Sunday, 14 October 2012

Uruguay, where the rain followed

I was only in Uruguay a short time, but then again its only a small country, something like 300 miles wide and the same in length, so you can speed through it if you’re not careful.  That was not why I was only there just over a week though, the real reason was I had terrible weather the whole time which cumulated with me riding out of the country during a cyclone that tried followed me into Brazil.  But I'll explain that later.  

I finally left Rosario on the 13th and rather than take a ferry from BsAs to Colonia, I took the overland route, back over the bridge to Victoria, Entre Rios and then follow the Rio Parana through small towns with strange names like Gualeguay and Gualeguaychu.  About 300km through complete farmer country.  Everywhere is either green or wet, or green and wet, but when the sun came out it felt like you were riding through a Windows XP background.  
Riding through Windows XP
I reached the border town of Gualeguaychu on the Rio Uruguay late afternoon and decided to cross the bridge straight away into Uruguay.  All went smoothly including immigration, apart from the fact that I’d left one of my bike documents in my backback so had to unpack all my stuff from the back of my bike to reach it, which delayed me a fair amount.  As I’d overstayed my Argentinan visa I had to pay a 300 peso fine (£40), but even paying this didn’t take too long.  So after a relatively short amount of time I rode the last 4km into Fray Bentos in the late afternoon.  As the sun came down I found Camping Playa Ubici right next to the River Uruguay and set up camp.

Camping next to the Rio Uruguay
Looking over to Argentina to the left and Uruguay on the other side of the bridge
Now if you are from the UK then you would have heard of Fray Bentos, it’s the name of a famous brand of pies that we have at home.  But until coming here I didn’t know the name was derived from the small town here where a huge factory was built in the 19th century by the Germans and then ran by what the signs said “British Beef Barons”.  I decided that night to ride into town hoping to find a quality meat pie for dinner.  Sadly though I failed as the factory is now a museum and had to settle for a burger and chips from a snack bar in the main square instead.

The next morning I went to go to the Fray Bentos museum, really just had to see where Oxo, corned beef and those seriously unhealthy steak and kidney pies my sister and I were given by Dad came from when we were young.  The curator upon hearing I was English loved having me there, and gave me a mini tour of the museum.  I learnt a million life changing beef related facts such as 32kgs of steak is needed to make 1km of Oxo.  You will have to learn other equally interesting facts yourself when you go there.  As the tour ended he called me over to his desk and in the drawer where most others would keep their documents he pulled out an unopened steak pie.  He made a big thing of it and as he held it up for me to behold I had to smile as I recognised the packaging as the same ones we used to eat in the 1990’s.  Definitely won’t be eating that one.

Remember these Sis?
Later I rode onto the relaxed historic city of Colonia del Sacromento.  It’s the oldest city in Uruguay, founded by the Portuguese in the 17th century but swapped between the Spanish and Portugese something like 8 times over history.  Its only on the opposite side of the Rio de la Plata to Buenos Aires but couldn’t be more different.  I just used my time here to catch up on sleep and checked into a hostel.  The next morning I walked around the historical quarter before moving onto Montevideo.  

Old lighthouse, Colonia
Up to this point I’d had some pretty decent weather.  In fact until Uruguay I’d only ridden in rain for 3 days out of 4 months.  This lucky run was pretty much over and my entire ride to Montevideo was spent staying one step ahead of the rain clouds that chased me and which finally caught up with me as I entered Montevideo in the early evening.  Other than a couple of days this was the start of 9 days of bad weather.  I spent 2 nights in Montevideo, where it rained almost continuously, and used the small breaks in rain to look around.  I then rode to Punte del Este, in the unrelenting continuing rain and got horribly and completely soaked on the way.

You need spend £9.50 in Uruguay to sample HP.
Mercado del Puerto, Montevideo
Punta del Este is South Americas millionaires playground and for the 3 summer months of the year it is ram packed with rich Argentinians and Brasilians.  As it was spring and I’m not a millionaire I was not impressed with this town at all.  Costa del sol type hotels that line the beach, not my kind of place really, which in a way is not too bad as didn't miss anything by using my time sorting out equipment and trying to dry my clothes.

Benidorm, sorry I mean Punta del Este
"La Mano" Punta del Este - supposed to repreent a drowning swimmer, nice.

1 comment:

  1. No way, Fray Bentos is a town?! Awesome fact Dave. Becca x