Category Archives: Uruguay

Punta del Este is the best(e)

Celebrities such as Paris Hilton, Marky Mark and Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin flock to Punta del Este each summer like flies to shit. The beaches are packed with bronzed bodies and the nightclubs are pulsing with techno music. Uruguay’s second city is one of the world’s great party spots, so I was surprised when I rocked up with a box of glowsticks, a pocket full of disco biscuits, and my Best of Eiffel 65 CD, only to find the place almost deserted.

A vagrant informed me that Punta del Este is incredibly busy for a few weeks in summer, but basically empty for the rest of the year, which seemed to make sense. Then again, the dude was hunting through banana peels and used condoms for a feed, so there’s as much chance that Punta del Este had actually been taken over by a plague of zombies. Whatever the truth is, there’s not much action for most of the year, but it’s still a really nice place.

Punta del Este is referred to as The Monaco of the South, The Pearl of the Atlantic, The St. Tropez of South America and The Woy Woy of Uruguay, and it’s easy to see why. The views are spectacular and the golden beaches are decorated with expensive restaurants and trendy cafes. Huge towers loom over the water, and everything feels pretty safe and clean compared to other parts of South America. I reckon Ms Hilton could even pass out under a palm tree after a night on the goon without worrying about getting her phone pinched.

As well as natural beauty, Punta del Este boasts some awesome touristy things to see. I found some evil battle robots down a side street, a scale replica of the Statue of Liberty outside a pizza shop, and the world’s hugest hand emerging from the sand. You’d be cranky if you found out your girlfriend’s ex had fingers like that. My verdict is that Punta del Este is tops any time of the year, but if you want a chance of rooting one of the Olson Twins, go there in summer. When the weather’s cold and windy, you might have to settle for a homeless fella with two teeth in his head.

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Estadio Centenario: Pretty cool, even though it smells like soccer

Back in 2001, Aussie soccer fans were left in tears when the Socceroos were bundled out of the World Cup qualifications after a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to Uruguay in Montevideo. I laughed my dick off because soccer is a game for teenage girls and the physically handicapped, and Aussie soccer fans are the sort of ponytailed wankers who deserve to be tipped into bins, so when in Montevideo I just had to visit the scene of the hilarity.

The Estadio Centenario was built in 1930 for that year’s World Cup, and doesn’t look like it’s been renovated since then. The stadium is old fashioned, run down… and utterly fantastic. Despite being an oval, every one of the 60,000 seats has a great view and is right on top of the action. There are no corporate boxes, the seating is basic, there’s no roof, I couldn’t find any toilets and the Wifi is rubbish, but it has more character than any billion-dollar modern stadium. The atmosphere would be awesome during a big game (as long as you ignore the soccering happening on the pitch).

The razor wire and security moats that separate the various sections of the stadium give some indication of how wild things get during matches, but when I was there on a Monday arvo, the crowd was reminiscent of a Central Coast Mariners game. There were about six other people in the stands and a dozen or so bored-looking birds hunting about on the grass, and the only flares I saw were being worn by a fat bloke with an afro.

In the bowls of the stadium is the Museo del Futbol, which is full of photos of soccer players and World Cup trophies and other stuff I couldn’t give a shit about. I guess if soccerballing is your thing, you’d love it. Apparently the two World Cups Uruguay have earned are housed there, but fucked if I could work out which ones they were amongst the memorabilia, so here’s a trophy that may or may not be one of them.

As I wandered through the displays wearing my Kangaroos jersey, a couple of the workers started taunting me about how rubbish the Socceroos are and lisping “One-nil! One nil! Harry Kewell suck so bad! Juan Aloisi has faeces on his boots!”

“Boys, you need to settle down,” I said, pointing at the badge on my chest. “I don’t waste time watching limp-wristed tossers pretending to be hurt and biting each other’s dicks. I follow rugby league and the Australian Kangaroos, and we haven’t won just two World Cups, we’ve won 14 of the bastards.”

They were curious about what I meant, so I turned on the nearest Commodore Amiga and pointed them towards a few rugby league videos on YouTube. The fellas started hootin’ and hollerin’, slapping each other high fives and pretending to tackle each other. As I looked at some more displays, the crowd around the computer grew, and I chuckled as one little fella wondered out loud, “Why have we been wasting our time with soccer all these years?”

Pretty soon every computer in the museum was blasting out YouTube clips of the NRL’s biggest hits, the 1989 grand final, or Tina Turner’s old Simply the Best ad for the Winfield Cup. One bloke was getting pretty worked up over a compilation video of Nathan Hindmarsh losing his shorts. Another was using the 1928 Olympic trophy as an ash tray and trying to replicate ‘the bubbler’ as he watched some of Todd Carney’s career highlights. As I left I saw one of the fellas pulling down a photo of Diego Forlan and putting up a photo of Johnathan Thurston that he’d hastily printed off his Amstrad computer, saying, “Uruguay is a rugby league country now.” Expect the Montevideo Mud Crabs to join the NRL any minute now!

Montevideo: Worth visiting for more than a day-o

My first impressions of Uruguay weren’t great. After climbing off the bus late at night in the middle of Montevideo, the first person I saw was a crackhead shitting in a park. When I made it to my hostel, in the historic Old Town, it was an absolute slum. Animals wandered the delapidated hallways, the whole place smelled strongly of farts, and an emaciated homeless man was passed out on the floor in front of my room. I thought I’d walked into a nightmare, but luckily I gave Montevideo another shot, because I ended up discovering it’s a really cool city – especially if you spend most of your time in the Pocito district.

Before getting into the delights of Montevideo’s beachside suburbs, I need to stress that the Old Town (Ciudad Vieja) is absolutely horrible, and should be avoided at all costs. In most places around the world, the historic centres of cities are full of bars, coffee shops, hotels and culture, but that’s not the case in Montevideo. This Old City is home to abandoned shops, junkies and pools of vomit on every corner. It’s depressing, scary and dangerous. It’s a shame, because this area of Montevideo has some really nice old buildings and parks, but they’re all painted with a coat of misery and suffering. Do yourself a favour, drastically reduce your chances of being butt-raped by a toothless meth addict and stay the hell away.

You don’t need to walk far out of the Old City before things really start to improve. You’ll even be able to put down that big stick you’ve been using to fend off attackers. Grimy buildings and congested streets give way to quaint houses and tree-lined avenues, with a more European ambiance. Closer to the coast, Montevideo can be quite lovely, with small beaches and swaying palm trees. The weather’s pretty shocking in May, but I imagine it would be a particularly nice place to visit in summer, when the skies are blue and the nights are warm. Outside of that, pack a raincoat.

The real star of the show is Pocito, with its sweeping beach and seemingly-endless rows of towers that look out at the ocean. It’s the liveliest part of Montevideo, and has heaps of bars, restaurants and clubs, and very few people shooting heroin into their eyeballs. There are all sorts of shiny towers and pleasant gardens, and there’s no dubting that all of the money that used to be in the Old City is now in Pocito. It’s certainly a top spot to get hammered whilst looking at all the pretty Uruguayan senoritas. So of course I said goodbye to the awful MVD Hostel, bid a fond farewell to my homeless housemate, and relocated to trendy Pocito at the first opportunity.

From then on, my life was flipped turned upside down, and I started loving Montevideo. I befriended the locals (several times, actually) and settled into life in this buzzing South American metropolis. Before long, I was basically a Montevideoperson… except for the fact I can’t speak Spanish and everyone looks at me like I’m a fucking idiot when I can’t understand what they’re saying. It was all good, though, because as I flounced through the dappled sunshine, I found a really big gun in a park, and hung off it like a teenage nymph hanging from Ron Jeremy’s oversized wang.

I discovered the Centro Nacional de Disfunción Eréctil, which I soon learnt is the National Erectile Dysfuntion Centre. Appropriately, it’s housed in a penis-shaped building, and when I walked through the doors I was met by a handful of depressed-looking blokes who were milling around with their hands in their pockets, kicking stones. I swaggered up to the front desk, winked at the sadsacks around me, and loudly proclaimed, “I have an erectile dysfunction,” before pausing for dramatic effect. “That’s right, I can’t stop getting boners and I can’t keep women off my boners.” I think it would’ve been more effective if anyone inthe room could understand what I was saying, but I reckon it was fuckin’ funny.

