Day one of the adventure. I fly pretty seamlessly into Montevideo through Lima - I had no issues at all going through immigration and that is always a big plus. I wasn't even questioned, so obviously I look harmless. I arrived extremely early in the morning so I ended up sitting at the airport for a few hours before I caught a bus into Montevideo. That ended up being rough, because I have a 40lb duffle bag that I have to lug around and it takes up a decent amount of space. I had to decipher which bus I could take, and finally just hopped one that said Montevideo and crossed my fingers. I hopped the busiest bus I could find apparently, as I had to stand in the isle with my large bag, trying to squeeze it in every way, shape, form I could in order to allow people to pass by, but that was a joke. I promise every Uruguyan on that bus hated the white boy with the big yellow bag.
I was warned that the bus stops were not marked, and you really receive no help from the driver in the form of what stop you might be at. Taking the public bus is somewhat of a mission you have to take on yourself - is it a task you can handle independently? I, of course, think I can - so I do. I know that it's supposed to take somewhere around 25-30 minutes to reach the main bus station in Montevideo, Tres Cruces. I know that it is not marked very well, but I've seen bus stations before, and I figure a lot of busses in the area would be a good sign of where I am. I'm a smart guy, and I've been around the block a time or two.
Okay well I wasn't prepared, and apparently it does not take 30 minutes to get there - it takes about 45. I was under the assumption I could check my watch at the 25 minute mark and be on the alert. I did do that, but at about the 5 minute mark I figured out that I couldn't see a thing outside of the bus other than a few things on the sidewalks close to the bus because the windows were fogged, the bus was full, I was standing in the aisle and had no chance of looking out of the drivers windshield due to all of the people blocking it.
I'm in a place I don't know. I don't speak Spanish well enough to ask for help, much less understand if I were to receive an answer. At the moment it looks like some of the more shady parts of Mexico, reminiscent of poorer places along the Baja that I've been. I don't really know what to expect of Montevideo, but I was hoping for a little better than what I've seen thus far. So I hold on tight and hope that as the bus moves along the sidewalks begin to look a little better, and I move my bag over to let a few people make a fool of me by squeezing by at the pace of a turtle. Like I said, I'm pretty uncomfortable at this moment.
I finally let enough people by my bag that the bus begins to empty, and I'm at about the 30 minute mark. I'm on the lookout. I see nothing. I finally take a seat and think to myself I'm here for the long-run and I'll get off wherever this thing ends. I pull out my phone and pull up my Google Maps app, and the stars aligned - the thing had most of Montevideo saved within it's cache that I was able to start looking up streets I was by and finally pinpointed where I was. I hadn't reached the terminal. I had a ways to go.
When I was seated I could see the street signs finally. I worked out my plan and executed it to perfection. I got off about 300 meters from my hostel.
Then we run into problems. That hostel I booked a few weeks ago, the only thing I've really prepared for beforehand, is closed. It's about 10am now. I'm tired from the travels - and I don't have a bed.
They posted a sign on the door with another hostel that you could reach. I of course have almost no choice but to seek out that hostel. I didn't know the distance, but they gave simple enough directions that I could follow. It was basically three streets to remember - a right and a left and a right - so I took off with that 40lb bag on my back.
It's far. The bag is heavy. If you were a passerby you'd see my in a slight sweat, often sitting on the edge of the sidewalk against a wall, on top of my bag. I had to break every couple hundred meters. I couldn't wait to see Bv. General Artigas and Bv. España. I finally trekked long enough to reach the hostel, and I was pretty happy to see it open. At this point even that is a plus. I walk in and get hit with some Spanish. I do my best at explaining my situation in some sort of Spanglish and then try to see if there is availability, and there is. Thank the Lord. Juan is pretty nice and understands my predicament, so he let's me check in rather early and give's me a bed. All I want to do is sleep. I place my backpack into a locker and fall asleep on top of my bed.
I wake up a few hours later feeling pretty refreshed and meet one of my dorm-mates, Randii. He's from Cordoba, Argentina and doesn't speak much English. Somehow we still delve into conversation with what little Spanish I know and the little English he knows. We get through the small talk, basically all I know in Spanish, then move onto the likes of Argentina. He begins to talk about the instability and the fluctuation of their currency and attempts to provide me some advice for when I'm in the country. I'm having to piece together what he's telling me very slowly, and often ask him to repeat what he said. But he's patient with me and is very kind and informative. Then walks in another dorm-mate, Linus. Luckily he spoke English, and could tell I did too from my brief responses to Randii. He introduced himself in English and I was able to switch back into my native tongue. We had a long pleasant conversation, and he had been traveling for about a year. He started in Mexico, on this leg of his travels, and bussed all the way down to Montevideo. That's a long way.
After I had caught up on some rest, I was approached by some other hostelers to join them for a BBQ later in the evening, so I obliged. I showered and went down to the bar to meet some more people, we shared a few drinks and then ate later in the evening - about 10:30. As drinks begin to flow, the people started asking about going out and I learn that this culture is like that of Spain, where they begin somewhere around 2am. I'm tired, but I figure what the heck, I'll stay up. I order another drink.
We head out around 2:30 to the discotheque and find that the bouncers are trying to go home because very few people are within the place. They're anxiously awaiting for their departure so they can shut it down, and they don't allow anybody else in. This is the way it goes in Montevideo I suppose. So we taxi to another place and after some sweet talking by the few Uruguayan girls we met, they allow us in. It's got a similar feel to some of the European nightclubs, but there's a Latin charm about it. It's definitely heard in the rhythm of the music. My feet and hips just want to move.
After a few hours of this, me and my new Italian friend Lupi are tired enough to catch a cab back to our hostel. Many of the others stay out, and I don't understand how.
I learned a lot about this new place I'm in on my first day. I know that I need to sharpen up my Spanish quickly if I want to make it, but I'm assured by many that after a few weeks I'll be doing fine. That's good, because that's one of the reasons I'm here. But I'd say it was a good first day. It makes for a decent story. If that's the most discomfort I experience during the entirety of this trip, I'm in for a great time! If I had to guess, that will not be the case… so until next time.