Archive for the ‘Uruguay’ Category

The Uruguayan coastline

December 22, 2010

Some countries seem like stepping stones on the way to more exciting and more exotic adventure. We knew little about Uruguay, a small country sandwiched between Brasil and Argentina, a provincial backwater according to some. In ways the Panama of South America,  at least in our minds, another stepping stone, we were leaving Brasil behind with so many great memories and heading to Buenos Aires, the city that never sleeps and in between we would ride down the coastline of Uruguay.

After the long beach ride in Brasil to the border at Chui, we were glad to be back on pavement, making some progress despite a headwind which forced us to stop at a small seaside village. On asking about campsites we were told there were none but we could pitch our tents by the river, a spot with some picnic benches. This attitude sums up Uruguay, a fantastic little country, easy going people with no pretensions and with 5 times as many cattle as people, a country where carne and asado are national pastimes.

We were still high on the adrenaline of Brasilian back route navigation and Uruguay, with its quiet country roads, was the perfect place to continue, your only compass being a sense of curiosity and a desire to lose your way in the essence of a place. I think this section has been the most relaxed of the trip so far, floating along on a bike.

The is something about cycling by the sea, especially on a rugged coastline, maybe it is the dynamics of the infinite, never ending, the unchanging waves crashing in and rolling out and pedals turning, returning, turning, endlessly. Physically moving into a mental equilibrium.

We had a pattern to our days now and had an idea of stopping in a few places, enjoying the sea as much as possible and ending up in Colonia where we would sail across the Rio Plata to Buenos Aires. La Paloma was our first stop, an understated seaside town, staying meters from the beach and attempting our first Uruguayan style asado.

We decided to take the back road to Montevideo, Ruta 10, unpaved in parts and interrupted in others, involving more pushing of bikes and a little ferry. A gem of a route.

We met a Danish cyclist en-route who convinced us to check out Montevideo  and we arrived in time to celebrate Hannah’s birthday sucio style, bars with sawdust floors and back street pizzerias. The city, in keeping with the rest of the country, is laid back and was certainly worth the visit.

And so our detour was coming to an end, almost 3500km from Salta to Buenos Aires, the road less travelled by cyclists for sure but a really special part of our trip. We were heading to Colonia, further up the coast, only two days ride. When you get into a groove unusual things can happen. And so we found ourselves in Colonia Suiza after clocking up 120km in 6 hours, a strong wind on our backs. The luxurious Suiza hotel allowed us to "camp" in their grounds, well, we were given mattresses in their pool house, unused in the pre-christmas slow season, all for a few dollars each. Kudos to the manager. It’s not every morning you can enjoy breakfast by the pool in perfectly tended gardens.

Colonia del Sacramento is one of the most visited places in Uruguay. It is an hour boat ride from Buenos Aires and a world heritage colonial town, very pretty indeed.

It was to mark the end of our bike ride with Derek who has to return to work in the New Year. Both myself and Nessa are really touched that some of our friends would even consider joining us, it is such a long way to come for a short holiday. Thanks doesn’t even come close to expressing how we feel. And we have just heard from Jamie that he is coming out for two weeks of cycling in Patagonia – unbelievable. So, Christmas in Buenos Aires, we have been here a week already but that story is for another day. Suffice to say that Carolina’s family have already made us feel right at home.

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