Here I am in South America, living the dream. I have dreamed about this trip for decades, saved for years and been planning for months, and finally the day of departure arrived. It is fair to say that my first few days have not been quite what I expected and at the moment I am feeling a little dispirited but this is not going to be a negative post in any way, indeed it is all part of the travelling experience.
Our flight was a long one: London to Madrid, Madrid to Buenos Aires, and then Buenos Aires to Montevideo. The reason for this long-winded journey was a desire to attend Rock in Rio in Brazil in late September and we thought that the 3 weeks prior to this would be a good opportunity to explore Uruguay. Unfortunately we discovered that Rock in Rio tickets are very hard to procure and expensive to boot. Added to this was the complication that Nicklas would not back down on his choices of Guns ‘n’ Roses and Metallica, and I was not compromising on Shakira or Elton John but to attend the festival on 4 separate days would blow a huge hole in our budget. Disappointed, we decided that we would skip it altogether and save our money to prolong our trip.
Our flight from BA to Montevideo was virtually empty; we looked forward to a short line at passport control and a quick stop at the baggage carousel. We were in luck, the queue through customs was a breeze and by the time we approached carousel number 2 Nicklas’ bag was already on the belt. Mine was not. And after a wait of another 15 minutes, in which the same brown case made its solitary, repetitive circuit, we realised that it would not be coming out.
After a lengthy wait at the lost baggage desk, trying unsuccessfully to converse with a man who did not speak English, we were told that at some point my bag might turn up at our hostel. Dejected we headed outside to catch the first of two buses that would take us where we needed to go and thus began the next stage of our problems. I could probably write a whole post about South American buses but I’ll save that for another time. Let’s just say that they do not like to hang around when they stop at a bus stop and if you don’t jump on/off quickly then you are likely to be dragged along behind them. None of them had a number or the name of the place we wanted to go to and the drivers did not seem to want to answer questions from confused tourists. After 30 minutes of looking hopelessly lost we were finally convinced to take a shuttle bus to our hotel and were pleased to be told that we would pay 500 Uruguayan pesos ($25) less than the given price of a taxi. Light on the horizon at last.
We had booked a hostel for our first night as past experience has taught me that it is never a good idea to book a long stay at a hostel that you have not viewed. The guide book informed us that our hostel of choice, ‘Che Lagarto’ had a vibrant social area and would be a great place to meet fellow travellers. Most of all we were looking forward to a hot shower (although the appeal of that had worn off somewhat for me as I would have had to put back on the clothes that I had been travelling for 2 days in) and a warm, comfortable bed. On arrival at the hostel we were escorted to our room, a tiny box room consisting of a bed and a small table—a room that cost us $45 making it the most I have ever paid for a hostel. As we turned the corridor to our room we felt the already-cold temperature drop considerably and a strong draught emanated from the keyhole. Once inside the room we saw that the floor-to-ceiling patio door was broken, leaving a gap an inch wide down its entire length that allowed all of the cold air from outside to make the room into something like a refrigerator. A small two-bar heater sat next to a plug socket that had been broken when a previous occupant had tried to ram the ill-fitting plug into it.
After a few attempts we managed to persuade a member of staff to come up to the room and look at the heater situation, hoping that they would offer us another room. They didn’t, but they did fix the socket so that the heater would work. Having decided that the heater would be pretty useless given the high ceilings and the cold that was coming in from the broken door we had to get creative and use a removable strap from the backpack to tie around the door in order to hold it closer together. It was not perfect but it helped stave off the worst of the cold. Surprisingly I managed to sleep, although I do have a silk sleeping bag liner, 3 layers of clothes and blankets to thank for that, but it was possibly the coldest I have been at night since I went camping in the Peak District in December to complete my BELA training. Not really what I had in mind for my first night of my dream trip!
To my immense relief my bag arrived with the following day’s flight and seemed relatively unharmed by its detour and so we hastily checked out of Che Lagarto, bid goodbye to Montevideo, and headed somewhere hopefully much warmer! Having since arrived at a lovely hostel in Colonia Del Sacramento I checked out some reviews of our previous hostel only to find that many others have been as unimpressed as we were, just goes to show that visiting before booking is always a good idea 🙂
I would like to reiterate that this is all part of the travelling experience. After a good night’s sleep, the return of my wayward bag, and some decent food I was ready to feel more positive about the rest of our trip.
Have you ever been disappointed by the start of your travels? Is this because our dreams and expectations in the planning stages are unrealistically high? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.