Getting Lost in Uruguay Twice to Play Ultimate Frisbee

When you’re trying to go somewhere, getting lost sucks. It’s no fun. Especially when it’s twice in one night

I decided to play Ultimate Frisbee with the local team here. They are a great group of guys/girls and I was trying to get in some more practice before the hat tournament in Monte Hermoso, Argentina. Asa and Randi had other things they wanted to catch up on so they didn’t go.

We bought cell phones and sim cards at a local store so left to buy those around 4pm and I planned on making the short walk from the cell phone store to the bus stop and ride from there.

Because we were leaving from a new location, I didn’t plan on getting on the same bus we rode to the last time we went to practice. I scribbled some notes on paper and knew I had to take bus 582 to Peñarol (about an hour away). I wrote down a few different streets that I needed to get off at and figured when I saw the streets that I wrote down, I would get off the bus.

That plan sounds like it should work. Ride the bus. Get off when I see the streets that I wrote down. It also should take about 50 minutes so I can time the ride and at least get off in the area of the practice field.

Simple enough, right?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. Off I go. Asa and Randi made sure to wish me luck as I rode the bus to practice on my own for the first time.


The bus ride was pretty uneventful. I was observing what we passed by and what was going on around me. At about 30 minutes on the ride, I started looking around at the different streets as we left the main city, Montevideo. The bus was still frequently stopping every few streets and turning here and there.

At around 40 minutes, I started seeing less streets and figured I was getting near. The bus was still occasionally stopping, but I noticed a trend of where it was stopping. A trend I didn’t want to see.

As I was looking at the corners of the streets. Slowly, it became more and more of a reality. There weren’t any street signs anymore.

It’s alright though, I remembered the corner we got off at last time (this bus stops there), what the roads look like, and that the youth center where the field is at would pass me on the left.

The 45 minute mark was approaching and I thought I started recognizing the area so I was prepared to get off when I saw the major road next to the bus stop that I wanted to get off at.

After about 5 minutes of not seeing where I needed to be, I noticed it was actually 10 minutes and I had been on the bus for 55 minutes. Hmm… Weird. I didn’t see the stop.

Although I hate asking for directions (not sure why, I guess it’s a man thing), I decieded to ask someone where the center is and where I need to get off. I figured giving up shame and asking for directions in a foreign country, where I had no clue where I was could be important to me returning home.

Just as I started to figure out how to ask about the place I was going, the bus driver gets to a stop. It wasn’t a normal stop though, he did something different this time.

Instead of just stopping with the foot brake, he reached down and slowly flipped a big black lever which was probably a gear box or air brakes or something. At about the same time, he said, “El fin” which means The End.

The End?!

Ohh crap!

What do I do now?!

Well, I couldn’t remember exactly how to pronounce the place, but I asked the bus driver in spanish, “donde está el Juvenil Salesiano?”

The bus driver didn’t understand me.

He asked where I was trying to go in spanish so I repeated myself.

Then he rambled off a few sentences with another question I didn’t understand. I told him that I didn’t understand spanish well and didn’t understand what he said.

Then he said it more simply, “A donde vas?” Which means, Where are you going?

Then I gave him the street I wanted to go, Avenida Sayago, and added to the Juvenil Salesiano.

His demeanor changed as he spoke more slowly with more confidence that he knew where I wanted to go. I could understand a lot of what he said this time.

He told me to walk in a direction he pointed with his hand, straight for many blocks, then take a right at the big street, which would intersect with Sayago, a block from the field.

Perfect! I said thanks and went on my way.

There weren’t any sidewalks in this part of town. There were dirt paths next to the road which were formed from enough people trudged next to the road.

While observing everything around me, I finally found out where the horses go! Something I had been questioning since I arrived here.

There were a few horses tied up in a yard at a few houses with carts near them. Throughout the day, there are a couple groups of people who ride a horse and carriage around going from dumpster to dumpster picking out what people threw away and keeping what they want and can sell. There will be a post later on this when we can get a good picture. I just always wondered where the horses stayed at.

For now, he’s a picture of a horse with trash carriage at the youth center where we play Ultimate.

Working Horse that picks up trash

…okay, back to me being lost.

About 10 minutes into walking, I was getting worried again and I saw a small shop on the corner of a street with someone working inside of it. In spanish, I asked the elder gentleman where the youth center was and that I was looking for Avenida Sayago.

He didn’t understand it at first, so I said it again, focusing on the youth center – Juvenil Salesiano. I think I actually said, “Salesano Juvenil”

I didn’t remember the exact pronunciation or spelling so I did my best. The elder man corrected me with, “Centro Juvenil Salesiano?” I told him that’s it!

He proceeded to tell me that I am about 8-10 blocks away and that the blocks were very long blocks. He told me to go straight for many blocks and I’ll run into Sayago. But, right before I left after thanking him, he corrected himself and started to say go straight, but follow the road the to right when it turns.

