Saturday, March 6, 2010

Punta del Este

After 5 days of untold damage to my system, I steathily left Rio and Carnival in the middle of the night and headed back to Punta del Este in Uruguay.  I had visited Punta 3.5 years prior in October, 2 months before the peak time of New Years.  Now I was roughly 2 months too late, but I did not let that deter me from some R+R on the beach to recover from my Brazilian fun.

I arrived in Montevideo at 5:30am and took a 2 hour bus ride to Punta.  I was set up to stay in a friend's mom's apartment that was supposed to be empty and waiting for me.  However, when I got there the doormen didn't recognize the address as being in the right building and after running around they couldn't reconcile neither the address nor the keys I had.  Sooo, I walked to 2 nearby hotels which were both full.  This left me in a pickle as I was exhausted and not sure where to go.  I remembered a hotel recommendation from a former coworker of mine, Ashley,  who had been there a month earlier and hopped in a cab.  It was on the other end of the city, and sure enough, they were full too.  At this point I was getting desperate, but the hotel owner, Hugo, took pity on this american and drove me to the middle of town (about 4 miles) where there are plenty of hotels.  Without him, I would have been stuck and I am eternally grateful for his kindness.  I went back my last day there to personally thank him as he saved my life at that point.

Hugo and I in the lobby of his posh hotel.

In my moment of weakness, I settled on the hotel americana because they were close, knew they'd speak english and had started a good smelling breakfast (it was 8am at this point).  As it turned out it was central and close to all the things you'd want to see in Punta.  One of them is the hand in the sand aka "Los Dedos" or translated literally = The Fingers. 

Everyone who comes to Punta has a picture like this. 

As you can see the beach is nice and toasty.  One day, while walking back from it, I spotted a statue of a bull in the distance.  It reminded me of the famous bull on Wall Street so I decided to get closer for a better look.  As I approached, it became clear that this bull was different since it was carrying a person on it's back.  As it turned out, this bull was better than the Wall St version as that person was a naked woman!

I did a take two when I realized and had to check out the other side for verification purposes of course.

Yep, definitely a woman and she's naked.  In front, there was a sign that talked about the statue.  To my delight it was a Greek mythology representation (I love those Greeks).  This was another example of Zeus turning himself into an animal to seduce a woman. 
Maybe things were different in BC times, but I don't understand how women were more likely to be seduced by a bull or swan rather than the shirtless human version of the king of the gods.  Still, I liked the statue....

I met some Chileans at the local dive bar called Moby Dicks.  This was days before the earthquake and thankfully they are ok but their work is a little messed up at the moment.  They were nice and relaxed.  

I also went to the famous Conrad Hotel and Casino.  Given my luck that first morning and my dad's rule of never gambling the day you arrive or leave a resort I should have stayed away that first night.   But, I was eager so I went and blackjack creamed me.  I did run into a waitress I had met and dated 3 years ago which was nice.  She was still working there and now had a film maker boyfriend who takes her all over the world.  A slight punch to the gut but nothing like a punch to the face.  

I returned to the scene of my losses 2 nights later ready to get my revenge.  I stayed away from blackjack this time and headed straight to the craps table.  When I got there a dubious looking character was leaning on the table starting his roll.  The people next to me were whispering in Spanish that he is someone's grandfather + he was deadly focused on what he was doing.  I pulled up alongside him and he immediately hit the point so I got involved and put some chips down.  As it turned out, this guy was the most amazing craps roller I've ever seen.  He would shoot the dice down to the other end, one time barely missing another player's eye as the dice hopped of the table and went 15 feet down the room.  Every time he rolled and DIDN'T hit the point he would bang the table hard and everyone's stacks of chips on our half would topple over.  The craps dealers rolled with it though and adjusted those stacks every time.  When the waitress came with his drink he wouldn't talk or even look at her for fear of disrupting his streak.  He rolled like this for 45 minutes without crapping out once.  There were a few people trying to play the don't pass bar but they lost all their $$$ quickly and soon came over to the good side.  When he finally did roll a 7 everyone clapped.  He cashed out and walked off, barely cracking a smile.  I, however, was very happy, recouping my earlier losses with enough to pay for my hotel.

Happy with ummm...$5 chips.  
I stayed in Punta for 2 more days enduring some nasty, rainy weather at times and was very happy to get back to Buenos Aires and in a bed that fit me after 11 days on the road. 

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