Mission: Spring break 2010. In Uruguay.
Spring break isn't a week long like it is in the US-- we get just Thursday and Friday off.
So really, it's a lot more like fall break, which makes sense since it's fall here. All the same, I prefer the week. :-)
The thing about spring break is that everyone has time off, so everyone
is traveling that weekend. Kind of like Thanksgiving. So when I wanted
to go to Montevideo, Uruguay, and figured I'd just buy the tickets the
day I wanted to leave, I was S.O.L.; every ticket to Montevideo from
Porto Alegre was sold. Lesson learned: when traveling in Brazil, just
buy your tickets in advance.
I ended up traveling with a tour group , which is something I'm not likely to do ever again. (I say that every time, but emergencies do come up. . . ) We were set to leave at
10 Thursday evening, but since it's Brazil and all we didn't actually leave until about 1 am. We were supposed to arrive in Montevideo around 9 in the morning, but since the driver decided to pull over so he could sleep we didn't actually arrive until 5 in the evening. Are you beginning to see the trend?
I had wanted to go to Montevideo and then Punta del Este, but the group just went straight to Punta. I'm actually glad about that. Punta was beautiful, even though it was a little chilly and very windy, which meant not so much fun on the beach, but really nice for walking around and getting to know the city. Also, I made plans to meet an American friend there, which I did.
Even though it wasn't my favorite vacation, I did end up having a lot of fun. Here are some random musings about my trip:
Our hotel was supposed to have an "amazing" breakfast. Seriously, everyone and their brother talked about how great this breakfast was going to be. So much in fact that my friends and I decided not to go to sleep after a night out just to make sure we got some. And you know what? It was cereal, yogurt, croissants, and cheese. Damn you, American continental breakfasts, for giving me high expectations!
The one nice thing about being on a bus for 16 hours is that it was this bus. The seats were huge, comfortable, and had plenty of leg room.
Punta is an extravagant resort town, people like Shakira and Michael Jordan own houses here. And what resort town for the wealthy would be complete without a casino? And what trip to said resort town would be complete without losing $2 at the penny slots?
Before we left we saw some street performers dancing capoeira. It was pretty cool.
On the way back we stopped at a border town to buy electronics and perfume and related expensive things that were "cheaper." It was all priced for about what you'd pay in the US. Naturally, we tried on hats instead. Now I understand why my exchange student friends in the US go ape-wild for buying clothes and electronics in the US: we really do have the best prices!
Brazilians LOVE McDonalds. Really. When I say "love," I mean really love. McDonalds. I kid you not, I was in a McDonalds this morning at 5:30 in the morning and waited in line with my friends for thirty minutes because it was that full. It seems like every Brazilian goes to McDonalds after spending the nights in the clubs. It was wild!
500 Uruguayan pesos is worth about $25. Uruguay uses three curencies: USD, Uruguayan pesos, and Brazilian reais. Maybe they use Argentine money also? In any case, I never really got the hang of it.
Some guys in our group really love music. They all brought instruments and played nearly the full 16 hours on the bus. You might think that would be annoying, but they were actually pretty good. I have no idea when they slept though.
The ocean was beautiful. I hope I get to see more of it.
There were wild sea lions that were basking in the sun at Punta. One of them bit my French friend when she tried to touch it. She ended up with lavish bruises all down her leg. Thank goodness it didn't break her skin! (Another lesson learned: just because it's fat, seems lazy, and is super cute doesn't mean it wants your attention! It's still wild and likes it that way!)
And here are some photos generously donated by my friend Abigail:
This is a white castle at the tip of the peninsula. We arrived too late to enter, but it was really neat from the outside!
Giant hand rising from the sand.
The guys who played music nearly non-stop the whole weekend.
My American friend (Abigail) and my French friend.