The worst day, the best day

Bad days happen. No matter where you are or what you’re presently doing in life, it’s entirely possible to have a bad day. Our last morning in Montevideo was bad.

We had been semi-intentionally travelling off the beaten path since landing in South America. I say semi-intentionally because we chose our anti-clockwise route intentionally, and despite almost nothing working out as we had hoped, we stuck with it.  

We started in Santiago in May and headed South. We knew it would get cold, but we planned to turn north as soon as it got unpalatable. We didn’t know just how nasty the weather would get over the South American winter, and temperature had nothing to do with it. Wind and rain regular whipped us into submission. But such was the adventure. We were determined to make the most of it.

In the off-season, facilities were closed, people were nowhere. Glimpses of sun. No refuge from the blasted wind. It was tough going at times.

Then we arrived in Montevideo, another city that was, if I’m honest, a total letdown. After feeling the life emanating from every atom just 35km across the river in Buenos Aires, we expected more of the Uruguayan Capitol.

Dull, grey and closed up tight over what should have been a bustling weekend, Montevideo didn’t appear to have any personality at all.

We chose a hotel called the London Palace to help alleviate some of Austin’s homesickness. We had looked it up online, and the rate for two nights for three people over the weekend was $85 USD. The location was good, and the rooms were good, linens were excellent. Rather than book online, I went in to see the rooms and agreed on a rate of $85 USD, and they didn’t want us to pay until we checked out. Okay, away we go!

At first, the weather was beautiful! We took off our layers of sweaters as we strolled around the city. The sun was out and it finally felt like springtime. That evening, it rained, and the next day was below 10C (in the 40s F). What a change.

At breakfast, we were talking about our forward plans for Iguazu, Machu Picchu and the rest of Sout America. Austin, in a wise beyond his year’s voice said “guys, I don’t know how much of this travel I have left in me. I want to go home to London.”

If it’s possible to break a mother’s heart with one sentence, that was it. We started to talk through some options: do we send him to Texas, stop travelling, speed up? What do we do? He’s said he’s homesick a dozen times, but he’s never sat there like a tiny adult and put it in quite that way before. We had to listen.

At checkout from our hotel, things took a turn for the worse. The bill presented to us was double what we had agreed two days before, and Mark dug in his heels refusing to pay. Eventually there was a completely testosterone fuelled argument between my husband who speaks no Spanish, and the two men behind the desk who spoke no English, and me in the middle as translator. None of them were backing down from their position, and that’s when I felt them.

Hot tears started brimming in my eyes.  My chin started quivering. This was all my fault. I had misunderstood the Spanish, and got it wrong. Men were shouting at each other, and people were looking at us. The tears were coming anyway, so I thought that perhaps, maybe, they might break up this machismo display. So I let them come.

In fact, they exploded out of my eyes and once they started, I couldn’t stop them. It was ugly. I was red and blotchy and sobbing in public. I was crying for my son, for the ridiculous situation we were in, for being disappointed by a lot of the places we had been in South America thus far, and I was crying because the damn argument at the desk was never going to end. A man brought me some water. A woman gave me a candy. And My son did his very best to show his mumma all the sympathy he could muster for his seven years and make me feel better. None of it stopped the tears.

Eventually I heard the man say something about calling the police, so I pulled my mom britches up and told Mark to stop arguing and just pay the damn bill. My dad used to say “it’s not always right to be right”and if there was ever a time when this applied, it was now.

That ended the standoff, but not the tears. They were well and truly started, and managed to survive the whole day. Any woman will understand this. Sometimes they just have to come, and are just waiting for a trigger to let loose and not stop until they fully dehydrate your body making you quite literally run out of tears. This happened to me.

I have a playlist I created shortly after Trump was elected called “Angry White Woman.”  For two hours in the car I subjected Mark and Austin to an onslaught of Disturbed, Audioslave and Nine Inch Nails. They were shell shocked, but I finally started feeling better. I make Austin do sprints to get his wiggles out. I need the darker side of grunge to get my rages out.

The day continued to deliver blows and mishaps, but we chose a lovely campground with hot showers, and the end of the day was finally right.

We were headed toward Iguazu, but had to get out of Uruguay first. We chose our route to cross in to Argentina at Salto, a little town with dozens of hot springs resorts. There was one in particular that all of the iOverlanders have raved about incessantly.

The best day

The Termas San Nicanor was 15 km down a rutted muddy road out of our way, but when we arrived at the peaceful tile roofed estancia tucked beneath the towering eucalyptus trees, and broad palm trees, we knew we had finally made a good decision.

Four peacocks rested on the wooden fence rails, their twelve (at least) friends roamed the grounds around the large ranch house. Green parrots squawked in the trees, and a terrified Rhea showed us just how fast he can run to get away froman advancing 4×4.

All sorts of birds of all sorts of sizes and colours surrounded our campsite, and the resident pup settled in to guard us from harm, including a cheeky fox trying to steal the steaks we had marinating for dinner.

The car had barely turned itself off before we were stripping down to change into our swimsuits to plunge into the large thermally heated pools with views across the countryside.

It didn’t matter that the skies were darkening and the sky was spitting out tiny raindrops. We were warm in the pool and relaxed — truly relaxed for the first time in ages.

Austin played as he normally would in a normal pool, but quickly learned you can’t exert yourself in a 37* C pool!  His little cheeks went beet red and I made him sit out a bit and join Mark and I in sitting still to drink in the view.

The pools were situated on a hill, and the view over the rolling hills and lower wetlands made me think of Texas where you can look out over the land for miles and miles.

Having had a really rough morning, this peaceful respite, and tranquil reminder of home was just the medicine my soul needed.

It never fully rained, and the clouds parted to reveal a full rainbow in the sky opposite a sunset that coloured the air around us a golden shade of pink. The thieving birds disappeared with the sun – they had requisitioned two apples, and had designs on the cheese and salami I had set out for aperitivo.  

We enjoyed our snack with a smooth Uruguayan Tannat before setting ourselves to building a fire and cooking the succulent sirloin I had bought at a local carneceria that day.

It was the perfect end to the perfect day, proving that sometimes all it takes is a change of weather, scenery or mindset to make it all much, much better.

We stayed at that campground for two more nights, soaking in the sun, soaking in the scenery, the hot springs and the general peace of the most perfect campground that ever was!


About the author: Shalena

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