Monday, October 24, 2011

Punta del Diablo

DISCLAIMER: This is a long post covering a long weekend, so you've been warned. Also, we've been without internet for a couple days; hence the serial blog posts. 

view of the town from atop one of the dunes
As some of you may have noticed, we’ve been pretty piss poor about updating our blog that last couple weeks. I think this is mostly due to the fact that the weather has been GREAT and so we’ve been spending less and less time at home in the apartment. 

Last weekend was Labor Day weekend down here, so we decided to take advantage of the 3 day weekend. On Thursday, Oct. 6th, we boarded a bus bound for Montevideo, Uruguay at 11pm with snacks and rum & cokes in hand. The rum & cokes were mostly used as sleep aids. We had to make a quick stop at the border around 3am, which seemed to take FOREVER.
mate' on the bus
At about 9am, we arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, and hopped onto another bus bound for Punta Del Diablo, Uruguay – the beach!
 The bus dropped us off in the middle of town around 3pm, and a staff-member from El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel picked us up because a HUGE storm had moved in. We settled in nicely and met some of the other travelers staying at the hostel while everyone marveled at the epic storm outside. (The next day, one of the staff told us that according to the hurricane warning system they have, the storm was only one level below a hurricane level storm warning.) Around 9pm, a big group of us put on our rain gear and went out into the storm to walk the 1.5 blocks to the hostel bar and restaurant for dinner. It felt like we walked for hours. The wind was howling and almost knocked a couple people off balance, the rain was coming at us sideways in huge drops, and lightning lit up the sky and thunder crashed up above us. I remember at one point saying, “I don’t know if I can make it!” Once we arrived at the restaurant, everyone peeled off their rain gear, which had done nothing to protect us, so everyone was soaked from head to toe. Beers and wine were ordered, people gathered around the fireplace to warm up and dry off, and conversations began. And then the power went out. The staff brought out candles and stoked the fire while the wind howled and the thunderstorm continued. Everyone ate and drank by candlelight and firelight. Dinner was paella with beef and chicken which was very good – we were a little disappointed that there wasn’t any seafood…eventhough we were staying in a fishing village.  Slowly, people made their way back to the hostel once they had eaten their fill, dried off, and had plenty to drink. It was definitely one of those nights that Jesse and I will remember for a very long time.
We woke up late and pulled on our hiking boots to go to the nature reserve a couple kilometers up the road, Santa Teresa. The bus dropped us off at the north end of the park, where there is an old colonial fort that looks over the pampas, La Fortaleza. For $40 UR (a little pricey if you ask me, but still only $1 US), we entered and explored the fort – which has been really nicely preserved. We moved on quickly, because if you’ve seen one, old, colonial, fortress, you’ve most likely seen them all. Once we entered the forest, we were surrounded by the sounds of cicadas rattling and parrots squawking. We were the only people hiking through the park, which was awesome. Above us, condors (or some other very large bird of prey) circled. The gray parrots-type birds made enormous nests that we assume big families occupied. Eventually, we arrived at the beach…and we were the only people there again. We crossed the dunes and sat down at the edge of the point for lunch: milanesa sandwiches, oranges, and mini alfajores. The sun had poked out and we explored the tidepools, the rocks, and watched the waves crash into them. As a thick fog rolled in from the horizon, we wandered back to the forest trail. The ghostly fog crept in between the trees, making them look like silhouettes as we walked along the road. We turned back towards the ocean, walking up through a grassy meadow with cows grazing, and then down a winding road through a eucalyptus forest. We arrived back at another beach, still enveloped in fog, and hiked along the beach back south to Punta del Diablo. It was a relaxing evening spent by the fire playing cards and sipping Uruguayan beer.

a stretch of pampa

La Fortaleza

into the woods!

It's good to know adolescent humor exists everywhere. Someone scratched out part of the "R" on "Ruta 9," making it "Puta 9." For those of you not familiar with Spanish cuss words,
"puta" translates to "bitch." We, having very sophisticated humor, thought it was hilarious and had to capture it in a picture. 

finally arriving at the beach

back into the forest with the fog
It was a lazy day. Our original plan was to explore the beach to the south of the point, but the clouds were threatening rain, and we were distracted by exploring the waves crashing at the point and the smell of deep fried empanadas. The ocean at the point was much more tumultuous than the one we explored the day before, and we could have spent all day watching the swells rise and fall, and trying to capture pictures of the waves exploding on the rocks. Eventually, hunger began to call our name and we went over to a little market-type setup on a dock by the beach. There, we found empanadas, filled with seafood and deep fried. Jackpot! Jesse and I ordered emapandas with mussels (mellijones), with shrimp (camarones), and fish (pescado). Absolutely delicious. We went back to the hostel for a siesta, made dinner, and had another tranquil evening.
you can't see it very well in the picture, but it was a double rainbow

