Lost In Uruguay
Monday, June 20, 2011
A good friend once told me: “Sometimes it’s nice to get a little dirty.”
On this rock we call Earth, there are two places that I love: the country and the city. I grew up in the countryside of Canada, and even though it was wonderful, I wanted to move to the city where I could enjoy doing and seeing more. While in the city, I created my daily routine that exists today. I wake up, I shower then I have a coffee while writing some things. I get groceries for the day then walk around and hit up the various bookstores. I have a nap and listen to some music. More than once in a while, I go out with some friends. Sometimes, I feel myself getting really wrapped up in all these “things to do” and begin feeling a little tired.
In the country (whether for camping or travel), I go au naturel. I don’t shower for a couple of days at a time, and I don’t plan meals but rather snack as the day rolls along. I read a lot and write a little. I drink a lot of coffee and listen to the radio. Usually, I am already surrounded by friends or family and have no need to “go out.” Instead, we just sit on some chairs and stare at the stars. These are the kinds of things we did as kids. We wouldn’t care about “getting a little dirty.”
I remember getting dirty as a kid and never caring. I spent some of my childhood on a farm in the outskirts of Ottawa. In the summer and out of school, some of us would go days without showering, rolling around in fields, feet calloused and blackened from running through the back roads. I remember my parents always reminding me to wash my hands before dinner and to get the dirt out from underneath my nails.
* * *
A few weeks ago, I left my Buenos Aires apartment and went to Uruguay’s capital city of Montevideo to visit some friends. As we sat eating tacos with our hands, salsa juice dripping to our elbows, they recommended that I go out and see the countryside.
“Brit, you could see the whole thing in four days. It’s pretty tiny. Honestly, you will love it.”
I didn’t have many things with me as I planned to spend just the week visiting with my friends. My clothes were already dirty, but I assured myself there was laundry at a future hostel. I didn’t bring my computer and my cellphone had already died. I had two books with me, a notebook and a pencil case filled with various writing instruments. Four days. I could do four days, I told myself.
I started from the main bus terminal in Montevideo — Tres Cruces — and planned to head north along the coast. It had been some time since I’d eaten seafood and I was in need of tranquility. I decided that the small fishing town in the Rocha province would give me my fill, so I chose to start in Punta del Diablo and make a tour from there.
After a few hours on a bus, we pulled off the dusty road and into town. I had no hostel booking, just a name to go by. “Excuse me, do you know where the El Diablo Tranquilo Hostel is?” I asked a convenience store worker.
“No, sorry,” he replied with a stretched smile.
“I do. I am staying there and I will take you to it,” said a girl with a brown ponytail counting her change.
“Ready?” she asked as soon as she finished.
* * *
I planned to spend a night, perhaps two, maybe three, and each day the beach seemed to pull me in. I got skillet burnt laying on the sand. The salt sucked any toxins from the build-up of city pollution. At night I spent time with new friends eating fish empanadas and spicy squid ceviche, while washing it down with beer and wine. We had no watches or cellphones to keep track of time, and I had no idea what happened as I looked at the date and two weeks had passed. It was as though time was sucked away by salty sea and sun, lost in ease.
I didn’t take a tour of the country. Instead, I decided it was time to head back towards Buenos Aires, stopping for a night in Cabo Polonio, a small colony with one electrical wire into the town. I was told that at night, without lights, the stars appear like no other place on Earth.
After dinner by candlelight, I walked along the beach, lit by a creamy, starry night. Watching them invoked a magical nostalgia, reminding me of nights spent under the stars on childhood balconies and camping with friends. When I was a kid, I learned how to tell the time of season and how to use the stars to direct your way home.
Waking up from a night in Cabo Polonio, I saw people eating breakfast together using the bare necessities. For a moment, I wondered if I needed to return to my apartment, to my things, to an adult life. I had to remind myself that life was not in that small bohemian, seaside colony. In a sweeping moment, I packed my things, boarded a truck, and headed to the bus stop that took me to Montevideo and, ultimately, to the ferry that travels to Buenos Aires.
The decision was sudden, and at dawn, as the ferry floated towards one of the largest cities in the world, I could see the few lights still lit from the buildings twinkling like stars. It felt comforting to be going to my home away from home. Back to a city where the salty sand smell became heightened.
Within my comforts of home I was able to have my laundry done and scrub away three days of sand and salt from my skin and feet. I went on the Internet and messaged my family and friends. I listened to my favorite podcast and even though I felt lighter, those moments of getting back to nature, reminiscent of childhood nostalgia — simply getting dirty — helped re-ignite a spark.
By Brit Weaver
About the Author
Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisurely cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog TheBubblesAreDead.wordpress.com.