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Sometimes it is fun to explore other countries in the region. Sometimes it is nice to celebrate one’s birthday without a big bash. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish whether an idea is terrible or great or both. For all these sometimes, there was no better time than the first week in April to play host to my ex-girlfriend Kate.
The plan was to bookend her visit with days in Buenos Aires, and inbetween check out our tiny neighbor to the north, the last kid picked when the countries of South America play kickball, the polite mate-sipping friend you know will always return your power sander: Uruguay. The journey would include nearly the entire coast of the country, some R&R on secluded beaches, and my 26th birthday.
The great thing about receiving guests is you finally have an excuse to do the touristy things that you never bother with normally. While in Buenos Aires, we strolled around Palermo shopping, I finally had an excuse to visit La Cabrera (restaurant that expats will tell you is the best in BA), and Kate got to unleash her inner crazy cat lady in the Botanical Gardens. The first evening featured the obligatory tango excursion, where somehow, despite being one of the clumsiest girls I know, Kate was besting me in dancing within 30 minutes.
The fast boat to Colonia is one frequented by Argentinian daytrippers and foreigners needing to leave the country for a jiff to get their tourist visas renewed. Colonia is known for its quaint cobblestone alleys, rustic lighthouse, and all around adorability. While it is difficult to top the sheer kittenrainbowbabysmilingdoggiewearingpeopleclothes-like cutetasticalness of Cartagena in Colombia, Colonia was a welcome relaxed respite from a big city. We caught a bus the following day to Punta del Este before setting out for our real destination: Cabo Polonio.
Kate had discovered the still-scarcely-known Cabo Polonio in a great article online. With electricity essentially unavilable to the few dozen standing shanties, it is a place to escape from it all, to tune out, to find your zen, to mellow your yellow, etc. Wanting to drive American, we rented a little red Fiat and zoomed up the coast. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I still (brake) remember (stall) how to drive stick, and we enjoyed the scenery of the differently-themed towns and landscapes we passed.
Cabo Polonio is inaccessible by car: one must park in a cleared-out bit of forest and hire a camioneta (“monster truck”) to trundle over the rocky trails, shifty dunes, and slippery shore to reach the town. Dropped off in the modest central square, we only wandered a few moments before being offered a little casita on the beach to rent for a few days. Location is everything in real estate, and due to the stubby peninsula that the town is situated on, nearly every property is coastal. No solarium and wine cellar though, this was the kind of pad that Thoreau might have turned his nose up at. Water was available only when pumped, light was available only when candled, and the furniture seemed to be assembled only of crates.
The days were spent simply: eating, walking, surfing, sunning. Animals roamed everywhere and the biggest worry was to not trudge through the taller grasses in sandals lest you pick up some sticker burrs. We roamed the sand dunes at the perimeter, sliding with each step up on grains that were fine enough to fly yet managed to lay a sting on an exposed cheek. Evening entertainment consisted of beer, singing, and lots and lots of backgammon.
Before long, it was time to return to modernity. We eyeballed our way back to Punta del Este, relying only on a country-scaled map that on the back of a brochure and Uruguay’s well-marked roads. One fast boat through the muddy Rio later, we were back in BA and Kate’s visit came to an end. While sad to part, it had been great to reconnect, and there is no better nearly-fluent amiga to travel South America with. Sometimes things are just fun to do, in new places, with special people.