Northern Uruguay

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Where I stayed
Hostel de Jardin

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Thursday, November 20, 2008

Having been told that there were many bus companies in Iguazu with lots of destinations, we thought it would be an easy task to decide where to go next.  Looking at the map we decide upon Salto in northern Uruguay to get there we have to take an overnight bus to Concordia which is a small Argentine town situated on the Rio Uruguay on the opposite bank from Salto.  The good news is that the bus trip is only 12 hours, the bad - none of the buses actually go into Concordia so he have to get dropped off on the highway 10kms outside of the town! (We are told that there are usually taxis waiting to meet the bus). Fortunately we find out from the lady at the bus station that there is a tour group booked on the same bus so maybe we can hitch a lift with them!

The bus company we use is a new Brazilian operation so they are trying really hard.  The on board service is good with great food and English language films and, an extra treat - Champagne is served after dinner!! As it is only the two of us and an Irish couple sitting behind that are awake, we get to share the bottle between the four of us.  Pretty sure that buses in England are not like this.....

We arrive at our allotted stop on the highway outside Concordia so I immediately leap out and dive into the luggage compartment to retrieve our backpacks and get one of the few taxis waiting. An American girl clearly thinks I am the hired help and starts shouting, quite rudely, at me to pass her backpack! She looks stunned and surprised when I tell her to "get your own pack dear" (OK I wasn't quite that polite but you get the picture!)
Having retrieved our packs we grab one of the available cabs and ask the driver to take us to the bus station so we can find a bus across the border but all we get are blank looks - surely our Spanish is not that bad?  The driver gets out and walks off and leaves us there wondering what the hell is going on.  He reappears a few minutes later with an English speaking tour guide who explains that he had booked all the taxis for his group in advance and we had tried to hijack one!  Kindly he sorts out a cab for us and suggests that we get the cab directly across the Uruguay border into Salto instead which is what we do.

The border crossing is remarkably quick and our taxi drops us off in the bus station in Uruguay where we sort out our onward tickets for Montevideo before walking the 1km to our hostel down by the river.

Salto is a pleasant enough place its main attractions being the nearby hot springs but we are only here for a day and so decide to head off in search of breakfast.  This turns out to be a fruitless task as everywhere is shut - surely siesta time in Uruguay does not start at 9.00am? We walk around and find nowhere open and eventually end up back at the bus station and grab a sandwich from the cafe there.

What is immediately noticeable about Uruguay is the amount of Mate being consumed.  It is a big thing in Argentina but here it is the national addiction.  Everywhere you look there are people sucking on their bombillas (metal straws) from the leather bound gourds that hold the drink itself. They always have a thermos flask of hot water tucked under their arm to keep their supply topped up throughout the day.  We decide to join them and pop into a shop and buy our own mate gear.

The next morning we get the town bus to the bus station to get our bus to Montevideo.  We jump on the no. 7 which then heads off in the direction of the bus station and then suddenly veers off in  a totally different direction. I ask the bus driver if we are in fact, going to the bus station.  We are, but by a very circuitous route. We are now getting worried that we will miss our bus but after about 45 mins we get off in vague location of the bus station - a hot sweaty sprint along the road and we make it - just!  It would have taken less time to walk with our backpacks all the way to the station.

It is only 5 hours to Montevideo but after the air conditioned luxury of Argentine buses the comparatively cramped and non-air conditioned Uruguayan buses, it seems like our longest journey so far...
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