The Slow Boat to Uruguay

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End May 15, 2011

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    It is now time for our much awaited trip into the relatively tiny nation of Uruguay. To get here from Buenos Aires, Mara and I decided to take a boat across the Rio De La Plata into the nearest city of Colonia Del Sacramento. This is the widest river in the world and it feels more like a sea than a river This boat trip is the most common way for Argentinians to get to their neighboring country, and the boat has two options. There is a fast boat that takes about and hour, and a larger slow boat, that costs a few less pesos and takes three hours. We opted for the later of these options and figured we were in no rush and would enjoy the trip on the water. The boat itself was very modern and nice, with airplane style seating in the main cabin, other tables to sit at, snack bars, an open deck with benches, and even a video arcade. It was nowhere near full as we are still a few weeks away from high season, which starts after Christmas. For us this is perfect because the weather is nice and warm but the crowds have yet to arrive. Uruguay is a popular vacation destination for Portenos (BA people) and also for international travels looking to extend their stay in Argentina by leaving the country and increasing the time on their visas. On the boat, we met a Mexican guy who is living in Santiago, Chile named Victor. We got to know him a little bit and ended up hanging with him for the first day in Colonia before he took off, and now we have a place to stay when we get to Santiago in a few months.
    As soon as you see the Uruguayan coast you can tell that it is a more relaxed place than the hectic city of BA just across the river. Colonia is a small town that was once an important port and vibrant city. It changed hands between the Portuguese and Spanish many times and has a lot of interesting history. There is the old town, that has a lighthouse and a big outer wall. There are also many shops and restaurants right along the water  that give this part of the city a touristy feel, while still being very laid back and relaxed. If there was a traffic light in this whole city, we did not see it, and as you can imagine there is very little traffic. Our hostel was pretty nice, but not the best we have ever stayed in, and was quite hectic because most people only stay here for one day and so there were many people coming in and out. We stayed here for two nights which was plenty of time to see all of the major sights and have plenty of down time.
    On the second day we rented a scooter so we could venture a little further out from the main street and the old town. A five minute scoot, and we were at some nice beaches with locals playing guitar and drinking mate. Uruguayans love mate even more than Argentinians, and you will be hard pressed to find someone without a gourd and thermos of hot water( the required tools for drinking this tea) out in the streets. They pass the gourd around and fill it water between sips in a ritualized way that is popular with everyone from young to old. We also scooted over to an old abandoned bull fighting ring. It was really cool from the outside but you can not enter because it is crumbling and is not well maintained. We spent the day riding around and finding nice spots to string up our hammock. Then we watched the sunset from a waterside restaurant and had a nice glass of Uruguayan wine that was surprisingly very good. At this dinner we made friends with a group of little birds who sat on our table and thought we would feed them even though we never did. Also, during the day we saw many packs of wild dogs that roam freely in the city, and sometimes into the streets.    
    Colonia was a welcome relaxing break after Buenos Aires and a great time to our start in Uruguay. Now, we head to the capital city of Montevideo, and try our luck with our first Couch Surfing experience.

A nation of only 3.5 million. Half of those people live in the capital city, and 98% live on the coast. The majority of land, which is inland is rolling farmland and is uninhabited or filled with grazing cattle to feed the city folk who eat more beef per capita than any nation in the world. They eat meat at most every meal, and maybe through in a vegy or potato in for good measure.
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