Uruguay: … and the party continues
It was about time to ride again and with Mark and Ben we headed to Uruguay… with a little drama: at the dock to catch the ferry which crosses Rio de la Plata to Colonia (in Uruguay), no sign of the boys. I already cleared customs so I had no choice but to board the ferry. Only after it took off I finally got through to Mark: “Sorry buddy, I got too much beer in me yesterday night :)… we’ll catch up to you by taking the fast ferry”. 45min after I landed in Uruguay, the boy’s ferry docked and we headed to Montevideo: Kilometer 19,883; Montevideo, 15-May-10 @ 17:30. Unfortunately, it was a miserable day to ride. I guess I used up all the gorgeous weather in BA, 14 days of pure sun, so today I got fog and drizzle, putting a damper on our first day back on the bike.
What a difference between busy and chaotic BA to the calmer Montevideo. We rented these funny, classic looking and barely working bikes in Montevideo and went touring the city. It was hilarious: Ben had a paddle fall off, the steering of Mark’s bike also moved up and down and mine had no brakes. On uphill, I cleared the intersection for the boys while they did the same for me on downhill (my foot brake was not particularly effective). Our crazy city tour lasted 5 hours, riding anywhere and everywhere: thank god it was Sunday. The city has a beautiful waterfront promenade which leads to the tip of Montevideo peninsula and it’s Ciudad Vieja. The old city is not particularly charming and even dangerous at night but it is a nice gateway during the day. And it’s Mercado del Puerto has the best asado setup to date. In Uruguay, you can immediately notice a couple of its famous stereotypes: the typical Uruguayan on the promenade, sipping mate while holding a thermos of hot water (for refill) under his/her armpit and the mate in the other hand; when you talk to them, they use the word “barbaro” in most replies, to acknowledge, show exclamation,… And Uruguay has a funny statistic too: there are ~3.5 million inhabitant here yet 12 million cows. The BBQ fire never stops…
The boys only stayed in Uruguay 1 full day and headed the next morning to the Brazilian border. I decided to ride with them, head as far north in Uruguay as the places I wanted to visit and make my way back to Montevideo for the coming weekend party. We rode through Uruguay coastal road, with the ocean on one side and endless rolling hills on the other with a few farms dotting the landscape. Most coastal city (Punta del Diablo, La Paloma) where deserted in this time of year so I decided not to linger there for long and headed to Cabo Polonio with Mathieu and Gael, a French couple I met in La Paloma. Cabo Polonio is a beach village sitting in between sand dunes and is inaccessible by car. To get in, you park your vehicle at the road intersection then board a truck to cross the 7Km of sand dune to reach this remote village. As for me, I couldn’t leave my bike in the parking so I rode it to the Guardaparque house, convinced him to let me park it behind his house and walked the 7Km to the beach (Kilometer 20,168; Cabo Polonio, 18-May-10 @ 13:10). As you approach the village you can see and feel why it attracts so many visitors in the summer. It’s a lovely small peninsula with a lighthouse standing tall on its extreme end and little houses and huts spread around randomly. The village has 2 large and long beach on each of its side; you swim wherever the sea is calmer. As for life in Cabo Polonio, the best way I can describe it – at least in this time of year – is: Woodstock. A hippy ambiance emanates from its people and music fills the air. People always gather with their friends and come and go from house to house. Night is when things get moving. Since we were the only tourist, we always end up being invited to someone’s place to start the party. The houses are lit up with candles, which are littered everywhere even on chandelier, a few people will be preparing dinner, alcohol is flowing and “smoke” fills the air (do you dig? ;)…. musical instruments are passed around and a sort of jam session starts, you follow the rhythm then try to add your touch and other will follow your notes and then take over to add their touch and so on. What was supposed to be a 1 day stay ended up being 3: it felt so good to be completely unhooked from the world and from the “tourist” routine. During the day we went for long walks along the beaches, playing or doing acrobatics on the dunes before jumping in the sea for a swim (it was chilly). The best night was our last: we gathered at Ajo’s place, Damien and Alicia prepared a sort of veggi “pizza” on a thin bread (delicious) and a musical jam session was in full swing. Around 1:00 in the morning, Ajo noticed something on the beach and we all went to see. As we opened the house door – facing the beach – we could see this magical fluorescent green layer on top of the water: Phytoplankton. What was more enchanting was that the waves deposited the phytoplankton on the shore and as we stepped on the sand, a disk as big as a plate of fluorescent green, lights-up under our feet! Our feet were actually the cataclysm for the phytoplankton to liberate its energy and illuminate. Have you seen the movie “Avatar”? Remember the scene at night in the forest where the earth shines under their feet as they walk? Well, it was very similar… really! :). Even better, when there was a thin puddle of sea water the disc is much bigger and the ripples create a green fluorescent circle expanding… The guitar started playing, a drum joined it and the glowing beach was our dance floor.
I headed back to La Paloma, gathered my stuff and next morning went to Punta del Este for Fri/Sat party (Kilometer 20,369; Punta del Este, 21-May-10 @ 15:20), then back to Montevideo for a couple of days (Kilometer 20,514; Montevideo, 23-May-10 @ 17:30). Montevideo was full of Argentinean because it was Argentina’s holiday celebrating the bi-centenario of their independence, which meant that the party was in full swing even on Sunday and Monday.
During the days I went sightseeing, stopping by a few museum and gouging on Chivitos again (a supped up steak burger with all the topping imaginable, 5cm high… delicious! They have a “Canadian Chivito” option, the best :).
It was time to head back to Argentina, this time by land. I had to ride far northbound up to Paysandu’s bridge-border crossing because the closer border/bridge which crosses to Argentina was closed for the past few years due to the paper mills dispute between the 2 countries. However, when I reached the border I found it packed: all the Argentineans were heading back home through this “paso” (Kilometer 20,912; Paysandu, 25-May-10 @ 17:15). I decide to just spend the night in Paysandu and cross the border at ease the next day, destination Rosario… and let the fiesta continue.
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