We’ve been spending the last week in the tiny country of Uruguay. After leaving Rio de Janeiro, we took an 18-hour night bus south to Florianopolis. The fantastic weather in Rio had us temporarily deceived into thinking beaches as far south as Florianopolis might be the same. After arriving in Florianopolis, however, it became immediately obvious that the beach was out of the question. Overcast gray skies and temperatures in the mid 50’s were sobering reminders that it was winter as usual in South America.
We ended up spending two nights in Florianopolis, just hanging out. There were plenty of beautiful women there; however, there was a suspicious lack of decent restaurants. Overall, the town turned out to be pretty boring, so we soon found ourselves on a 20-hour bus bound for Montevideo, Uruguay.
As it turned out, there were only two direct buses per week that ran between Florianopolis and Montevideo. Unfortunately, the bus we took left at 10:00 a.m. and arrived in Montevideo at 3:30 a.m. the next morning, so after 20 lovely hours on that bus, we got dumped off in the wee hours of the morning at a freezing cold bus stop in Montevideo. Ah, the pleasures of world travel . . .
Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, turned out to be a pleasant city that reminded me a little bit of Chicago in the winter. Coming from the bright sunshine of Rio de Janeiro to the chilly winds and gray skies of Uruguay felt like walking from a technicolor movie into a black and white one. Montevideo, however, like a black and white movie, had a classic mood and feel all of its own. The atmosphere of the city reminded me of the lobby of an old hotel from the 1920’s or 30’s. We found it full of classic old skyscrapers, and it had an abundance of once grand, but now faded, hotels.
Eric and I spent a fair amount of time checking out several hotel rooms scattered along the busy Avenida 18 de Julio. Our favorite experience was riding on a couple of very old elevators that felt as if their cords might snap at any moment. We ended up finding a great room with 15-foot tall doors, high ceilings, and a private balcony. We spent most of our time walking around Montevideo and observing daily Uraguayan life.
Uruguay has a pretty European feel to it, and most people who live here have light skin and dark hair. Everybody in Uruguay carries around a thermos and a special mate gourd for sipping piping-hot mate. Mate is a type of bitter tea and is considered the national drink of Uruguay. Mate is taken very seriously here, and its preparation is considered a ritual. In both Uruguay and Argentina, 5 times more mate is consumed than coffee.
After leaving Montevideo, we took a two-and-a-half hour bus to Colonia del Sacramento. Colonia is a charming old smuggler’s port, located just 2 hours across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires. It is a sleepy, picturesque town that reminds me a little of Nantucket, only much more authentic. Lighthouses, tree-lined cobblestone streets, and old fashion street lamps give this quaint sea-side town an atmosphere that would make a fitting setting for a tale by Jack London or Herman Melville. There is also a terrific amount of old cars here, and we even saw some rare models made by Opel and a Rambler.
We have been lying low here in Colonia for the past 5 days, burning up some time before heading to Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires we will be meeting up with Eric’s girlfriend Rori, as well as my friend Mitch Fonnsbeck. Our trip continues, and soon we will soon enter into our sixth and final month. We are still pushing forward from one country to the next, one season to the next, one genre to the next.