Saturday, July 6, 2013

Adventura-Guay Part I

A quick 3 hour boat ride across the Rio de la Plata (River Plate), the wide river mouth separating Uruguay and Argentina, and we set down in Montevideo. The night was cold and misty. We quickly put on the jackets, put lights on the bikes and pedal away from the port to the hostel.  A welcome surprise at the hostel awaited us, a friendly guy from Ft. Worth, Texas willing to lend his nice beach cruiser bike to Anish.  It comes included with an extra innertube, pump and helmet.  That was easy!  What's next?  Dinner, let's grub. We take a quick stroll across the plaza to the first place we see open.  Upon sitting down and warming up with some vino and whiskey across the table, a part of the ceiling falls and hits the ground, reminding us all how lucky we are for not sitting below that tile, the rest of the trip may have been history.  Well we live to enjoy this meal.  What's for dinner?  

Chivito.  What's that? 

BAM

Chivito Uruguayo
photo courtesy of: Jason Adams

The photo above explains why we did nothing else for the rest of the night, food coma.  We arise early the next day ready to ride to the bus station and get up to Punta Del Diablo.  Fortunately, we see an ad in our hostel for a house to rent in Punta del Diablo, Nao Tem Fim (Portuguese for there's no end). A nice house run by a guy named Nico. More about Nico in a little bit.  On the ride to the bus station, I get the first flat of the trip.  Oh boy, here we go, already one innertube down.  Willi Whit the trip mechanic quickly changes out the flat while providing instruction to Anish, changing a tire 101. 

video

The rest of the band continues to the bus station to ensure we can catch a bus to Punta del Diablo with six bikes, no easy task. Fortunately it's low season.  Luckily we score a bus leaving at 2:30pm, it gives us a couple hours to hangout at the bus station/ shopping mall/ food court.  Total cost of bus trip is $35us + $8us for each bike.  Four hours of riding up Route 9 de Uruguay from Montevideo to Punta del Diablo on bus and we arrive in Punta del Diablo and it's already dark.  The bus drops us off and we're lost already.  Good start to the journey.  We all quickly turn on every flashlight in our possession in order to put our bikes back together.

Putting bikes together in dark after arriving to Punta del Diablo
photo courtesy: J Adams
As we're wondering which direction to go on the main road, a nice girl rides by on a sweet beach cruiser bike. She offers her generous help. Her name is Mariana.  She's so nice that she goes back home to get a collection of maps. Some are of Punta del Diablo, some of the whole departamento (state or province) of Rocha, some of Uruguay.  She's the bike angel who answered all our prayers. Then she mentions Don Diego is the place to go eat and watch her and friends dance to candombe.  Candombe is a style of music influenced from African slaves, much like tango and samba of Argentina and Brazil respectively. It includes 3 drums and provides enough beats to dance all night.  

First, we must find our house, Nao Tem Fim.  This place is dark, very few street lights and no sense of direction because the sun has disappeared on us.  After 20 minutes of riding in all directions, we find the house. Nico and his dog, Limonada, are awaiting us with a heated home.  Life is good!

After settling in, we take Mariana's recommendation and go to Don Diego, the only open place in the village. We're the first tourists this place has seen in over a month it seems. For a good hour, we're the only people in the restaurant, accompanied by an old man named Luis. This man, Luis, is like the Uruguayan Socrates of our trip. He's a silver-tongued devil charming Brett, the one girl with us and telling us his many life stories, some believable, some not so much. 
Luis, aka Uruguayan Socrates, flossing with a knife after one of his many stories

 The nice server comes to show off his beer pouring skills, ''with or without foam?'' He tilts the glass with the beer bottle to pour without foam, the man's got skills so let's stay a while.  The best of this night is yet to come. Mariana and friends arrive with the candombe drums. Then, what none of us expected happened.  An old man rolls up to the bar on his wheel chair, ditches the wheelchair for his cane and struts into the bar, this is the party man of the century.  He gets the whole restaurant dancing to the candombe drum beats, ''Vaaamooooo chicos, vaaaamooos,'' he screams from the dance floor. How can we say no to a man who was just in a wheel chair and is now dancing?  We all join him with our own gringo-styled version of candombe dance. 

the ol' man dithced his wheel chair and showed us how to dance!
photo: J Adams
 The rest of the night is a blur, dancing with the kids, grandfathers, brothers and sisters of the Punta del Diablo village.  This is why we love travel, nights like this!

The next day, we awake to a beautiful, sunny day.  It's already noon and we haven't eaten yet, we take a quick ride down to the village to get some food. After a nice meal and sharing stories of the night before, we get our first glimpse of the beach...

checking out beach of Punta del Diablo for first time, muy buena!
After an hour of playing carelessly on the beach, we decide to test out our biking legs by venturing north of Punta del Diablo to Parque Nacional de Santa Teresa.  The journey is a 24km (15mi) round trip.  The wind also seems to be at our face the way up. Regardless, we arrive to the parque in just a little over an hour. 
Upon arrival to the park, it appears my front tire is punctured, spitting slime out on every rotation. That's 2 flats in 2 days, this could make for a long trip.  The air holds in the tire just enough to get us to the beach, just so happens to be one of the most beautifully, deserted beaches I've ever seen. Not a bad place to change a flat tire.
There is nowhere I'd rather change a flat than here, Playa Grande Parque Nacional Santa Teresa, Uruguay
We spend a good 2 hours at the beach enjoying every minute of the solitude drinking a mate and watching the waves crash.  The journey back, we decide to take a 'shortcut' based on the recommendation of the guards at the Park entrance.  The shortcut leads us through some beautiful areas of inclines and declines. Now we're warming up the leg for the 350km journey that we embark on tomorrow.  The sun sets on us and we're riding in the dark, again.  We make it back to the house and we all have one thing on our mind... asado!  We go to the village supermarket to buy all the meat, veggies and wine.  Nico fires up the parrilla (grill or barbecue).  As the meat and veggies cook on the grill, we sip wine and watch Willie Whit prep all 6 bikes for the journey. 

bici maintenance 
After the bikes are prepped, it's time to grub. This may be one of the best asado meals we've had, thank you Nico, there is not better way to prepare our panzas for the journey ahead.

chorizo, lomo, bell peppers on the parrilla, yum!
The asado has the food coma effect, hasta maƱana.

We wake up, it's Monday morning and we're ready to start the journey south west towards Montevideo. The plan is to try and get to Cabo Polonio which is about 60km south. However, we get a late start so we'll see how far we actually make it.  Nico surprises us by telling us he's joining us for part of the way. We're all stoked and ready to ride.  

the crew fist pumping to a good ride ahead: L to R, Amit, Anish, me, Willi, Brett, Nico, Jason