I didn’t want to spend all day in a clinic for fellas with dodgy doodles, so I decided to head off for a spot of shopping. The Punta Carretas centre is built in the remains of an old prison (the front gate is still there, but not much else remains of the bad boys home), and is a good spot to visit if you need a new tunic or a boob tube or something. I actually found my favourite shop in there:

While walking through a park, I saw a few dozen locals swarmed around some sort of metal structure. They were taking turns trying to climb up the weird contraption, so I tiptoed over and asked them whether I could have a crack at it. One bloke with a monobrow and a limp told me it was called el juego de escalar pene, which translates to the penis climbing game, and it’s the Uruguayan national pastime. The goal is to climb to the top as quickly as possible and sit on the pole. I’m not a fan of shoving poles up my blurter, so I just climbed as far as I could and called it a day.

As for food and drink, those little Uruguayan champions sure know what they’re doing. Patricia beer sounds like it’s been named after an English poet and academic from Exmouth, Devon, but is cheap and delicious. Uruguayan wine is great, and available all over the place. The food is awesome, with massive steaks, bulging sausages, and perhaps the greatest meal of all time, the legendary chivito, which is a sort of steak burger with cheese, tomatoes, bacon, eggs, ham, and anything else you can think of. It’s worth getting fat for.

Montevideo has certainly surprised me. When I arrived, I thought it was only slightly nicer than Huddersfield, which is to say I thought it was rubbish. But over the past week this city has revealed a wonderful, exciting, fun side that I’ve come to love. I’ve spent longer here than expected, thanks to a number of factors, but I’m really getting into the swing of things. Video might’ve killed the radio star, but Montevideo killed all my expectations (alright, that was rubbish).

Colonia-oscopy

Argentina is a beautiful and diverse country, but after drinking their beer and climbing their hills it was time move on to a nation best known as the punchline to a Simpson’s joke, Uruguay. The historic township of Colonia is only one hour by ferry from Buenos Aires, so I jumped on one and headed off to country number 55 or 56 or whatever I’m up to now. The ride over is fairly boring, with very little to look at, but it was worth it simply for the name of this ship I saw once I got to Colonia.

The town was founded by the Portuguese back in 1680 and traded between them and the Spanish for centuries. It shows, because the Old Town of Colonia feels like it should be in southern Europe, with cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes. It’s a favourite weekend getaway for people from Buenos Aires and Montevideo, and with its laid-back atmosphere Colonia is the perfect place to kick back with a beer and a slice of pizza.

The Old Town is small enough to wander through in a matter of minutes, and there are some pleasant parks and (presumably boring) museums to check out if you want a touch of culture. A bit of a warning, though; I saw this pervert trying to lure children into his sex grotto and when I stormed up and asked him to explain himself, he wouldn’t say a word. So watch out.

As far as interesting historical sites go, the Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse is the best there is. It was constructed in 1855 after dozens of ships were wrecked off the coast of Colonia, and it still stands proudly today. The cost to climb it is a very reasonable 25 pesos, and after paying the surly guard at the front door I struggled up the narrow, winding staircase to the top. The view isn’t exactly spectacular, but does provide a different perspective of the town, as well as a look back at distant Buenos Aires, across the murky Rio de la Plata.

I assume it would normally be quite pleasant up there, but the mood was ruined by a fat girl who was sitting on the railing, taking selfies and working her way through a garbage bag of chocolate-filled empanadas. Or maybe they were shit-filled empanadas, because the farts she was letting off could’ve killed an Arab. I couldn’t take it anymore, so I headed back to street level.

I was halfway down when I heard an ominous rumbling from above, followed by a scream. The rumbling and the screaming were getting louder and closer, but I couldn’t work out what it was. Suddenly someone screamed, “Oh my God, the fat girl has fallen!” and I was met with the dreadful reality that she was rolling down the stairs towards me, destroying everything in her path. I turned in terror and ran blindly down the staircase, as the boulder of flesh closed in on me.

I looked back to see the tumbling fat blob was only metres away, and I resigned myself to being crushed by her empanada-fuelled bulk. Then I saw a beautiful beam of light in front of me, and dived out the front door towards safety. At that point I saw the painted pervert ready to step inside (probably to kiss children), so I gave him a thumbs-up and told him to go right ahead. No sooner had he stepped inside than the fat girl rolled around the corner, cleaning him up. The pervert was firmly wedged in the fatty’s arse crack, and she was now farting even more regularly due to shock, causing him to start gagging and vomiting up his asado lunch (a type of BBQ that’s a local specialty – see, this is a proper travel blog). It was time for me to catch a bus to Montevideo, so I wished them all the best in their new life as conjoined twins, then sashayed off into the afternoon to get drunk on public transport.