Trip Start Jan 03, 2008
28Trip End Jul 04, 2008
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We only went to Uruguay for the day (Friday)... weird going to another country for a "day-trip". Montevideo (the capital) is 3 hours away from Buenos Aires, and the only way to get there is by boat.
I would call Montevideo a mini Buenos Aires... the accent is nearly the same, just not as harsh, and the people and architecture are very European. It's obviously a lot smaller, at around 2 million people.
When we arrived, we ate at a café, where I had the best tomato-mozzarella-basil sandwich ever (when you're in South America you learn to appreciate good food no matter how small it is) - and planned out our trip
I volunteered to ask the waitress where a "feria" would be (I was excited to see how Uruguayans talk - and it is safe to say everyone is easier to understand than Chileans!). She was not much help as it was, but a nice periodista (journalist) came over and helped us out a LOT - gosh the Latinos are just so nice sometimes. He even drew us a map where a feria was that day, recommended climbing the Montevideo version of San Cristobal (although that was a tad out of the way), and said that he could get us an "in" in this one tower thing - so which we politely said, "No thanks." He said that he studied in Australia for a while and that his English is sketchy, but as with many South Americans, he was too shy to speak English! All the better for us to practice our Spanish, supongo (I suppose).
We walked toward the feria and ran into a military exercise at Plaza Constitucion... well it wasn't an exercise but I'm not really sure what to call it. A ceremony, perhaps. We went to the feria, saw many similar items as in Argentina (including mate tea pots), and I bought this wall hang thing. Shoot, sometimes even my English fails me
Since the ocean seemed a stones throw away, we headed down that way. Bad idea. All of a sudden, the street changed from nice, very populated, to nearly empty and very poor. There was a guy cooking meat in the street - and when I say that, I mean he made a fire on the GROUND and was roasting meat on it. That should have given us a clue. The garbage pick-up in this part of Montevideo seemed to be donkeys hauling cart-fulls of trash bags...
Two boys, I would guess about 12 years old, approached us and asked us for money (This is a common occurrence here in South America). We said "No" - and at this point we were already trying to hustle it out of there - and kept on walking. We could hear them walking behind us, and no matter how fast we walked, they were still behind us whispering. They tried to grab my friend's purse but they didn't succeed, as she had a death grip on it and I slapped their hands away. I screamed at them to go away, hoping that would grab someone's attention, but it didn't.
It shook me up for a while after that... we were actually very lucky in the situation.
We made it to the ocean, which seemed to be just as shady. These three guys asked us to take their picture, and they seemed like normal tourists. They did NOT speak Spanish, which was very clear. After that, we were going to either take a taxi (none came) and then walk back with his family (who went down an even shadier street). What was left? Walking back very inconspicuously with the three tourist guys. We tried to just walk behind them without any fanfare, but as soon as they saw us they wanted to take a picture with us! So much for being inconspicuous. We had no problems on the way back, thanks to them... and found out that they were all in the Brazilian navy and in Montevideo for their jobs. They lived close to Rio de Janeiro. They introduced us to samba (very similar to salsa) - via mp3 player. They didn't speak any Spanish or English (although Marcelo - the infamous cute one - whipped out some English phrase later on... and never again).
Portuguese and Spanish have a lot in common, however, so we could understand each other pretty well. How weird... having a conversation in two different languages, none of which the other knows, and having an almost regular conversation. They were our buddies for a while (after a while we determined they were safe). I really was determined to visit what seemed like a museum about jails on our map, so we tried to find it - to no avail
We took a LOT of pictures with them - reasons unknown - perhaps just to say, "Dude, seriously, look at these gringas... how ridiculous." Then we parted ways. We ate dinner at some random restaurant and then went back to the ship.
The only tickets that were left on the way back were in First Class. Obviously, we took them moaning and groaning. We joked the entire time that we'd end up with champagne on first class... and we actually got it! Also, we were the youngest people in that room by about 30 years.
Overall, Montevideo was a good experience, although that one incident really, really scared me. It was a good wake-up call.
Keep checking the blog for pictures and more entries!
Also, keep me updated!