And on to Uruguay...Colonial towns and countryside

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
Trip End Apr 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hostel Sur & El Galope

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Friday, May 20, 2011

We take the slow boat across the Rio de la Plata to Colonia de Sacramento which takes three hours and is the most pleasant boat trip so far. We stay at Hostel Sur in Colonia which is five minutes' walk from both the boat terminal and old town.  And think we’ve hit it lucky again as the hostel has spacious dorms and plenty communal areas along with a well equipped kitchen.

The old town of Colonia is the attraction of the town and many people come here just for the day from Buenos Aires to see it.  We decided to stay a couple nights as we are in no rush....South American time.  Our first afternoon is spent wandering around the old town which is pretty unique from what we have seen of South America, as it looks genuinely old and more importantly pretty! Colonia was originally built by the Portuguese to keep an eye on the Spanish in Buenos Aires and so it has a distinctly European feel.  There isn’t so much to do in Colonia apart from wander around but we’re quite happy taking photographs of the old town and the old style cars strategically parked around the town.  Not to ruin any of the photographs but there were jars out for people to give money to the owners of the cars.  We then head down to the harbour front to watch a stunning sunset over the bay.

Next day we do the same thing again and so take the day very easy.  We also walk along the beach from town which, from the amount of tourists buzzing past us on what can only be golf cars with bigger engines, must be the other tourist activity.  The beaches are nice and there are even some people on the beach but the most interesting part of our walk is the amount of teenagers walking around attached to their mate cups – Uruguayans are known to be even more addicted to mate than Argentineans and I think we can confirm that.  The other difference that we notice is that Uruguayans seem to be much more up for drinking litre bottle of beers during the day and so Jonny takes advantage of this cultural difference.

In the evening we meet Jen and Dan again who have popped up in Colonia for a couple days. We sit in one of the small squares, enjoying the fact that we can comfortable sit outside – a change from Patagonia, have dinner and listen to the music provided by a Uruguayan singer.        

Next stop is El Galope, one hour outside Colonia on the way to Montevideo.  We picked this hostel as although there isn’t much around the hostel, it’s a small, cheaper version of an estancia (ranch).  The owners Monica and Miguel are very welcoming and have 3 horses which you can ride, some cows, cats and a dog so it’s our stay on a little farm.  Unfortunately torrential rain starts once we arrive and so our first afternoon is very chilled out.  The next day we take a walk in the countryside, walk to the nearest town Nueva Helvecia.  This is a small town also called Colonial Swiss, there isn’t much there as it used to be a very popular holiday destination but since the beaches became popular a lot of its hotels lie derelict.   As we were walking along the country road back from town, a pick-up truck pulls over.  Now I’m pretty sure that we don’t look like locals so they aren’t stopping for directions.  But the driver asks us where we are going and we tell her to the goats’ cheese farm on the hill (called Victoria’s), she tells us that it’s her house and so we get a left in the back of the pick-up truck – very South America style!  It turns out that the goat’s cheese farm is only starting out but we still get a quick tour and some cheese to try.  We buy one that is more feta like and very tasty – we ask her if this is normal produce for Uruguay and she says no, they are only just starting to make goats’ cheese so we’ve discovered a new product!

We’ve walked ourselves out by the time we get back to the hostel so cheese fondue for dinner cooked by Miguel, red wine from the local supplier that only makes 800 bottles a year and a sauna and plunge pool are just what we need to recover.  Plus Dan and Jen are there to join us, having just arrived a day after us.  I think we had the best couple of nights sleep at this hostel as with no bars or restaurants to tempt us we could get to bed before midnight – a first!

The next day we keep moving and take a two hour bus journey to Montevideo – the capital of Uruguay.  It’s only a flying visit as we have a bus the next morning.  We stay at Unplugged hostel in Pocitos which is a nice residential area a short bus ride away from the main tourist centre.  It’s a bit of an older hostel but has all the facilities and most importantly internet access to back up our photos - finally! We also see a family from the US that we met at El Galope and who are getting the same bus as us the next day to Cabo Polonio.  It can be a very small world sometimes! We manage a walk along the promenade beside the river into the old town.  The old town is not quite like the old town in Colonia and after a couple of blocks we realise that it’s a little bit rough and not really for two blond tourists so we hastily make our way to the Mercado del Puerto which is what we were looking for.  This is an old market which houses several parillas cooking everything from meat to seafood.  It all looks pretty tasty but as we’ve been told that the old town can be a bit rough after dark we keep moving and don’t get the opportunity to taste anything.  The only real site of Montevideo that we saw was the main square with the tower Palacio Salvo which was at one point the tallest skyscraper in Uruguay.  (I’m not sure that there are many sites – it’s seems to be more about the art, bar and restaurant scene). So that’s Montevideo done, off to our next stop – Cabo Polonio...The Cape.
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dmillar1952 on

Old town in Colonia looks amazing. Idea of money collection jars beside cars... not sure how that would work at home!!!

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