Uruguay

Finally, another post!

It has been hard to keep on top of this blogging thing recently, especially as in one place recently there was not only no internet but also no power…. Buenos Aires is amazing and deserves its own detailed post (shortly), so this time I’ll bring you up to speed with our side-trip to Uruguay and the river delta just to the north which will bring me up to date (ie. Sunday 20th).

After five nights in Buenos Aires, we boarded the enormous ferry that plies between BA and Colonia in Uruguay for a few days sight-seeing in that neighouring land. We had originally intended to go to Montevideo but baulked at the cost of the fast ferry – and the slow boat was too slow to contemplate. This is where the flexibility of having no plans for this part of the trip kicked in well: we decided to go to closer town of Colonia instead and day-trip it to Montevideo on the second day.

Our accomodations during this trip have been almost exclusively private rooms in hostels with their own bathroom, and with just one exception the research has paid off handsomely. Location, the size of the room, the bathrooms… all have been at least good to excellent and certainly very cheap: our average price each night per person has been just A$25! But for Colonia we desired something a little nicer, so in true flashpacker style we checked into the boutique hotel “Posada del Virrey” on the edge of the old port. And not just any room: the top-floor suite with jacuzzi and private balcony with sweeping views across the Rio de la Plata. LUXURY, I tells ya, and most welcome too 🙂

Colonia’s historic old town is so picturesque that it is UNESCO World Heritage listed, with a few small blocks of cobbled stone houses on cobbled streets sitting prettily on a point overlooking the Rio de la Plata. It is also an extremely popular weekend destination for BA inhabitants as it takes just over an hour on the fast ferry to get there. However it’s a complete tourist town – I think I would find it suffocatingly so in high summer but mid-week during low season it was almost comatose. A few dogs wandered up and down the streets, loud unmuffled scooters rumbled up and down the main drag, and cars intermittently prowled as well. There are no traffic lights in Colonia.

After gaping at the view from our balcony for a while I headed off to see some more of the town while Joel had some quiet time back in the room. The historic part of town is very small, almost too small given its popularity, and less than a kilometre out of that area rather poor-looking houses and apartments are the norm. The view of the Uruguayan countryside is idyllic, however: very green and lush, with numerous trees dotting the mostly flat pastureland. I was on a mission to get details for our trip to Montevideo the next day, and discovered that my planning was off and it would take almost three hours each way to get to the capital. We talked it over later that evening and decided six hours on a bus was not worth just 4-5 hours in Montevideo, so we simply relaxed and enjoyed our lodgings. Watching the sun set over the Rio de la Plata was magical on this evening, the few rooftops in front of us and the old port to the right framing the scene perfectly. That evening we hit the casino to play the slot machines – there honestly was very little else to do that night as all the live music venues were closed mid-week. In fact we had quite a lot of fun and both of us walked out slightly ahead. Woo hoo!

The next day was pure relaxation. Waking up mid-morning, wandering down for buffet breakfast then back to the balcony for a couple of hours. Reading Haruki Murakami in the sun, the gentle thump-thump of dance music from the parrilla barbeque restaurant across the way blending peacefully with the chatter of parrots in nearby palms. The odd cat patrolling rooftops, the river sparkling in the distance. Much nicer than six hours cooped up in a bus! That afternoon we went horseriding through the countryside and along the sands of the riverfront, passing several small farm lots with cattle, sheep, goats and more all munching contentedly on the dark green grass. There were only the two of us plus the guide, and at two and a half hours it was almost too long a trek but still definitely worth it (especially at just A$35 each). The hand-made soft saddles were much more comfortable that the hard saddles I’ve used before, but I still looked forward to using the jacuzzi back in the room afterwards 😉

After some unspeakable food the day before we were committed to eating well that night, and found a very nice-looking parrilla (bbq) restaurant in the heart of the old town. The food was a little ordinary, frankly, but there was a man singing spanish folk songs and playing guitar throughout the meal which made the atmosphere very warming. To go with we had a bottle of tannat, an obscure red grape variety that is only grown widely in certain parts of France and in Uruguay. Light-bodied but with decent depth, this bottle of Don Pasqual Riserva went well with the rich and meaty food. It was our first (and probably last) taste of the ubiquitous parrilla: a mixed grill cooked over a large hearth which can contain a variety of meats. On this occasion it was ribs, half a chicken, ribs, chorizo sausage, blood sausage, and ribs. Very fatty but manageable – thank god every meal in South America is served with bread…

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