Wandering in America del Sur

Travel time: July 2005 - March 2006  |  by Allison Webb

Lonely Planet Unplugged

Reluctantly left the blistering heat of Punta del Diablo after getting used to our cabana, and sitting on the beach in the am by the fishing boats, and mate drinkers and joined the masses for the bus ride back to Montevideo where we had decided to stop for the night.

Now the Lonely Planet´s 2 pages on Montevideo were not all that impressive and didn´t really inspire one to visit the city, but we had decided that we needed to break our trip so what could one night hurt? Arrived with a very overcast sky and started to pound the pavement for a hotel. Now fortunately it was not dark and we had some breathing room. Found out in Montevideo, conversely to Punta del Diablo, that your money will get you quite a lot and that the posted rates will be discounted quite significantly if you show up in Jan when everyone is at the beach!

Found ourselves a place to call home for the night, hopefully without leaking walls, and left to explore the city with very low expectations. Right away started to fall in love with the place and its architecture. Now sure it wasn´t as old as some other areas, but it was grandiose and being from Canada, it was still old enough and ornate enough for us. It seemed like every other building was of a 1880-1920 vintage and we walked with our necks craned to soak in all the little details.

The public squares were wide and magnificent, the people smiled, there were no tourists and some quaint little restaurants were waiting for us. After passing through gate to the old town, the architecture got even nicer, but darkness was falling and our stomach´s were grumbling so found a wonderful little restaurant that oozed character and loaded up on ginger chicken and atmosphere with all the locals.

The next morning were up nice and early to take advantage of our few hours before our bus to Colonia. Armed with walking tour map in hand we were off to the old city. And at first it was just a drizzle and we walked in our gortex happily enough. The beautiful buildings more than made up for the weather. But finally after the torrential rain just kept pouring, we had to abandon the map and cameras and take shelter in the closest coffee shop, it was time to call defeat. We had raced through the historic loop, but we were not going to be able to see anymore. And it was too bad because the city has a wonderful old quarter complete with artists shops, a market teeming with restaurants, sights and smells of parrilla cooking and a liveliness that can only be captured on a sunny day!

Ran to the Torres Garcia Art Gallery to squeeze in a little Uruguayian culture before retreating completely. Very famous in Uruguay and in South America, and somewhat in the USA where he also worked, the art gallery which is free, exhibits a wonderful collection of Joaquin Torres Garcia´s bright drawings and paintings which are lively and distinctive and right away I wanted to buy up everything in the museum bookstore. Born in 1874, he studied in Barcelona and worked with famous artists such as Gaudi before achieving his own fame and returning to Uruguay to support the development of Latin American art before his death in 1949.

But there was little time to dwell in the gallery and we were off through the rain clogged streets to the bus terminal and bound for Colonia - the last stop on our whirlwind visit to Uruguay! But the rain would not let up. Not only did it pour, but it made the driving treacherous. The roads were like rivers and everywhere there was lots of flooding which wasn´t surprising since the landscape is flat, flat, flat.

Coming into Colonia worried that we wouldn´t be able to see anything, but fortunately for us, as luck would have it, the sun came out and then was so hot that we needed to hide inside! But we couldn´t! We didn´t have all that much time, so we wandered all the little streets in the old town where the Portuguese had been first to build in the 1500s and the Spanish after them, the old stone buildings and cobblestone streets, a quaint reminder of the past, now filled with restaurants and tourist shops and lots of curious daytrippers from Buenos Aires!

And again in Colonia as everywhere in Uruguay, everyone spoke English to us. Incredible! And what do you do on a Saturday night in Colonia? Head down to the seawall with your mate cup and thermos in hand and hang out with all the teenagers who are checking each other out between sips of mate - yes, this is not North America!

In the morning awoke to the familiar sound of Uruguay, not just rain, but torrential rain. Rain so loud that I thought that Kurt had left the shower on and then the realization that we were going to have to walk in it to the catamaran port! Eeeks! I have only a few words to say about that experience, "thank gawd for goretex!"

Boarded the boat in flat calm water and rain and left the country pretty much as we´d come to it. Except now our blank slate was replaced with impressions and a desire to return and explore more of its countryside where tourists are rare and people have smiles a mile wide. And maybe, just maybe, next time we´ll bring along our own mate cup and thermos!

The quiet streets of Colonia

The quiet streets of Colonia

Fishing boat at Punta del Diablo

Fishing boat at Punta del Diablo

Solis Theatre, Montevideo

Solis Theatre, Montevideo

A unique dining experience, set up for two inside, your own dining car, Colonia de Sacramento

A unique dining experience, set up for two inside, your own dining car, Colonia de Sacramento

© Allison Webb, 2005
You are here : Overview The Americas Uruguay Lonely Planet Unplugged
The trip
 
Description:
My trip through Peru before heading to Chile to work for 6 months and then travels afterward in South America
Details:
Start of journey: Jul 05, 2005
Duration: 8 months
End of journey: Mar 02, 2006
Travelled countries: Peru
Chile
Argentina
Uruguay
Ecuador
The Author
 
Allison Webb is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 15 years.