Uruguay, Argentina · 6 Days · 13 Moments · April 2017

Jenny's adventure in Uruguay

11 April 2017

We awoke early to explore the world famous UNESCO heritage city Colonia. It's funny - we were done after 90 minutes and I was reminded of how nice it is to travel that you aren't surrounded by tourists, unlike here. Saying that, we did do a lovely beach walk, accompanied by Jan, sand and sporadic dead fish. Aaro did not like that bit! We spotted a Middle Eastern restaurant selling hummus which was so welcome after mostly having pasta and pizza. Being a veggie here really isn't easy. Bags packed, we headed to the ferry port. It was there we met our new crazy russian friend Maria! She is a bundle of energy (which is a lot coming from me!) and loves to capture the moment in picture or even video form, then post on Instagram. I thought I was addicted but not compared to Maria, although it is lovely re-living the memories. The ferry crossing only takes an hour and it was bumpier than I expected, although nothing compared to Kenya! Then suddenly on the horizon was BUENOS AIRES...

10 April 2017

We enjoyed a tour of the vineyard, courtousy of Diago. It was the best tour I've had. We explored the vineyards, honeymoon cottage and even shoved ourselves into the area they use to press grapes (although we likened it to the oven in Hansel and Gretal)! We sat down for cheese and wine, splurging for the $25 version as you got to try 6 different wines, a coffee and a pudding with cheese, bread and TOMATOES FROM HEAVEN. They were so yummy we asked for more!!! We passed the afternoon there - so much for the early bus back and meandered towards the town (in a zig zag line i think) as there was a LOT of wine. We played with a child whilst waiting for the bus and admired their signs in the window to encourage people to understand disabilities. There was one on autism and I'm sure my dad would have loved it. We need more things like that in the UK! Back in the hostel we played jenga and cards and chatted to a German guy called Jan after booking the ferry to BA for the next day. Sooo excited!
We arrived in Carmelo feeling like the only tourists who had ever been to the town. Jumping off the bus at a point that looked like the "right place" it took us 2 people in the street and a sachet of coffee before we found the tourist office, where they only spoke spanish. Coffee and pastries in hand we walked to the vineyard, 5km out of the town (coffee took priority over admiring their bridge). It was a pleasant walk accompanied by green pastures, dogs, and a game of guess whose horse that is. Uruguayans seem to leave their horses by the side of the road and no one seems to mind. There was also a GIANT wine bottle at the turn of the road which somehow we missed until it literally hit us in the face. On arrival in the vineyard, we suddenly felt at home. There was a beautiful counter full of lovely wine and an old school cash register. Bizarrely, we also met a girl from the UK who was studying spanish at Lancaster Uni and we all realised that the world is a super small place!
We awoke early for day trip to Carmelo. 1.5 hours from Colonia on the bus, it's famous for vineyards and yet another statue of Artigas. We'd sent many a comical message to the vineyard "Almácen de la Capilla" via Facebook to arrange a wine tasting. I was using the messages to practise my Spanish. I asked them if the ferry to Buenos Aires was still running - their answer "sí, caciola". My response - Caciola - what does that mean? It's a new word for me & it isn't in the dictionary (in spanish). After a few hours it suddenly clicked - Caciola isn't a spanish word but the name of the ferry company which gave Aaro and I a great giggle given I'd asked what on earth they meant with caciola. I sent a message back saying "Estoy stupido" when we realised. Firstly, stupido isn't a word in spanish (although it is to dad and I) and secondly, if we're being pernickaty it should be "estoy stupida" because -a indicates being feminine. The vineyard didn't respond after that but we headed their anyway!

9 April 2017

The rain continued into the evening on arrival in Colonia. After checking into our hostel we darted into the bar next door. Sadly they don't cater for vegetarians much in gaucho land but we were hungry so papas con queso was a welcome treat. Saying that though, they definitely cater for tourists as my eyes darted to the English Breakfast tea bags! Heaven after a day's travel. We turned in early; I spent 2 hours trying to find a cost and time effective way to get from Puerto Iguazu in Argentina to Tupiza in Bolivia. The only sensible answer seems to fly; £250 sounds a lot but it cuts out 3 buses and 20 hours of land travel so even I can see it's worth it! There's still a day's travel from Salta. It's worth it though. Maybe I'll take a special photo like SBW on the salt flats! Hehe - within a few hours of meeting her in Uganda she'd shown us her favourite photo in SA (her on the salt flats in JUST a Santa hat). I think I knew we'd be friends for life after that.
Sadly, we weren't the only people in the hostel and arrived back to find a pretty unfriendly couple in our room. There was a loud Uruguayan family in the kitchen until midnight so a bit of a patchy night's sleep. Never mind - it's an inevitable part of travelling. The next am I ask Aaro the plan. She says bus and we both laugh. Minas was lovely, but it's raining here & 1 day is enough. Just enough time to wander up to see a blumin big equine statue of their patriot Artigas. On the way we encountered a dog that folllows us and Aaro helps me not to feel too panicked. She is very patient with me but completely understands. I plan how I will manage across the rest of SA as dogs are everywhere. Little steps. A quick stop off at the local supermarket, we enjoy coming up with a unique lunch for veggies! Back to Eduardo's - when we tell him we're leaving early he returns our money - could her get any sweeter? We peck him on each cheek and head off to Colonia. It's raining hard - good decision!

