The time had come to leave Buenos Aires and start making my way, way up north, to Brasil. To get there I decided to go through Uruguay.
From Buenos Aires access to Uruguay is simple. There are many ferries that go and buses too. I took the slow (3 hour) ferry to Colonia, an old Portugese colonial town 2 hours west of Montevideo.
Colonia is a great place to for a day trip, either from Montevideo or from Buenos Aires – there are faster ferries that take just an hour. It still has cobbled streets and is located on the Rio de la Plata river. It has an amazingly relaxed feel, and it’s possible to get around on bicycles or scooters. There is an HI hostel there and they have bikes to use for free. I decided to take a bike and ride around town. This was short lived when going up a slight incline, my peddling power and the strain on this old bike under my weight seemed to damage the chain! It slipped off and many attempts to fix it and carry on riding failed as somehow it was now stretched. So, I walked back and returned the bike to the hostel, pretending there was nothing wrong… after all, it could have happened before.
I stayed in Colonia two nights as I had some time to kill before going to Montevideo. The second night though I decided to check into a hotel with airconditioning, because the heat was unbearable. Tried out the casino there and unfortunately it was quite poor. There were two tables and about 10 slot machines.
Next day it was off to Montevideo to catch a bus straight to Piriapolis. A beach resort located on the river. It was established by an Argentinian entrepreneur at the turn of the century where he built a hotel, casino and it’s own power station. The hotel still exists but is not in use. It’s a pretty expensive resort and the cheapest hotel room I could find was US$20/night. It’s full of Argentine holidaymakers and has quite an amazing atmosphere. There is a very grand hotel there, Hotel Argentino. If you’re on a traveller’s budget, forget about it. Some rooms go for US$70/night! It has an ok casino, but again not that great. Because the place is full of Argentines, it’s hours are a bit crazy. The streets are full at 2am and most shops are still open. It has some really good restaurants, but like anywhere, the places off the main drag are sometimes better. The beach is on the river and the water is pretty warm, but unfortunately there are no waves. I did however spot fish jumping out the water about 10m metres from me.
After two day in Hotel Atlantico, it was back to Montevideo. I checked into the Red Hostel. It’s very nice and spacious and has the most friendly staff and an amazing balcony. It’s really new too, so everyone is very enthusiastic. Spent a night there and then went off to Sandra’s house. She was arriving back from Bolivia and I was to meet her there. The next morning we planned to go to Cabo Polonio. A beach resort on the Atlantic coast. But, after buying the tickets it was decided that La Pedrera a bit further on was the place to be. They were to have a massive party there over the weekend.
So, we changed our tickets and headed off. The bus trip was 4.5 hours and was fairly comfortable. We were four (three Frenchies and me). After we arrived we realised that coming without a place tostay was a bit of a crazy idea. Sandra knew someone who had a house there, but we could not get hold of him. Added to that, there was some sort of Hurricane-like storm that struck about an hour after we arrived. Torrential rain and gale-force winds were the order of the day and added to the fact that it was night time, there was no way we were going to find anywhere to stay. So Sandra and an Argentine, Pablo, we met along the way went in search of refuge. All they could find after an hour in the pouring rain was a house under renovation. So, we took the illegal route. We decided to squat in a house that had some hard concrete floors. Little did we know that this house contained most of South America’s mosquito colony, that seemed only to like my skin. Must be that Dove with extra moisturiser! After not sleeping for fear of police capture and the waves of attacks from determined mosquitos, we got up (not woke up) and headed to the beach for sunrise.
That was possibly the worst night ever, but it could only get better. After taking photos of my attacked forehead, we headed off to get some breakfast. The storm had just passed and the sky was clearing, but not much. Sowe took the decision that if we could not find a place to stay we would head back to Montevideo. We passed the time on the beach. The water was extremely warm and the storm had created some hectic waves. The currents were strong and swimming was fun, but a lot of hard work. Sandra went on a rekkie again and finally came back after an hour or so with some good news. She had found here friend Roberto’s house and we would be able to take refuge there. By this time, two had already lefty and we were down to 3 of us.
We spent the day relaxing, eating and swimming. That night was the big party, but because of the lack of sleep the night before, I was exhausted! I managed to stay till 4am and take an excellent Argentinian band called Miranda – kitch, retro pop – a bit like Spandau Ballet. I decided to walk back to the house at this time (which incidentally has no electricity) and somehow made it back there through some celestial navigation and a bit more guess work! Walking on sand dunes in pitch darkness is not easy. I found my sleeping bag (which, also incidentally, was the used for the first time in 4.5 months the night before). I slept outside and awoke to the sun shining in my face and an excellent day ahead! The rest of the day was spent relaxing and beaching and getting a tan to be proud of!
Then it was back to Montevideo where I am now. Two days here and then I’ll be missioning my way up to Florianopolis in Brasil. A long 18 hour bus ride. Hopefully I’ll get a cama seat and all’ll be good.
So, till Brasil…