Posted by: Jena Davison | November 12, 2009

Back to Buenos Aires

I know many of you are wondering why I haven´t updated this in a while. It has been a mixture of being extremely busy and not having adequate access to Internet. Likewise, I have neither of those now, but thought I should give you all a quick update.

I have officially left Punta del Diablo, effectively beginning my backpacking adventure up to Ecuador. Leaving Punta del Diablo was really sad; it had really become my home in just three and a half weeks. On my way back to Buenos Aires, where I am currently, I stopped in two places along the way: Cabo Polonio and Montevideo.

I convinced Julie, Kerry and Amanda to come with me to Cabo Polonio, so it was nice to all have a getaway from Punta del Diablo together. Cabo Polonio is an even smaller village on the Uruguayan coast about an hour from Punta del Diablo by bus. Cabo Polonio itself is a national park and is home to thousands of sea lions so no new buildings can be built nor can older buildings be repaired without obtaining a permit, which is nearly impossible to get. Therefore, people have to smuggle in materials in the middle of the night and befriend the guards in order to get lumber and other things. The whole idea is that they want the buildings to just fall to the ground and for all the people to slowly leave.

Also, no one can drive into Cabo Polonio except for liscensed 4×4 trucks, so the buses drop people off on the highway and you have to wait for 4x4s to pick you up and drive you twenty minutes through the park and beach before you arrive at the village center. There are no roads, merely, scattered shacks on the beach. There is no electricity at all, so all restaurants, houses, etc. are illuminated by candlelight after sundown. This gives the whole village a really mystical, magical feel. We went during off-season, so it was pretty dead overall, but beautiful and tranquil.

We stayed at this amazing hostel on the beach, just footsteps from the water, owned by a radiant Uruguayan man nicknamed Poncho. His best friend is nicknamed Condor and is a crazy human being who helps him run his bar. Actually, Anthony Bourdain went to Cabo Polonio on the Uruguay episode of No Reservations and Condor took him around. The first night we were there, we hung out at their bar, but the second night, we were invited to Condor´s home where he made us food and offered us wine, music and an overall good time. This is a perfect example of the hospitality I came across all throughout Uruguay. It was hard to say goodbye even after only being there for two nights. I will update some photos when I get a chance.

Also, the night sky in Cabo Polonio is beyond description. Without any lights around, the blackness of the night is punctured by millions of luminous stars. All of the constellations could be traced, forming interesting patterns of light above and around. The moon hangs straight ahead in the distance, it´s reflection shimmering in the water. It looks fake and seems almost close enough to grab and put into my pocket.

After Cabo Polonio, Julie and I separated from the others and headed to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. I ended up couchsurfing in Montevideo, which was my first overall experience doing so. The idea behind couchsurfing is that travelers can stay at the apartments of locals for free so they can experience the place as a local would. Not only does this provide free accommodation, but also a local perspective on the best places and things to see and do. Likewise, it is a cultural exchange, and a way to connect and meet people from all over the world. The expectation then, is that the friendships will continue to bloom after leaving and that in the future, if possible, you can return the favor if they come to visit where you are living at the time. I had a few couchsurfers stay at my apartment in Madison, WI, so I was happy to be able to be a couchsurfer myself for the first time.

I stayed with a young couple named Noe and Javier. Noe is in law school and Javier is an accountant. They live just blocks from the bus station, so Noe came to pick me up there when I arrived in Montevideo. She cooked me dinner, prepared me breakfast and offered me a bed in a private room in their small, but cozy apartment. Javier and her did not speak any English whatsoever, so it was a great opportunity to practice my Spanish and expand my vocabulary. They were both so nice and accommodating and really enriched my experience in Montevideo. It was really the perfect first couchsurfing experience and I look forward to more in the future.

Montevideo is so much nicer than I expected. It is really an outdoor city, and is filled with tons of parks. The weather was perfect so it was nice just walking around through the pedestrian streets, through the different leafy plazas, and along the Rambla, which hugs the Rio de la Plata. Julie and I went to the Mercado del Puerto and feasted on asado, Uruguay´s famous cut of meat. We ended up meeting some local Uruguayans there who made us try some blood sausage and some other weird chorizo and they bought us some shots of grappa as well. We spent the majority of the rest of the day with them, and they showed us around to some of their favorite spots in the city. It was a good deal of fun. The next morning we took a bus to Colonia and then a ferry over to Buenos Aires, checked into a hostel, and then I met up with Lorena, my Paraguayan friend from camp. I am back now back in Buenos Aires, and am having a bit of culture shock with all the noise, people and commotion here. After having lived in a small Uruguayan village for so long, I now see Buenos Aires with a whole different set of eyes.

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