So long Argentina and hello Uruguay. It had been too long since we had gotten a new stamp in our passport so it was time to discover a new country. Uruguay was just across the Rio Plata from Buenos Aires and thus bacame the obvious choice. Besides we didn’t know a thing about Uruguay other than they didn’t require a visa.
Buquebus runs very large ferries back and forth between Buenos Aires and Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay. The trip across the Rio Plata only takes about 1 hour. By the way, the Rio Plata is far from silver in color. ‘Brown’ is probably a better description.
These red and white striped futball fanatics were supporters of the Uruguaian team that won some large game in Argentina. (No, we still do not know a thing about futball). The ferry filled up with hundreds, no lie, of the rabid, red ranks and we were treated to every fight song the throng knew. I am so glad I wore a red shirt that day!
Colonia de Sacramento was a very laid back and inviting town. They even had a yacht club, but again, it must have been off-season and not much was happening. We braved the high winds and intermittent showers to walk out on the pier and check out the sailboats. No yachties to be found anywhere … not even in the bar!
The highlight of Colonia de Sacramento was the Old Town section. The winding cobblestone streets were lined with ancient facades hiding updated interiors.
We scaled the spiral staircase of the lighthouse to get a bird’s eye view of Old Town. The lighthouse sat back quite a ways from the point and it made us wonder how many ships misinterpretted the light’s meaning. As far as we could tell though, there were no wrecks nearby.
Everybody in Colonia de Sacramento rode a moped, scooter or motorcycle. There were actually very few cars. Seems like the object of the game was to get entire families onto one moped. Almost all bikes carried 2 riders, but 3 was common and we even saw one moped with 4 riders!
We headed east and north just a couple of hours to Carmelo on the Rio Plata. Carmelo was extremely mellow. Life centered around the town square and for some reason none of the mufflers on the mopeds functioned. Maybe it was a macho thing. Maybe the muffler shop went out of business. Who knows? We walked to yet another yacht club and discovered a yacht club with no boats or yachties, but tennis courts and tennis players. These boats were moored at the public park.
After Carmelo we went north to Salto. Salto was a very pleasant town and full of wonderful surprises. The courtyard at the Hotel Concordia displayed plants and art and the dining area was furnished with antiques.
Here is Carrie’s new friend. This kitty had the run of the Hotel Concordia and was in charge of things that skittered, buzzed or squeaked. He didn’t have to work too hard though. The owners kept his food and water full.
Salto had an unexpectedly well maintained and populated zoo. We dropped in thinking that we might see a couple of guanacos and a rhea, but saw bears, wolves, foxes, tigers, panthers, lions, all kinds of monkeys, and much more. Admission to the zoo is free and the work is done by volunteers. Of course donations are accepted and are obviously put to good use.
This baby coati was small enough to sneak out of his cage and pay us an up-close visit. He quickly got tired of us and figured if he was going to get lunch, he’d better get back to mom.
The pink flamingoes were in the cage next to the tigers. Now who thought of that arrangement?!
The cemetary in Salto was worth the visit. It is situated right next to the zoo. The mausoleums and headstones were works of art in many cases.
The cemetary was very large and very tightly packed. Some mausoleums housed numerous generations of family members.
We met this family while walking down a quiet street one Sunday. They saw that we had a camera and made the international sign for ‘take my picture’. Pat obliged them and we went back into town and had an 8 x 10 print made. We returned to their house and gave them the picture. They thought it was about the coolest thing in the world. They brought out a couple of chairs for us, plates of food and mugs of beer. We exchanged stories in our abbreviated Spanish vocabulary and had a very special afternoon. You can’t pay for stuff like this!
On our last night in Salto the whole town gathered on the main street in front of our hotel for at least half a mile in either direction to watch the parade marking the end of Semana Santa. There were young children with their families, couples of senior citizens, the odd tourist here and there and packs of teenagers all dressed up and trying to look hot for the opposite sex (in most cases). People selling balloons, cotton candy and things that glowed walked up and down the street prior to the parade. The music thumped. The parade featured local prominent figures, bands and the highlight was the Mardi Gras style dancers with flowing feathers, glittering baubles and fancy masks.
We had already spent about a week in western Uruguay and needed to get moving if we were going to be to Rio on time to meet Carrie’s parents. Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, was the next logical stop. Of all of the capital cities that we have been in, this one was by far the most tranquil, clean and friendly. Speaking of friendly, the people of Uruguay on the whole are the most friendly people that we have met. Everyone goes out of their way to help if you look lost or confused. And talk about polite! There is no pushing or shoving in queues, no one tried to rip us off and traffic actually stops for pedestrians even when they aren’t in a crosswalk. The sound of horns not blowing constantly was deafening.
This is Artigas. It is really Artigas in the tomb below the statue. Likenesses of this liberator can be found in every town throughout the country.
Market day! These makeshift stands appear in Old Town on certain days. The happy tiger-woman had scrumptious-looking vegetables for sale.
We aren’t so sure how lucky these fisherpeople were, but check out those poles! The place to stay in Montevideo, by the way, is Hotel Arapay. You get a large double room with private bath, good shower and cable TV for $20/night. Can’t beat that!
We dropped in to the ‘market’ near the port expecting stalls of fruits, veggies, fish and meat. Well, it wasn’t that type of market. This building, the size of a city block, was chock full of parillas (grills). It was difficult to know where one began and the next one ended. It was a good thing that we weren’t hungry because it smelled wonderful but the prices were touristified.
We took a day trip from Montevideo to Punta del Este. The landmark sculpture is a set of fingers protruding from the beach. This is where the rich folks and foreign tourists hang out. We had a pricey Chivito lunch (steak sandwich with all kinds of goodies) that was very tasty on the way down. Unfortunately, by the time we got back to Montevideo, Pat had succumbed to food poisoning.
Finally! An actual yacht club with members, food and drink. This was a very fancy yacht club and we were grilled when we walked in the door before we were allowed to proceed to the bar. This place was ritzy; polished wood, brass, cushy seats and a beautiful bar. The balcony overlooked the marina and was packed with diners at lunchtime. We probably should have eaten here instead of the chivito place!