The past few days I have spent in Uruguay, in the town of Colonia and the capital city, Montevideo. Unfortunately, I have done it all very quickly and I have realized how much better traveling is when you are taking your time (like I did in Bolivia).
On Sunday morning, I took a 1 hour boat ride from Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires to the town of Colonia. I had heard from several people that it is a great town to visit for a day, but really I wasn´t too impressed. I guess I just expected more. No doubt the town is nice, with cobblestone streets, a little port, plenty of restaurants. But that is about it. The town is very, very small, and being there alone, I got bored pretty quickly. I had a nice walk through the town, got some food, but after that I headed for the bus terminal to get to Montevideo.
I never would´ve thought I would be going to Montevideo. I was reading a book while I was in Peru called ¨Miracle in the Andes¨, which is about a rugby team from Montevideo that crashed in the Andes mountains in the 70s (I think). Reading what the author was saying about Montevideo, it seemed so far away, and I always had the idea of it being very dangerous.
I am very, very surprised by Montevideo and Uruguay in general. I can´t say I knew much about Uruguay, but I had a feeling it would be a cheaper country in South America and lower on the developed scale. I was completely wrong. Uruguay is the most expensive country that I have been to so far. I had to pay $18 for one night in a hostel, compared to $12 in Buenos Aires. Eating out at a decent restaurant will be at least $8 or $10, or even more. So really, we are talking prices similar to the US. .
I´ve enjoyed Montevideo. It is really nothing too special, except for the face that it has pretty nice beaches in the city (a big plus for any city). The city is on a peninsula, so the whole south part has a nice walking and biking path along the coast which connects with several beaches.
So on Monday, I went to the beach with a guy from Argentina, 2 girls from France, and a guy from the US. We spent the day there, along with heading to a little restaurant on the beach for a drink.
Today, I rented a bike and then rode it along the boardwalk from beach to beach. If there is anything better than having a boardwalk and a beach close by in a city, tell me what that is. In the summer, everyone is there running, biking, playing beach volleyball, swimming, everything. If you can just walk over to the beach when you´re done with work, I don´t think there is much better than that!
One funny thing about something here in Uruguay (and in Argentina, but even more in Uruguay)…they have something they call ¨mate¨, or herbal tea. They are absolutely in love with mate here. They love to take it wherever they go, so you see so many people carrying a big thermos in one arm, and they´re little cup in the other. To the plaza, to the park, to work, to school, even to the beach. It seems absurd to me to bring boiled water in a thermos for hot herbal tea to the beach when it´s 95 degrees, but they do it here. I even saw Argentine travelers in Bolivia carrying their thermos. Carrying a half gallon thermos while traveling isn´t the most efficient thing to carry, but they do what they have to do!
Another cool thing about Montevideo is that some people still use horses in the city, and not for tourists. They actually use horses for transporting goods, or garbage, or whatever. So every once in a while you will see a horse trotting down the street pulling a wagon full of stuff. Pretty funny to see in a modern city like this.
Last night, I came to the house of a Couchsurfer, so I am officially couchsurfing for the first time in South America. We went to the birthday party of a local couchsurfer last night at his house, had a good time. It´s good to be on the Couchsurfing scene again. I will be staying with a guy when I get to Ushuaia on Thursday, as well.
Like I said, I haven´t liked that I have been traveling so quickly lately. It´s mostly because I only planned 3 weeks for Argentina, and I figured it´s worth my time more in the south where there are mountains, glaciers, and more nature. Cities are cities, which are fun. But cities in general are very similar. The best thing is meeting the people, but when I am leaving so quickly it can be difficult to meet many people. So lesson learned, travel slower!!
So tomorrow I will head back to Colonia in bus, take a boat to Buenos Aires, and then wait out the night in the city until my flight at 4:45am on Thursday morning. I will be going from 95 degree days to 60 degree days (I think) if I am lucky.
Hope everyone has a good week!