Jesse a.k.a. Poseidon

sea foam
Our last day, the weather was incredible. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. In the morning, we went down to the beach front, were the fisherman  park their boats and set up their shops to sell the day’s catch. One shop was open and the fisherman were organizing and packing fish. We bought just over ½  kilo (a little more than a pound) of fresh whitefish,   (we forget what it’s called) for $75 UR – which is $20AR – which is $3.70 American. Amazing! Back at the hostel, we grabbed our towels, some beers, our books, threw on our bathing suits, and walked up the beach to the other side of the north point, not to be confused with where we were on Sunday. That afternoon we just soaked up the sun. We did venture into the ocean, about waist deep (Jesse submerged himself), mostly just to say we did it, because it was very cold. Unfortunately, we forgot sunscreen, and both had pretty awesome sunburns to show for our beach day. That evening, we cooked up our fish with garlic, lemon, and salt, and feasted on our fresh fish – which we haven’t eaten since we were living in the U.S. (save for maybe one other time that we can’t recall).
view of the point 
proof that we went into the Atlantic - which was very cold, by the way
this is basically what our day consisted of
It was an amazing, relaxing trip, and we’re so glad we were actually able to make it over to the beach because we weren’t sure if it was in our budget or if we would have the time. Argentina’s beaches pale in comparison to the beaches in Uruguay. We expected that this trip would rejuvenate us, which it did, but it also further increased our impatience and excitement to get the big trip underway. By our calculations, we’ve only got about 8 more weeks of work – and then it’s party time!

La Boca: bright colors and tango

We finally wandered on down to one of the most famous areas of Buenos Aires: El Caminito in La Boca.  La Boca is one of the oldest areas of the city.  It is also one of the poorest, but what they lack in financial disposition, they make up in character.  Well, at least the little section of El Caminito.  If you happen to find yourself in La Boca at night or across the river, you better be packin’ a shank or some brass knuckles because you’re gonna be in for a scrum with some local toughs looking to take advantage of naivety and relieve you of your tourist belongings.

El Caminito
But I digress, the area of El Caminito is small, but full of life, and the few hours we spent there were not enough (we’ll go back, perhaps with people who are coming to visit us…!!).  It’s built for tourists, no doubt, but camera-clicking fun is partly why we’re here, so we were happy to plunge ourselves into the deep end of BA tourism.  Every little nook or cranny you peer at has something to draw your attention.  

A colorfully painted wall (sounds lame, but it’s fun – the reason this area is painted so colorfully is because the people had a ton of left over paint a long time ago and rather than dumping it in the river, they painted their houses bright, random colors); statue-esque model people of local-types and famous citizens, standing on balconies and in windows waving at you (yes, Eva Perron and Maradona and Carlos Gardel are there); a mural depicting history or sports legends, mostly of their famed Boca Juniors Futbol Club; or just a small little alley with crafts and souvenirs all jam pack this couple block radius with curiosity and enjoyment.
ice cream stop

Yes, that's really us
dancing tango
Music, tango dancers, and street performers feed your appetite for Buenos Aires culture.  You can take a picture with a faux Mardona, pose with a tango dancer, or have an overpriced lunch and beer whilst being serenaded by folk music and dancers.  The performances keep your interest piqued and there is never a dull moment.
We meandered up and through alleyways, stopped off for some ice cream, and soaked up some Saturday afternoon sun.  It was a quiet, simple, and enjoyable afternoon as we got yet another glimpse into the world of Buenos Aires.

Maradonna, Evita, and Carlos Gardel

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You Might Be A Porteño If... indulge in the Argentine Make-Out.

Is there anything in this world that is a more simple outward sign of affection that a kiss?  A kiss can heal a bruised knee of a crying child; it can tell someone you’re sorry after a fight; and it can just let somebody know that you’re there, you love them, and you always will.  It’s beautiful and tender, evoking so much love and passion that with its simple act, it can arouse overwhelming emotion.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and answer this: Is there anything like the rush of your first kiss?  Those adolescent years are fleeting, exciting, frustrating, and full of doubt, wonder, highs, lows, experimentation, and a lot of learning.  But that first kiss is something none us are soon to forget.  It starts with awkward trading looks and shy smiles.  Do they want me to?  Should I make the move?  I’m gonna do it.  NO, I might get rejected and look a fool.  No, they want me to… JUST DO IT DAMN IT!!  And as you close in for contact, you’re rushed with emotion.  Your vision is blurry, your chest heaves, your blood rushes, your eyes close… and?  Elation!  Fireworks in your stomach explode, trumpets sing from the ramparts, choirs of angels rejoice in your triumph.  A simple act bringing overwhelming emotion.

Finally, is there anything more special and even appreciated than to see this act expressed?  We cry tears of joy in movies when the distanced lovers overcome all obstacles to be together, locking lips with a passionate kiss as rain falls, drenching them in love, to conclude the movie (who else loves the Notebook?).  We rain cheers upon two newly joined souls as they embrace each other for their first matrimonial kiss.  We smile upon the old couple with a storied reverence as they do something they’ve done a thousand times before, share a kiss as the celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  And we laugh at the innocence of the awkward teen (above) move in for their initial attempt at some tonsil hockey, shaking our heads knowingly as we say, “I remember the days…”.

But there is nothing, I mean NOTHING, more graceful, beautiful, affectionate or gentle than an old-fashioned, as we’ve dubbed it, the “Argentine Make-Out”.  No, there is no park too small, subway too crowded, or street too dirty for this ancient Argentine PDA practice.  Over the months, we have gone from bewildered awe to a bit weirded out to complete acceptance and nonchalant attitude towards this somewhat obscene gesture of love.  While we haven’t necessarily participated in it, simply enjoying it vicariously through the portenos we see doing it.  There doesn’t seem to be any shame in it by its participants nor any displeasure expressed by the passers-by as well.  It is just a part of daily life, a routine occurrence that we have come to expect when we are outside the apartment.

So when you come to Buenos Aires, be prepared.  Gals grab your lipstick, guys lick your chops, and everybody get ready for a good ‘ol Argentina Make Out!!

Some examples: