from Chile to Uruguay

I spent a few days just trying to figure out my schedule. A few things popped up that I really wanted to do, but they required me really having to plan things out to fit them all in… it was a strange feeling to actually plan and something that did not feel right at all.

But I did it nonetheless. The big thing that I was excited about, that made me change most of my plans, was that a friend of mine who has apparently become ridiculously rich, emailed me and told me he is cruising through Mexico right now on his $4 million luxury yacht. The boat is ridiculous, and just to show how over the top it is, it actually has a hot tub on the fly deck!!

He is currently in Puerto Vallarta and told me over the next 2 weeks he is cruising down through Ixtapa, Acapulco and then down to Huatulco… those are three of my absolute favorite places in Mexico and I miss them a lot!

So, when he offered for me to come up and cruise with him, I jumped at the chance.

To keep a longer story shorter, I basically had to decide on whether to go up to Mexico in early Feb and then return to South America after that to go to Carnival etc…. or to just go to places like Uruguay and Brazil now, then go to Mexico, then after that head home (Bangkok).

After some consideration I decided to try to fit in as much of Chile, Uruguay and Brazil as I can in the next two weeks, then go up to Mexico, then begin to make my way home from there (maybe through LA, Hawaii and Guam… or maybe through LA, Vancouver then Japan)…

So, I then decided I should get moving… After 3 nights in Vina del Mar I headed East to Montevideo, Uruguay.

Montevideo is a very interesting place. I don’t quite know how to describe it. Sometimes it feels like you are in Spain.. sometimes it feels similar to a place like Vancouver (their seawall, actually riverwall, area looks a lot like Vancouver’s west end – see picture here), sometimes it feels like Argentina, and sometimes it feels like Mexico.

Although it is almost on the same latitude as Vina del Mar, you can feel the heat and humidity much more here in Montevideo than in VDM. This is due to the fact that the Pacific Ocean tends to be much colder than the Atlantic surrounding South America (you can see this difference graphically on this image of global ocean water temperatures). As you can see, the Atlantic has warm water almost down to the bottom of South America, whereas the Pacific barely has warm water at all until all the way up near the equator.

I don’t quite know how to put my finger on it yet, after only 24 hours, but the people here seem a bit odd.

You can definitely sense a lot of more old-world style and tradition here, exemplified by a fair amount of horse drawn carts in the city. And unlike most major cities, these aren’t cheesy tourist attractions, these are commercial vehicles, hauling stuff from one place to the next.

Also of interest, the city is a port town which appears to be on the ocean but in actuality, it is essentially on the end of a giant river, called Rio de la Plata, which is a remarkable 136 miles wide by the time it joins with the Atlantic Ocean, creating a huge, silty estuary.

As well, the taxis here have a bit of a stupid way of doing things. When you get in they start the meter. The numbers start going up, as like with all taxis, and the number even has a ‘$’ in front of it, which to me would indicate that this is the cost of the trip. After my first trip, a 30 minute drive from the airport to my hotel, the meter was at $300 (which, in pesos, would be equivalent to $15 USD), but then he points to a chart and says that the cost is $500 pesos (or $25 USD). It turns out, after taking numerous taxi rides now, that the meter is keeping track of time and then you have to look at the chart to figure out the cost. The average cost appears to be about 2 times the amount of time.. why they don’t just make the meter thing keep track of money it costs, i don’t know!

Adding to my general sense of confusion, no one seems to agree on the time here. My airline said we arrived at 5:45pm but on the airplane itself, it said Uruguay local time of arrival was 4:45pm. When I got to the hotel room I googled the time here and almost every internet site said 7pm but the clock in the room and most of the channels on tv said 8pm. I don’t know what the deal is, or why no one seems to actually agree on the time here, but I just called down to the reception to verify the time and they gave me a time which, if I punch it into my computers time zone, correlates to the region denoted as “Mid-Atlantic time zone”. I believe the time zone I am currently on is also the current time in Rio de Janeiro… probably Uruguay is on daylight savings while other countries in the area aren’t, or vice versa, but someone forgot to tell the rest of the world that they are…

Anyway, whatever time it is, I am only here for 2 nights and then am going to Punte Del Este, a 2 hour bus ride to the East. From what I hear, Punta Del Este should be quite different. It is known as the St. Tropez of South America and is apparently where all of South America’s rich and famous holiday in the summer time.

Gauging from hotel prices, I’d have to say that looks to be the case. I had a hard time even finding a hotel, but finally found one, a 4 star hotel for over $300 USD/night!

I will likely be in Uruguay until Monday when I hope to get my Brazilian visa and then will likely be off to Rio de Janeiro for about a week, prior to my second attempt at boating down the Pacific Coast… hopefully this time with better results! After telling my mom that I was going to do it again she only had one question, does his boat have a surfboard on it? :)