8 April 2017

Not content with horserising, we were directed by a lovely Uruguayan lady through a natural forest made up of the native tree - the Ombul. Following a path of rocks with intermittent spray painted blue arrows (much more efficient than signs) we arrived at the top a mere 20 mins later. A little sense of achievement, it looked pretty high from the bottom. The view was lovely and we took a photo of a big family at the top. After a little while, we headed back down the rocky path, only which way was it?!?!? No sé!! I asked the family in broken spanish the way - their answer "vamos" - I.e. let's go together. How lovely we thought! After a roundabout start we located the path and continued to chat. Turns out they're originally from Spain but moved to Uruguay 11 years ago. They were on holiday with another family at the Estancia. Their daughter practised her english, me my spanish and of course we posed for a selfie at the end. In Uruguay you don't say cheese but "Wiki" aka whiskey.
We arrived at Estancia Arequita and outside were 8 or so beautiful horses which were available to ride. Half an hour cost £2.75. Yey we thought and headed over to have a true Uruguayan experience. "!Hola!" I shouted. Out came a young boy, maybe around 10. He shouts to someone in the stable and we sigh "Oh must be the responsible adult". But oh no, out comes another young boy aged 12. We reluctantly negotiate to have a ride and they saddle up the horses, clearly experienced in such matters. We clamber on and await them to saddle up. Oh no - wrong again- they jump on the horses bareback and we embark on our walk. Turns out they're cousins and smiled when I called them gauchos. The horses were beautifully tame and took us on a short walk with fabulous with stunning views of the Uruguayan countryside. Half way round we realise we don't have helmets but continue to live in the moment. We left them with a small tip and huge smiles and headed to the restaurant for a well needed coffee.
We located our hostel - 3 mins from the bus station (it's like we planned it) and knocked on the door. No answer. Uh oh..... Noooo don't be daft, just a little patience. The loveliest man called Eduardo answered and showed us to our room - turns out we're the only guests. He then told us about all the exciting things to do nearby (in ridiculously fast but well-meaning spanish). There's a bus at 14:30 (yes South americans do use the 24hr clock - I was told they didn't) to the park Arequita. It was now 2pm. So we gobbled up our pre-bought salad and headed on our next adventure!
After a great night's sleep, we breakfasted (as you say in spanish) and headed for our first South American bus station, bags held tight. Tucked in the basement of a shopping centre we faced the carnage. There are 10+ different companies all making similar journeys across the country. The technique is to find the one going to your destination at the correct time which looking like a turtle and twice as wide as normal with your bags is not easy. We managed it though and made it onto the 671 autobus (a lucky number for me). 3 hours later and we arrived in Gaucho country- I had been looking forward to the journey but was rocked to sleep by the drive and therefore saw a fat 0, apart from the men with berets that looked like French men to me but it turns out are the gaucho men I'd been looking forward to meeting!

6 April 2017

3. No famous person from Uruguay. Exiled man to Paraguay. Brought back his remains so he is now hero of Uruguay 4. All Uruguayans are immigrants. So EVERYONE is welcome 5. Only square to have been erected has gates shaped like a penis. 6. Funny names of places. Montevideo is the best - Monte 6 see of East to West. 6 mountains along is Montevideo from the East. Also have Liberty Prison 7. Football is a religion 8. Weekends are sacred 9. Realised meat industry is not enough long term so invested in software engineering and green energy - can't store energy so send to Argentina 10. Legalised selling of marijuana 11. Legalised abortion- 3 days with psychiatrist no matter decision 12. Get married next to tits shop We. Uruguayan women want to get dressed up so created fake weddings. Pick role out of a hat 13. Pizza by the metre 14.
6 attempts at withdrawing cash later, we managed to get some USD. Next challenge- grab a coffee as our tiredness was beginning to set in. DISASTER - there are NO COFFEE SHOPS. We're on the main shopping streets and there are none. Eventually we find a pizza takeaway that does take out coffee and rush to the 11am free walking tour from the Plaza Independencia. BEST DECISION EVER. In typical Uruguayan fashion we are 10 mins late and the English tour is just beginning. The guy is holding a mate cup and flask, called Valentino (sexy name I think in my head) and 6ft 4. Turns out he's hilarious- he has us in stitches from 1 minute in. Here are the gems that I remember:- 1. 4.33 cows.per person in Uruguay. 60kg meat per person consumed per year. They really rely on carnivores. Being a vegetarian is more of a taboo than being gay. 2. Every plaza (except plaza Independencia) has 2 names and free Wi-Fi
Buenas noches! We arrived this morning at 7:30am (2 minutes ahead of schedule as the Captain pointed out). I was so excited to plant my feet on South American soil and get exploring this foreign land. Haha even before we got off the plane I had an idea because as we landed there was huge applause from the passengers- a typical South American tradition it seems. Passport control and bag pick up was a breeze. Great idea to have a taxi come to meet us flr a bargain $20 each. We took the beautiful scenic route along the Uruguan coast into Montevideo city centre, around 20km from the aireport itself. As with all major cities, the traffic at 9am was a little challenging but out lovely driver did his best. We checked into our hotel early and quickly showered, excited for the day to come. Needing money, we headed for a cash machine. None in sight so we asked a street cleaner. I tried in spanish. The Uruguayans speak so quickly - we picked out Santander and headed to the cuaderna, aka corner.