Uruguay by the SeaOctober 31, 2017 in Uruguay ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C
After our trip to the Parana frontiers, we nipped into town and had lunch with Robert De Niro, before returning to the hotel to finish packing. As we were not catching the bus to our next destination until 5.45pm, we had extended our check-out until 2pm. So, after stowing our bags at reception, we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool with the Wifi. The journey to Concordia took all night, with no blankets, pillows, or food, until nearly midnight when we stopped at a terminal to pick them up, along with a large number of other passengers, and the hostess. We should have learnt from experience and been more prepared (we had brought fruit and a couple of biscuits this time, and had had a large, late lunch), but it was too little. We had thought it couldn't happen again!
When we reached Concordia, around seven the next morning, we had planned to catch the bus into Uruguay, but enquiries revealed that we had missed it by just 5 minutes - the next one wasn't until late afternoon. So we decided to take a taxi to the ferry instead, and cross the border via the river. However, the driver told us that the service no longer ran. We had no means of checking this out, so rather than risk being stranded, we let him take us over the border to Salto, to the bus station. We had planned on spending some time here in any case, before our next bus left, if things had gone to plan, but this gave us even longer for our visit. Second mistake. As this had all happened so fast, we had not thought to get any Uruguayan money, so again we had to search out a Cambio before we could eat breakfast - the station facilities were not open so early on in the morning.
After refuelling, we caught the bus into Salto Central, and wiled away the morning, strolling along the river and exploring the plazas and sidestreets. I lost my photos of the central square (accidental deletion), so you'll have to take my word that it was a very pleasant and well kept town, by South American standards. You could walk the pavements without falling down a large hole (actual event in Cusco), of which more later. We had empanadas from a coffee booth outside the cathedral, and a drink in a cafe in the main shopping area, before Chris posed for a photo with Suarez - luckily just a statue. Chris didn't fancy being bitten on his arm, which already has various injuries, both surgical and volleyball related. Apparently Suarez was born in Salto. On the way back to the station, we waved to 'Steptoe', an old man on a rag and bone cart before heading onward - an uneventful six hour bus ride to our penultimate destination of the trip...
Six days in an apartment with a sea view, to stroll along the prom, to rest and recuperate before our flight back. No more long bus journeys. No need to go out to eat if we didn't want to. Enough time to just look at one thing a day, catch up with my blog, or just do nothing for a bit if the fancy took us. We did go out to eat on the first night, but we soon discovered Bradleys by the Sea (opposite our hotel), which had all the staples, fresh food, and a deli counter - things that we could take 'home' and chop up, or just warm in the microwave, saving valuable lying down time.
The promenade in question was a 10 km long ramblas, along a perfect crescent shaped bay, edged with apartments and hotels, so we weren't short of space to roam. There were palm trees every few feet, presently being pruned for Spring, and large grassy areas for recreation. Our first day in the city was beautifully warm and, as we walked east along the sea, the locals were certainly taking advantage of the sunshine, and were recreating fully. There were lots of ladies walking fast (rather than jogging), mostly in full lycra fitness gear and baseball caps. De rigueur for the older man was 'shirtless', to better display the pre-exercise abs above their shorts. The poodles wore those plastic, Hollywood sun visors that faded starlets wear, or the ladies that Jon Voight picked up in Midnight Cowboy. Chris had done his running earlier - he couldn't have competed with the mid-morning Montevideons.
We walked over a sandy, sea-grass area, past the massive ant trails, to a concrete jetty that jutted into the sea. This was where the dogs exercised - standing on rocks as the waves came in, waiting for their owners to throw their rubber rings, so that they could swim. Chris tried a paddle on our last day, and assures me that it was warm, which explains why they were so keen. The beach birds were unusual here. There were some seagulls and cormorants, but also lots of pigeons and doves, and a heron, and a kingfisher; this is where the River Plate merges with the South Atlantic, and obviously the birds as well. The results of this can also be seen in the colour of the water, which is clay earth brown, more like the Amazon than the clear blue sea, but with contrasting pure white horses, whipped up by the gusty winds. One day, on first glance I thought the tide was out, because the water looked more like mud flats than ocean, gilded peach by the early sun. On our second day, it was still bright, but very breezy, and the sea was peppered with sails, spinnakers taut to bursting. Large grey ships lined the horizon. On day three, we walked westward down the ramblas, as far as the Naval Museum, to watch the video about the Graf Spee, the German battle ship that was crippled by the British in WW2, subject of the classic film, 'Battle of the River Plate' that Chris is so interested in. On the Thursday, we found our way to the port to buy our ferry tickets to Buenos Aires. Last leg. After we had sidestepped security (the Southern Lapwing that fiercely guards the port building), Chris asked for a photo in front of the big ships in the dock. It was only after posting it, alongside a wartime picture of the port, taken from a documentary about the Graf Spee, that he realised he had been standing in exactly the same place, in front of the same building.
We explored the old town, with its large stone gate, preserved in a concrete surround, and the many plazas, all containing huge statues, often with multiple figures and fountains. Then there was the trendy, arty area with its Parisian style market - the local crafts and Montmartre style paintings, with tango too. On the Sunday, when all the main shops were closed, art spaces sprang up, filled with junk sculpture. Poky little book shops opened their doors, selling anything from 1950s fashion hardbacks, to Lawrence Durrell and local artwork. On our second day, we discovered the place they created tango, or rather the music that had made it more acceptable and respectable, and popularised it enough to allow a variety of people to dance it. Prior to this, it had only been performed by men, who danced with each other (as a type of fighting apparently), and 'low class women'. I think the guide may have meant prostitutes. The music was 'La Cumpasita', which I'm sure that almost nobody has heard of, but that everybody who hears it will instantly recognise as the classic piece of tango music that it is. It has even been on Strictly. On the rainy day (and I do mean torrential) we visited the National Theatre (Teatro de Solis) for a tour - we were treated to several mini dramas, by a young couple with just a rose and a suitcase as props. We were then entertained by a German on the tour, who asked multiple questions, "...and when were the chandelier blue prints destroyed? How did that happen?" They were bombed by the Luftwaffe in a glass factory in Birmingham in WW2! He obviously wasn't listening properly when the guide explained this in detail earlier. "The crystal came from France, but nobody will ever ever ever be able to recreate the scintillating, dazzling, decorative lights if they are ever damaged", said the guide. The day before we left, we visited the Museum of the Carnival. It is a big thing in Montevideo, the rhythms and costumes influenced by the different cultures allowed access through the port. We were not even aware that the city had one - perhaps overshadowed by Rio? However, here it is different - performed on outdoor stages, and in mini tableaux, rather than in processions as in the Brazilian versions.
This morning we caught that ferry we booked, which turned out to be a very fast catamaran. We had counted on it taking four hours to get us to Buenos Aires, but we got here in two and a half, and arrived just after lunch at a relaxed and quirky hotel - lots of terracotta-tiled, stepped levels, with copious potted plants, and mini terraces overlooking the internal courtyard reception and the roof tops of hip Palermo Soho. We have come full circle in South America. We visited this area on our city bus tour on our first stay in Buenos Aires, when we stopped here for lunch in a pavement cafe. This time we spent the afternoon exploring further, and picking a restaurant for this evening. We went for a different one in the end but were not disappointed. Final flight tomorrow afternoon. Hasta luego. Until the next time.
We shared our hotel room with quite a number of large mosquitos. As the Dalai Lama said, "If you think you're too small to make a difference, spend the night with a mosquito."Read more