My visiting Afro-Peruvian friend, Tatiana, and I scrapped plans to visit Punta del Este—a long weekend pressed shoulder to shoulder with thousands of beach-goers sounded less and less attractive with every passing minute spent searching for accommodations—and opted to visit a slightly less populated city instead.
Along the shoreline to the east, just shy of two hours from Montevideo, is the coastal city of Piriápolis. The town reminds me of somewhat of one or two that I've visited along the coast of Oregon.
Mostly suburb, the city sports a lengthy concrete sidewalk that stretches along the shoreline. The dry, powdery beach sand here is probably the best I've found on this continent, and the ocean water isn't particularly salty, as it's probably still diluted heavily with the fresh water from the Río del la Plata. I wonder if there's any special animal life that thrives in such mixture.
I've walked up and down the coastline, and the water temperature seems to fluctuate between freezing and tolerably cold. I was thinking of jumping into the water yesterday, but the sight of a pair jellyfish made me change my mind. Sometime later the shore was lined with beached jellyfish. Today, there was no sight of them.
It was also yesterday that I witnessed the oddest of sights. I was on the beach at sunset (which is well after 9:00 in the evening in Uruguay), and just as the last sliver of light disappeared below the horizon of the ocean, the beach erupted with applause. I thought it might have been for the concert that was being held a few hundred years away, but when I looked around the clapping was clearly for the setting sun—definitely a first. A close runner up was a man with loudspeakers attached to his motorbike, who I'm sure was completely deaf from the advertisements he was blaring up and down the street.
Seeing the sun set over the ocean was a curious sight, and really throwing me off (as Uruguay borders the Atlantic Ocean). I had to look at a map to confirm why—this town is on a small peninsula-like protrusion of land, with a westerly facing waterfront.
I've written before that I'm absolutely crazy for corn, and finding a little food stand on the beach that serves up salted/buttered corn on the cob has been a highlight of this city. It's so good, I honestly wonder what would happen if I ate only corn on the cob for a week straight. There's a saying in Spanish that applies: Barriga llena, corazón contento—full stomach, happy heart.
After some much needed beach time, tomorrow will mark the start of the big push towards the much hyped waterfalls, Foz do Iguaçu. Although it's probably possible to bus north through Uruguay and then cross over into Argentina to visit the falls (which straddles the border between Argentina and Brazil), we'll probably end up taking a night bus into Brazil (to the city of Porte Alegro), and then jumping on another bus for the 12 hour trip up to the falls. It will be a solid 2+ days of travel to get there, assuming everything works out with bus times and the border crossing. I hope it's worth it.
Meanwhile, the search for accommodations in Salvador for Carnival continues. Several offers have been made, but the majority are expensive (on the order of US$50–70 per night (for 7–10 nights), or have expectations (such as no alcohol or women allowed in the shared apartment) that probably cannot be followed. I worry both about a place to stay during the event, and for any days before and after that I'd like to stay in town. Only three weeks remain.