So I did that. I started walking again. After 10 blocks, I realized I wasn’t at the street and hadn’t passed it yet, but I saw a stop light two blocks ahead of me. Once I reached the stop light, I realized it was the big street that most of the buses take and the street I was looking for, Avenida Sayago, crossed it. I suddently felt a slight chill of relief as I vaguely knew where I was and figured worse case scenario, I get a taxi back home. On the previous streets, I didn’t see any taxis.

This led to my next decision, Left or Right? Which way do I walk?

I had no clue if I was North of South of the place. I looked around, didn’t notice anything. I looked up to find the North Star and was blinded by the Sun for a few seconds… So much for that idea…

After I regained my vision, I decided right was the smart choice. I didn’t think the bus went north of where I wanted to go, so I started heading to the right. After walking for about 10 minutes with many buses passing me, people driving around, and others walking, I saw a small shop on a corner. I headed straight there to ask a lady where el Centro Juvenil Salesiano was in spanish.

She knew exactly what I was talking about! Looks like I improved since asking the last person for directions!

She started counting and mentioned many blocks. She pointed up the street in the direction I was going and said, “Dericho, dericho dericho! Muchas Cuadras.” Which means straight, straight, straight, many blocks. I asked her for an approximate guess and she guessed,twenty or thirty.

Wow! I went from 8-10 blocks at the second guy to 30 blocks. I’m guessing the bus driver had no clue and thought I meant somewhere else.

So, I thanked her and went on my way.

She was right. It was about 25 blocks and I arrived at where I thought.

No worries, it’s just the gringo arriving a little late.

Everyone was still throwing and about to start playing. I made it in time.

I didn’t know how to say that I got lost in spanish so I walked straight to the guys who understand some english and laughed while I told them I got lost and just walked for about 30 minutes after missing my bus stop.

They laughed, told the others, and it was funny.

Then we played Ultimate until it was too dark to keep playing.

The Long Journey Home

We started to set out on our ways. I didn’t want to try a new bus on the way back home so I waited for bus 145, which we took before. I knew I would recognize street signs and be able to get around just fine once I was in the city near our house.

Bus 145 shows, up, I take the bus with 4 other guys from playing and we walk to the back. It was fun talking with them. A couple understand a little english and could help me with understanding and talking. We talked about Ultimate Frisbee, who the best player is, favorite teams, etc.

As they get off at their stop, they ask if I know how to get home. I said yes since I did and they left.

Unfortunately, I thought I knew where I was going.

There’s a slight, but key difference there. Knowing where I was going and thinking that I knew where I was going are two different things. I expected the bus to keep going down a route, but at one stop, the bus driver flipped that large black level and said, “El Fin.”

Lost Again

Ohh Crap! Not again…

This time I was at least in some part of the city. There were buildings around, a ton of people, and a McDonalds. I couldn’t see anything that let me know where I was at so I started walking. I headed straight down a road that led to more people.

I debated getting on a taxi, which would have been simple and fast, but I would have had to pay for it and the night was beautiful. I decided to figure it out on my own and get more exercise in addition to playing Ultimate for three hours.

After about 15 minutes of walking, I found a sign that said La Rambla and pointed to the left with an arrow. Right when I saw that sign, I had a big feeling of relief as I could make it home. I wasn’t sure how long it would take, but I was going to make it.

La Rambla is a road that follows the coast line. Much like Pacific Coast Highway in California. I knew if I could make it there, I would eventually get back home. I’ll put the water on my left and start walking.

After about 5 minutes of walking, I saw something that I realized, Buceo. I knew it was pretty far away, but the temperature was perfect for shorts and a t-shirt, the sky was shining full of stars, and I finally felt relaxed knowing that I knew my way home.

There was a small gas station on my left and I decided to buy a coke to drink on the way home.

I noticed a couple in the mid-forties trying to take a picture of themselves so I offered them a hand, took a quick picture for them and went on my way. They both had big smiles on their faces and were enjoying the night.

I also passed a small outdoor skating rink that is near our house. A lot of people seem to hang out there with their children until very late at night.

Outdoor skating rink in Uruguay

Whether it’s talking to random strangers, talking to the cashier at the local grocery store, or navigating my way to and from places when I get lost in a language that I can barely speak, the more time that I spend in Montevideo pushing my fears, I seem to feel more comfortable in doing it again. I don’t plan on getting lost again though, but I feel more comfortable if I did.

Here is my route:

Bus ride out there: 1 hour

Walking to practice: 30 minutes

Bus ride home: 50 minutes

Walking home: 1.5 hours

Total travel time to play ultimate frisbee: about 3 hours, 50 minutes.

Getting Lost in Uruguay

Lessons Learned

1. Make sure you remember exactly where to get off of the bus.

2. Make sure you can pronounce where you are going correctly.

3. Make sure the bus number AND name are correct. Bus 145 can end up in different places depending on it’s name.

4. Always be prepared to laugh at the situation. If I had my Life’s a Flip Flop shirt on, a picture would have been perfect!

Life Lesson Learned

At the beginning of the story, I said that getting lost sucks. I realized something else while walking for over an hour straight trying to find my way home.

Getting lost doesn’t always suck. It might not be fun, but it most always will lead to a time of growth. The real fun is realizing where you’re at and where the destination is, then taking the steps necesarry to get to the destination.