Tuesday 28 October 2014

Off to Uruguay

I caught the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia. The word 'extortionate' comes to mind. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm sure that fueling, buying and driving a ferry several times a day is expensive, let alone maintaining the ports at three locations. This being said, when it requires three separate people to give me a ticket, I have a feeling some cost cutting could be achieved without too much effort.

First you have to 'reserve' your ticket at the middle desk, proceed to a second 'cashier' to buy it, and finally head to a third desk to check in. Is it too much to ask if the whole process could be streamlined somewhat?

I clambered onto the boat, where music was playing. Well, I managed to sit through Marvin Gay’s ‘sexual healing’, but they’ve just started playing ‘love isn't always on time’ and I cracked and plugged myself in. At one point, I removed my earphones briefly to be doused with Tina Turner’s ‘Love is a beautiful thing’, cringed, and returned to my own music once more.

Planes flew overhead at a dizzyingly low altitude as we trundled out of the harbour. I didn't take any pictures, mostly because the windows were grimy to the point of almost opaque, but also that I had managed to sit on the wrong side of the boat. Out the far side, I could see with interest a small cluster of Hobie cats (small day catamarans for all those non-nautical types following along) on the shore, which led to the curious thought of why none of them were out on a beautiful and pleasantly breezy day like today.

The river between Buenos Aires and Uruguay is huge. I am looking out the window now and I honestly cannot see the far side. Upon arrival here, I had mistakenly believed I was looking out over the Atlantic. It’s that vast.

And speaking of Buenos Aires, I continued to be dazzled by this wonderful city. Joined once more by my local guide, we headed for the Sunday art market, which proved to sell everything you could possibly wish for, plus so much more. Antiques, jewelry, collectibles, all for obscenely low prices, and interspersed with locals dancing the tango.

The journey from Colonia to Montevideo was uneventful. The countryside of Uruguay reminds me of North America, farms, a lot of pickup trucks, and wide open roads along very flat countryside. The bus ride took about 2 and half hours, and dropped us in the bus terminal in Montevideo just as the sun was going down.

There's a certain peace with arriving in a new city, having almost no clue about the language, or where you are. I found the tourist office with ease, changed a few dollars into Uruguayan pesos, and set off for the bus stop to head into town. The driver was clearly preparing for his Dakar rally championship audition, because he took the corners at a frankly disturbing speed. He had Michael Jackson's 'Bad' playing loudly, and seemed honestly surprised when two wheels left the road. After 10 minutes of bouncing around the inside of the vehicle like a washing machine, we finally reached the main avenue, 18 de Julio, and thankfully proceeded in a straight line to the Independence Square.

By the time I arrived, the sun had truly fallen, and I headed for the Che Lagarto recommended in the Lonely Planet, but couldn't find it. After a couple more looks around, I realised I had walked past it 4 times, but it was now boarded up and abandoned. Woops.

Checking the map, and conscious of how empty the streets were getting, I picked the closest second hostel, and headed over to it. After a 10 minute walk, I arrived to find that it, too, was boarded up and abandoned. Seriously, what the heck happened? In desperation, as it was now starting to get really quite late, I booked into a small back street hotel for an extortionate amount of money. Once there, I found that the Che Lagarto has moved premises, and no one seems to know what happened to the other hostel. Lesson learned: double check Lonely Planet facts online before you arrive!

Today I walked about 15 miles around Montevideo, and stopped off some some food:

That's three juicy pork chops, several slices of crispy bacon, a fried egg, all covered in fried and sliced red peppers and onions on a bed of chips and salad. I immediately felt much better about the night before.

Montevideo is a nice enough city, with a lot of art on walls around the city and a quiet, homely feel to it. Despite this, Buenos Aires does seem to do it all a lot better, and I do prefer it. Uruguay, too, is incredibly expensive. On average, I'm paying twice as much for the same things as in Argentina, and so I've decided I'm heading back tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, I'll try and keep writing as much as I can!


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