Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mantra madness

Even though i’ve been at the Mantra Hotel for three days, I still have absolutely no idea how to get from A to B.

A is my room; B the tournament area. There is also C (breakfast).

The problem is that A and B are in separate buildings connected by a walkway and whichever way you go, you always end up on a different level. It’s like the whole place was designed by Escher. You start at the top, you go down for a while and then you’re at the top again. This happens even when you use the escalators.

The hotel bit is really scary because there is no signage. You have no idea where you are. An endless, featureless corridor, marked with meaningless numbers and, half-way along, an unmanned cleaning trolley brimming with bathroom products which you don’t want but feel obliged to steal anyway.

Howard has tried to explain the hotel’s Escher-like properties to me by explaining that the hotel is built on a hill, but this doesn’t hold water. The Punta peninsula is flat as a pancake. Where did the hotel get a hill from?

Despite this drawback (ie taking hours to find my room or the tournament), I totally love the Mantra. Huge room, giant bed, lovely view of stunning woodland , superb breakfast and insta-room service. It’s in the middle of nowhere but the nowhere is a forest, a dune-lined beach that goes on forever (Brazil apparently) and sweet little weather-boarded cottages.


Following his wildlife-spotting achievements in Costa Rica (see earlier blog), Howard has also continued to impress with reports of a goat and a wild boar.
Rury saw the “biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my life” and we all saw a llama.


On Tuesday, Owen and I managed to escape the Mantra for a superb visit to Jose Ignacio, a little fishing village-cum-fabulously-rich people’s holiday home village 30km up the coast. Pretty lighthouse, nice rock pools, a little bit of light paddling (Owen, unexpectedly) and a fresh fish lunch ... superb. The whole excursion was so unlike a normal tournament that I thought for a minute we might be experiencing Real Life.

The tournament itself has also been fun – the first I’ve really enjoyed all year. The presence of some of my favourite players (Jason Mercier, Felipe Ramos, Andre Akkari) plus lovely Owen and dreadful Howard, plus my new best friend Eric Ramsey, certainly helped - but the whole thing had a good atmosphere. Plus it’s my last LAPT so my happiness was tinged with sadness –perfect. Only at an LAPT might someone also launch a spontaneous samba during the dinner break featuring Mike Ward and Greg Pappas on maracas, but after four hours’ of heads-up and no Tim Vance, everyone was getting pretty much stir crazy.

Another highlight of LAPT Uruguay was the Trip to Town. This was the glamorous resort of Punta del Este – the Monte Carlo of Latin America (not) . A rumour went round that we should all head off to a bar called Moby Dick. Actually I have no idea if it was called Moby Dick but when I got there everyone I have ever met in my life was already there and totally plastered. I waded through the millions, got to the bar, found Eric Ramsey and demanded four mojitos. A good live band was struggling to get itself heard above the bad beat stories. The entire tournament was there, squeezed into a tiny tiny space and shouting. Everyone seemed to have gone slightly mad. Nice.