. On the last day there was even a fellow couch surfer from Argentina who seemed offended by us not speaking in Spanish. Though we did try, an hour could go by where we didn't say anything and didn't understand anything that anyone was talking about. In addition to neither of us not being even close to fluent (especially Lydia) we were both more or less taught Mexican Spanish, Lydia only knows Spanish from various trips to Mexico. The accents here are so far from what we are used to, we couldn't even understand some basic sentences full of words that we know. It almost sounds Portuguese and the Double-L actually makes an s or j sound as opposed to a y. Horribly frustrating. Also nice at times though- it was easy to let your mind wander, get bored, and then try to invent ways to keep yourself entertained (cooking, eating, making up card games, taking walks, etc).
Anyway, a lot of the time Alejandro spoke English with us though. It felt like we were cheating, but sill it was nice to have some real conversations. The guys were interesting, too. They listen to jazz, funk and a lot of bossanova, enjoy cooking, and spend most of their time outside on a . Ale studied landscape design and he is working with his cousin to landscape their farm with native plants-- we were invited to go to the farm with them after La Paloma and camp out, but there was somewhere else we really wanted to go.
Finally our lazy beach days in La Paloma were over. It was nice to have days solely consisting of going to the beach, drinking mate and beer or wine, eating asado and relaxing with new friends but we were both ready for our next adventure. And, happily, our hosts were nice enough to drive us to our next destination, Cabo Polonio....
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