As am I writing this, my body is sore, my face burnt, my hands cramping, and it is all thanks to my wonderful weekend trip with my Adventure Tourism class.
After finally completing and turning in an eight-page paper, I set out on Friday morning for a three-day campamento (“camping”) with my Turismo Aventura class, which consisted of about twenty-five Uruguayan students, two international students from Spain, and one of my fellow American international students.
Our day on Friday started at 8am, and we drove for about two hours east to Arroyo Solís, which is a river that starts in the interior and ends in the Río de la Plata, and this is where canotaje (“canoeing”) began. Rumor had it that we would be canoeing for 20 kilometers (roughly 12.4 miles) and it would take approximately 4 hours. Each canoe held three people, one person rowing in the front, one rowing in the back, and the third person enjoying the ride in the middle, but we were able to switch positions multiple times.
I rowed primarily in the front, and let me tell you, I thought my arms were going to fall off. At the beginning, the river was pretty calm, nothing too difficult, but as we continued on we ended up in slightly choppy water going against the current. Also, I had no idea how wet we all would get from being splashed with water from the oars when rowing. Nevertheless, it was an amazing, tiring, and relaxing ride. We ended up reaching our destination in about three hours, and the trip was about 8.3 miles. We certainly earned our lunch that day!
Next, we drove almost an hour and a half to Cerro Arequita. Now, when you think of the landscape of Uruguay, you would typically think of how flat it is. However, this region of the country was filled with hills, and this particular site was home to a very impressive rock formation. Within this formation was a large rupture in the rock which led to an underground cave. The owner of the property led us down in to the cave and instructed us to be absolutely silent because of the resident bats. As expected, the cave was pitch black, smelt very damp with a hint of sulfur, and the high-pitched squeaks of the bats echoed throughout. The owner turned on some dim lights and all of the bat flew overhead and relocated to another part of the cave. Such a neat experience!
Afterward, still in the same day, we hiked up the rock formation, and from the top you could see for miles across the Uruguayan countryside.
Finally, now that it was dark out, we drove another hour and a half to where we would be staying, Parque Salto del Penitente. Separated between boys and girls, we stayed in cabin-style rooms with twelve beds in each. A lot nicer than I was expecting!
Dinner was not until 10:30pm, which is actually a pretty normal time to eat down here. It turns out that the place we were staying is actually a very popular tourist destination, so the property had an on-site restaurant which is where we ate all of our meals, and we were actually served full course restaurant-style meals. Again, definitely not what I was expecting!
The only negative aspect of where we were staying was the bathroom. We were told we would be able to shower, and there certainly were showers, however, they were communal style, with five different shower heads in the same space. Call me modest, but I just couldn’t bring myself to shower without the comfort of a curtain or some kind of separating point. I simply accepted the fact that I would not be showering for a few days.
The next day started bright and early at 8am again. On the itinerary for the day was zip-lining, trekking, cabalgata (“horseback riding”), and rappel. Unfortunately, we woke up to rain and wind. Hoping the weather would improve later on in the day, we took a trip to a Mina de Oro (“Gold Mine”). We wore protective helmets inside and were led by dim lights through the cave’s winding tunnels. Occasionally on the rocks overhead, you could see what was pointed out as gold. Unfortunately, the gold probably would not have been worth anything, so I did not walk out of that cave a millionaire.
We returned to Parque Salto del Penitente, got in to teams, came up with sun rituals, and lo and behold, the sun came out! My group’s first activity was zip-lining, followed by a trek through the countryside, and both were very fun and laidback activities.
Unfortunately due to the bad weather earlier, we were only able to do one rotation of activities out of the three that we were planned for the weekend.
Our last day started very early in order to make up for lost time. My group started off the day horseback riding, and believe it or not, this was my first and probably last time on a horse. My horse seemed to have a mind of its own and preferred to eat the plants rather than follow everyone else or stay in line. Nevertheless, it was definitely a good experience.
Next, we did rappelling. Our objective was to rappel 164 feet down an almost vertical rock formation. As daunting as it sounds, it was a piece of cake! Albeit a little nerve-wracking at first, it was an adrenaline pumping experience.
At that point, my group had completed all of the easy activities, and we were faced with the toughest one for last: mountain biking. I am not an avid biker, and I could not tell you the last time I rode a bike before coming to Uruguay, so I was pretty nervous for this activity, also because the people who had done it before us expressed how much of a challenge it was, and oh boy, it was certainly one of the hardest physical tasks I’ve ever had to do.
The terrain was relentless, with many uphill dirt roads. I did have to walk my bike up a few hills, but other times I was able to push through the pain and make it to the top. Although I was at the back of the pack most of the time, I never gave up! The entire ride lasted for about three hours, and I would estimate it to be a little more than twelve miles.
After an absolutely exhausting weekend, it was time to head back to Montevideo. Needless to say, after a much needed shower, I slept extremely well that night.
Well, we are down to a month and a half, and only three weeks of classes left. I was told beforehand that my time abroad would fly by, and at first I didn’t really believe it, but now, I certainly am a believer.
So little time, so much left to do!