Punta Del Este, the Cancun of South America
Trip Start Jan 26, 2007
92Trip End Feb 06, 2008
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I wasn't sure if this setback would nix our entire plans to travel to Uruguay, but sure enough, once Carlos returned from the police station, he was more determined to make it to Punta Del Este.
Let me tell you a little bit about Carlos. Carlos is Chilean, but German Chilean. He speaks a lot of languages very well and looks very European - in fact, he lived in Germany and Sweden for a bit in his childhood. He is extremely proud of Chile, the land with the best wines, women, empanadas (pastries), etc. of the world. He is a patient listener, and a kind conversationalist. He is in love with history and archaeology, and shares all sorts of wonderful facts and anecdotes. He doesn't blink much and has moony eyes. During conversation, he listens intently while he stares at you with a wooden face. Carlos has been dreaming of Punta Del Este during his entire summer trip through Argentina - laying in the pristine sands on the emerald-blue shores surrounded by bikini clad rich Argentinian girls, who Carlos asserts are the most beautiful in the whole world (Argentina I theenk has the maost byeeaouteeful weeahmen in aoll the waorld [edit - after Carlos read this phonetic spelling, he started speaking English with an italian accent - very funny. His English is very good])
Were this 1930 in Oklahoma, Punta Del Este would be Carlos's California. Were this the late 90s in a blockbuster teen movie, Punta Del Este would be Carlos's lost virginity. Punta Del Este is Carlos's white picket fence and 2.2 children and a waggy tailed dog. When he speaks of Punta Del Este, his words glisten with dreams of bottomless golden goblets filled with Pisco (Chilean national drink), mountains of grilled meats served by naked, rich, gorgeous Argentinian women, and generally a lot of making out.
So naturally Carlos was going to Punta Del Este, bag or not. In fact, losing his stuff made him ever more determined to make it, no matter the cost. When traveling to PDE from Buenos Aires, one has a number of options - direct by ferry bus combo, direct 14 hour bus, or traveling out of the city, catching a roundabout ferry-bus combo to montevideo, and finally pushing on the last 3 hours by bus to the land of the beautiful women.
Tigre is an hour north of BsAs and is a weekend destination for Porteņos - it used to be the place where the rich would go during the summer to escape the city, as well as a bustling megaport on the Rio de Plata
Fast forward to Uruguay, and a three hour busride through green farmland with dusty red roads and rusty old trucks, crumbling cement block houses and barbed wire fences for the cows, horses, and sheep. Fast forward to Montevideo, a soothing city that seems like a BsAs Junior... The same Euro influence, but smaller, the same cheap good eats, but cheaper, the same streets and graffitis but less cars and quieter, the same weather but cooler and nicer. Montevideo is a river city, so many streets have distant views down gentle slopes to a gorgeous blue ocean, basically. Carlos and I spent two days in MV just ambling about
So we arrived. PDE is indeed beautiful - long beaches leading up to the small rocky peninsula look like a calmer, smaller Miami. The point itself is about 1.5K long and very narrow, so that we were able to walk the entire circumference in only 1.5 hours or so. The rocky sandy shores of the point are quiet and the water is warm. We found a hostel and were greeted by what I can only describe as a Californian surf bum who happened to be born in Uruguay. He said 'tranquilo' a lot, which is basically like saying 'chiiiiillll' or some other catchphrase. Often he would end sentences with cackling laughs after making a joke about girls or partying or smoking or surfing. He was hilarious. This is how Carlos checked in (translated) - 'Hello. We would like to stay here. What are the best places for night life here? where do the women go?' to which the tranquilo receptionist replied, 'let's just finish the check in first.' Carlos got his first wish though, as we immediately went to the beach and laid for about a half hour. It really was amazing to just lay on the beach. PDE is gorgeous. We soaked in the paradise sun. However, Carlos's first words after this were, 'I thought there would be more girls.' Alas, we are all doomed to learn the difference between dreams and reality. We chose the wrong beach and the wrong time. PDE's party season is in January and wanes in February. Most of the rich beautiful women had gone to be rich and beautiful somewhere else, I guess
Our hostel was filled with Americans, Californians to be exact. One was tall and blonde and only wore miniskirts that showed off her faketanned legs. They seemed to be 1) emaciated, 2) plastic, and 3) 15 feet long. After talking with her Californian friends about California, I asked her where she was from, and as it turns out she went to Cal. I said, 'oh, Cool, I went to Stanford!' and she replied, 'Oh.' She didn't speak a word to me after that. I later inferred that she was a cheerleader at Cal, which I suppose explains the plastic appearance and vindictive school spirit. She was just that type of cheerleader pretty, and I hate to say it, that type of cheerleader vapid. Her friends were nice though.
Two nights in Punta Del Este. Carlos stayed out until 7am making out with this pretty Uruguayan girl he met in the bar. I came back 'early' at 530am after chatting it up with two twin guys from Vancouver and an Englishman from our hostel. Everyone in South America thinks I dance funny, and they only listen to techno here with the occasional megarap song such as In The Club. The C Walk went unappreciated. The next day was spent sitting in a hammock mostly while the breeze cooled Carlos and me off from the sun. The next night, we decided not to pay for the hostel and opted to go out until 5am, then to catch the 630 bus to Montevideo so that we could return to BsAs
My bicycling friends will be in Santiago in 4-5 days, so I am going to hightail it after one more night hanging out with Carlos and Rob, the Englishman who enrolled in a Spanish immersion program here in BsAs. Tonight in the hostelīs fashionable Basement Bar Area, there was a guy covering the best and biggest rock ballads of the 90's, such as Radiohead's High and Dry and Stone Temple Pilots' Plush, as well as the requisite Red Hot Chili Peppers' under the bridge. he was very good, and it was a great environment in which I wrote this STELLAR blog update. Again, American culture pervades.
Which brings me nicely to my next point. There aren't too many Americans in South America, but when there are Americans, they stick out, especially if they are over the age of 35. One table of Americans in PDE complained loudly about the service and couldn't understand why the Spanish speaking waiter didn't comprehend their loud English complaints. One woman had a buttery face under a bright red perm job and tacky purple lipstick which she religiously applied every 5 minutes, and she kept whining to her husband that he needed to check the bill because they probably screwed something up
Dinner, by the way, is amazing in Uruguay and Argentina. Tonight I stuffed myself full of mashed potatoes, ravioli bolognese, bread, beef empanadas, and coca cola. I paid under 7 dollars. Carlos's beef was at least 30 ounces and he could only eat 2/3 of it before surrendering
Not all Americans are bad, though. Most of the Americans I have met have been great. I ran into a Stanford Law grad woman who will start working at my sister's firm in SF in the Fall. Quite the coincidence. Another girl, 28yrs old from Washington DC, was very kind and intelligent - she spoke fluent Spanish as she was partially raised in Argentina. A great emissary and a positive example of our immigration model. Yay for America, national pride. I take offense to the offensive folks because I have pride in our country and I want both the good and the bad to be conspicuous, not just the bad. Anyway, more on that another time. I guess it is time to 'have party', or as is more likely after a day of travelling, to sleep.