A Day at the Beach

MontevideoMy main goal for coming to Montevideo was to spend some time at a beach.  It’s summer, and I like to swim.  Buenos Aires only has industrial docks, there is no real beach, and the water is very dirty.  The Buquebus ferry’s main stop is Colonia, which is still too far inland to have a nice beach, sort of like New Orleans.  Pointe Oeste has the nice beach, but it was another 3 hour bus ride past Montevideo.  So, I settled on the median, in the hopes that I could find something.

The map that the hotel gave me was not help in this matter, they mostly list out places to shop and eat.  Parks are on the map, but with no description.  So, I turned to Google maps.  Hmm, this looks promising.  I find it on my local map and ask the guy at the hotel desk.  He says it’s a normal beach for swimming, is a 15 minute walk, and there’s a restaurant across the street.  Sounds perfect, so off I go.

I stopped and snapped a lot of pictures along the way, so the walk probably took me closer to 1/2 hour than 15 minutes.  It was a beautiful day, with a bright blue sky and lots of people enjoying their day.  There is a stone boardwalk along the beach in this part of Montevideo, with several outlooks.  The one directly in front of my hotel houses an old cannon!  So, I’m guessing that these were once used for defence.  They are now used by people to lounge, drink maté, and make out in.

There are outcroppings of rocks along the way with people laying out in the sun, fishing, and playing in the deep water.  I don’t want to swim alone in a place like that, so I move on.  By the time I make it to the beach, I’m starving.  I walked over to the restaurant to get something to eat.  They have a very extensive menu of meats, but I don’t want anything that heavy, so I go for tapas.  Oh, wow, they are amazing.  I love every bite, right down to the bright green olive oil they drizzled on the whole thing.  Not ready to be done yet, I also order some strawberry ice cream – frutilla.  This is amazing, really made of strawberries, there are even seeds in it.  I pay my 400 pesos – about $18 – for the meal and leave the waitress a nice tip.  I asked her if I went down to the beach and went swimming, would someone take my backpack?  No hesitation, I got a, “Sí”.  She offered to let me leave my bag at the restaurant while I went to the beach.  I happily accepted, removed the hotel towel I’d borrowed from my backpack, and wandered down to the beach.

I rolled my clothes and sunglasses in the towel, and went to the water.  It was cooler than I had expected, but refreshing in the warm sun.  This was a bay, so I went out to a part of it that there weren’t many people in.  As I’m getting used to the water, a man walks out deeper and dives in.  I ignore him until I hear him shout, and see him start to come back into shallower water.  He tries to tell me something in rapid Spanish, and I tell him that I don’t speak Castillano.  He says something that I interpret as “Really?” even though I don’t know the word.  He then starts making pinching motions on his arm and says, “Pince alla,” pointing to where he had been.  Ahh, something bit or pinched him.  He pointes to his foot, makes a circle about 4 inches in diameter with his hand, and points to his hair.  I don’t get the hair part, but I’m guessing there are crabs over there.  I thank him, and move to where there are more people, while he goes back to the beach.

I floated around for a while, enjoying the buoyancy that comes with salt water.  I haven’t had many opportunities in my life to swim in the ocean, and always enjoy how easy it is.  The salt water doesn’t sting my eyes, and makes me float effortlessly, even when I exhale all the air out of my lungs.  After a bit I start to feel cold, and make my way slowly back to shore.  A couple of 20 something men make their way gingerly toward me, one of them yelping when a wave makes him feel the cold.  I laugh and suggest that he jump right in with hand signals.  He shakes his head in horror, “No!”.  His friend gives it a try and grins at me, as I move even further inland.

I unroll my towel and lay out for a while.  At one point I hear an odd flapping noise, and look up to see a colorful beach umbrella bouncing it’s way toward the water, another 20 something man chasing after it.  I laugh when he catches it just short of the water.  He holds it up in triumph, and it turns inside out.  I laugh again, harder.  He grins at me, fixes it, and goes back to where he had been lying under it.

Now I’m awake, and watch the boys at the shore practice their Capoiera.  I wish I had my camera with me, and decide to go get my stuff back from the restaurant.  I would like to swim more, but I know that I burn easily, and it’s time to put on something more covering and go back to the hotel – it’s been a while, and I need to think of my skin.  (I’m pale, and burn easily.)  When I return to the beach, I am disappointed to see that they are no longer practicing.  Nothing to video, but I remove my shoes, and walk back over to the path by wading in my short linen pants.  I feel overdressed here in my Buenos Aires clothes.

On the walk back, everyone I see seems to be carrying a maté guord and a thermos.  Except one guy with a beer.  Seriously, I see lots of people, in groups or alone, and they all have at least one guord amongst them.  I start to snap a picture every time I see one, but it becomes too many, and I stop.  One guy even swam out to a rock island with his guord and thermos, and set himself up there.

I got back to the hotel, only to notice my sunburn.  Ah, well, it was totally worth it 🙂

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~ by Liz on January 12, 2009.

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