Friday, February 20, 2015

Punta del Este

Armed with a pair of shades, my trusty Birks, a few outfits, extra sunblock and a bikini, I spent my first long weekend in South America in Uruguay. This trip made it so much harder to remember that I'm not abroad solely for spontaneous travel excursions planned extremely last minute. Getting back on the academic grind in a continent where it is still summer vacation has proven a little bit more challenging than I thought, especially since my time in Punta del Este, a small city and resort on a narrow peninsula dividing the waters of Rio de Plata and the Atlantic, felt like a dream with its many gorgeous beaches, high-rise apartments, and swanky restaurants. 

Warm waters and even warmer sand all around
The tropical trees here in South America remind me of giant pineapples. 
Despite hours and hours of basking in the sun, I have yet to be as tan as the local Argentines #goals
I managed to stand on top of the thumb of Mano de Punta del Este.  Mario Irarrázabal created this sculpture of a hand "drowning" to warn swimmers about the rough waves on the beach. It has become one of Uruguay's most recognizable landmarks.
Posers who managed to get a bunch of stares from Latin American tourists while taking this photo
I survived (and really enjoyed) my first hostel experience! Our place had really laid-back surfer camp vibes. And I met a bunch of other Americans studying abroad, as well as the usual interesting internationals spontaneously backpacking around the world.
Reppin' the Uruguayan flag on the hostel patio
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was kicking back on the sand and watching the sky fade to black.
Our trip coincided with the Carnaval holiday, so the street parade made its way through town starting at midnight. So many scantily clad females ages 8-70 in skyscraper heels...
Loved taking breaks in hammocks on lazy afternoons after a full morning at the beach

A quick photo before the sun slipped away behind the bobbing boats 
Amen to that.
It feels odd to say, but perhaps my favorite part of the whole getaway was the physical journey to and from Uruguay. The 5 hours it took to reach the beach (1 hr via ferry, 4 via bus) was so scenic; I have never witnessed such a vast expanse of flat, uninhabited land. The lush green fields extended into the distance as far as the eye could see. I've grown up in New York City where there's nothing but noise and people and lights all my life, and there are very few, if any, occasions that I get to experience the quiet, unperturbed lull of the country.

While most people abhor long commutes, I personally think there's something so relaxing about long car rides, especially those with a view. When I wasn't succumbing to slumber, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the window for even just a second. I was mesmerized by the open fields, especially the herds of fluffy sheep, spotted cows, and silky horses who sought refuge from the burning sun under shady trees or lazily idled around among the tall grasses. It perplexed me even more how there was not a single soul in sight even though tiny farms and colorful homes would occasionally pop up now and again with clothes set out to dry on lines and worn pick-up trucks haphazardly parked with their doors wide open.

It made me feel so small in this wide universe, like all of my current worries and problems were insignificant in the grand scheme of things (they really are though). I thought a lot about what people's lives must be like living in rural Uruguay where everything is so far apart separated by acres and acres of nature. I thought about how grateful I am to be blessed to live in one of the greatest cities in the world, and yet knowing that there is so much out there I have yet to discover—the food, the people, the once in a lifetime opportunities. I've only explored a tiny fraction of what the rest of mankind has seen, and it's both beautiful and haunting to realize all the wonder that awaits.

There's certainly an addictive quality that comes with traveling, and I think I've got a bad case of it. Now more than ever, I'm carrying this insatiable appetite to get up and delve into all the places I have dreamed about and have yet to see with my own pair of eyes. It's safe to say that from wherever nook and cranny I am in the world, I intend on leaving no stone unturned.

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