We arrived in Montevideo on a Sunday (again?! We thought we’d never make that mistake again!), innocently making our way through the early morning light, under the pleasant warmth of the Uruguayan sun, not knowing that we would run into some crazy South American adventure. Yet again.
Arriving in Montevideo
We got off the night bus early in the morning. We had circles under our eyes and 2 chicken empanadas that they gave us during the journey. “Services included” sounds all nice and good until you’re vegetarian.
Fun fact: in the bus station in Montevideo, it’s forbidden to wear a hat or a hoodie. If you do, there’s a guard standing there, whose only duty is to come to you to tell you off.
Anyway, after a short hoodie-less rest, we set off to offer them (the empanadas – it’s important you start following right now because I won’t repeat) to any homeless person we’d find on the 1-hour walk to our ‘home’. Of course, we were couchsurfing again, and our place was in the historic centre of Montevideo.
In Brazil, where we were coming from, it would have taken approximately 37 seconds to find a beggar. Probably less than that around an average bus station.
Around the one in Montevideo: not a single homeless person in sight. In the park next to it: several travellers waiting but no tramp. In the next park 2 blocks away: some early birds drinking mate and still no vagrant. Until the city centre: a few peculiar-looking fellows but resolutely not a single homeless person. We had heard that Uruguay was the most developed country in South America, but we sure didn’t expect that!
It’s eventually a couple of blocks before ‘Ciudad Vieja‘, the historic and touristy part of town where we would stay, that we saw the unmistakable cardboard shelter which received our gift. We were still rejoicing about our good deed when we saw 2 more people sleeping on the pavement. Then more cardboard and a whole group of tramps.
We had to realise: the closer we came to the area we would stay at, the seedier it got.
South American adventure pt. 1: Couchsurfing in a theatre
We got a contact through Couchsurfing who invited us to spend a few nights in his theatre. The guy warned us that it would be “rústico“; but there would be a mattress on the floor, a kitchen, a shower and a key to come and go.
What else do we need? It’d be a cool experience to sleep in a theatre (that might remind me of the time I slept in a museum). And we could probably write a blog post about it. (We did. It’s this one. The one you’re reading).
Now, I don’t know what image you guys have of a theatre. But just let me tell you this: not all have the standing and elegance of the Royal Albert Hall. Ours didn’t even have a name on its rusty metal door. Everything was relatively tidy, but either dirty, broken, or both. In fact, it looked more like a hangar with a few rows of seats and a curtain. Like this:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a softy. I’ve stayed in squats before, and on countless couches. I even slept outside in schoolyards and on church lawns. By gosh, I even went clubbing in Berlin!
But that was too much. Of course, it was great to have a place to stay, many aren’t so lucky. But we wanted to stay one full week in Montevideo so we decided to end our theatre experience after 2 nights and no representation.
South American adventure pt. 2: Couchsurfing in a shared flat
Luckily, a Couchsurfer had already accepted to host us so we contacted him. It was not ‘him’ but ‘them’, and they all had exotic names.
Needless to say, we were looking forward to a proper home, with a proper bathroom, toilet paper, herbs to cook with, people to talk to! We were in desperate need of decent sponges and non-greasy pans and a room with more oxygen particles than dust. Ah, the simple pleasure of sleeping somewhere without running the risk of catching an STD!
But I can see you’re getting restless so I’ll keep it short. Our hosts were great, fun and very helpful and we had a good time. They taught us about Uruguay, why their football team is better than the Argentine, and how to prepare the perfect mate. The flat was central and the sponge was decent.
But, with all due respect, their bedrooms did look like this:
Have you ever had a surprise accommodation during your travels? Share your anecdote with us in the comments!
Don’t miss our next South American adventure!