Unknown Uruguay – sun, surf and amigos

We’d heard about a beach town in Uruguay that sits on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic; when the waves are bad on one side, you can just hop over to the other side where they would be good.  Since we hadn’t yet had our fill of beaches and surfing, and fall was right around the corner in this part of the world, we decided to explore Uruguay for a week before settling down in Buenos Aires.

On our ferry ride across the Rio de Plata, we got an introduction to Argentine fútbol.  A Buenos Aires team (Banfield) was playing a Montevideo team that night in Uruguay, and all of the “hinchas” or supporters of Banfield filled up the ferry to go to the game.  Even though the game was 6 hours away, they already had their flags out and sang and jumped up and down shaking the whole roof with their rowdiness.  (Riot police met us on the other side, but they weren’t necessary.)

By the time our third bus of the day arrived in La Paloma it was night.  We hadn’t felt like making plans ahead of time and were traveling spontaneously, so we were a bit anxious we realized that the La Paloma bus station was tiny and seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  The one taxi we saw was long gone with the first passenger.  We decided to borrow a map from the closed tourist office and try to make our way to the center.  It was easier than we thought.  We ended up staying at a hotel with a balcony and ocean view for the week since it was so nice.  La Paloma is a little tourist town that was empty as the season had just ended.  Luckily we were able to rent a surfboard and Gabe paddled around and surfed until his arms could barely spin spaghetti on a fork!

One of the highlights of our week in La Paloma was meeting Javier and Ricardo.  We had rented bikes for the afternoon and were biking around town when we stopped in at a restaurant where they were eating with the owner “El gordo”.  Curious about how two Americans ended up in a tiny town in Uruguay they soon invited us to join their table for an after lunch beer.  They’d both been raised in La Paloma and so knew everyone, but had been out sailing for five years and were returning back and catching up on gossip.  Once they heard Gabe was a surfer and hadn’t seen some important local breaks they decided to give us a coastal tour.  El Gordo put our bikes next to his bar and off we went up the coast.  Javier is a professional surf photographer so it was interesting hearing about his world travels and looking at his surf magazine covers.  They also introduced us to the wonders of Fernet and Coke….

Gabe and I were both highly entertained by our visit to friendly Uruguay.  It was a country that we knew little of before and not having preconceptions made the discoveries more rewarding.  We found the Spanish to be really interesting as they spoke the tú form as they do in Spain on the coast but then closer to Montevideo they used voseo as they do in Buenos Aires.  The people were laid back and friendly and often seemed fairly well off although maybe a bit more overweight than their Brazilian and Argentinean neighbors.

–Sarah & Gabe

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