Today was so much better, flat seas, warm, a little muggy and to be on the safe side I booked another shipping company (Seacat Colonia) with bigger boats. Sticking to the original plan I headed to the early colonial town of Colonia del Sacramento. The boat trip is only an hour and this charming little town steeped in history was going to be home for the next two nights. Jumped onto Airbnb for this trip and everything just went swimmingly. David confirmed immediately with times he would be available and since he ran his own horse riding business he suggested that if I’m early enough to join him and his clients for lunch. What a great idea, always up for a good lunch. However, the positive was not only meeting the clients, a young American couple and a French journalist from New Caledonia, but also sampling the local grape variety, Tannat, served slightly chilled it was wonderful. David had also arranged a guided tour of the old town and suggested if I was interested then for $10 I could also join. The day was just getting better.
Just briefly Colonia del Sacramento was settled by the Portuguese and used as a base for smuggling items into Spanish Argentina. It was eventually settled under Spanish control after a dispute lasting from 1680-1777. Interesting architecture and a beautiful old town on the mighty Rio del la Plata, a natural fresh water border between modern day Argentina and Uruguay that has its source in the Amazon. My very next day was a total me day, beach, book, chivito for lunch with a tad more tannat and a siesta. I could get use to this!
I love Airbnb when you get to send time with the hosts, David was a very interesting character, originally from South Africa and a great tale to tell, a dab hand in the kitchen and I had the pleasure of sharing a meal with him on my last night.
Only three hours by bus to Montevideo and the countryside reminded me very much of my home state of Tasmania. This city makes a good first impression, a lovely colonial atmosphere inhabited by some of the nicest, hospitable people I have yet met in South America. I settled into the Hotel Presidente after a fun cab ride from the bus station, then headed toward the old town on the recommendation of the receptionist. I stumbled upon the Mercado Puerto a large undercover restaurant area specialising in asado, Uruguayan BBQ and being a sweltering hot day all washed down with a fine Patagonian pale ale. The siesta this afternoon extended to a much-needed early night.
Up early I fixed up a few future travels plans then took a city tour to get acquainted with this charming city stopping for a late lunch close to where I had been yesterday at the Mercado. However, this time I found the very pleasant Montevideo Wine Experience. Thanks to Nicolas the very knowledge cellarman, I could sample some of Uruguay’s finest from delightful and pleasing whites through to magnificent blends of local and traditional (vino tinto) grape varieties. Lunch was a cured meat and cheese board, all local, that complimented my indulgent wine experience. It was now that I met Mark a retired Canadian who had popped into to buy a bottle of wine, he and his wife head to Uruguay each year to escape the Canadian winter and who would blame them! They enjoy it so much that they are contemplating purchasing a property instead of renting each year. It was Mark that told me about the Carnavale show that evening in the Museo de Carnavale two doors down, so at only 60 pesos a ticket I grabbed one and my night was planned. I was not disappointed, this was no tourist event, families, kids, teenagers and grandparents all flocked to fill the area to witness the five competing bands tonight. It had everything, comedy, wit, dance, music and song with the most colourful and elaborate costumes. It was chance encounter that left me buzzing and understanding a little better what Carnaval is to the people.
This morning my rental car was delivered to the hotel and I was off to explore the east coast of Uruguay, the Atlantic coast, its villages and surf. The driving was easy and the day was spent stopping at various beaches for a swim, lunch at La Paloma then onto Punta de Diablo close by the Brazilian border for a few days of sun and surf. Once a sleepy fishing village his place swells to around 30,000 people in summer and less than a thousand in winter. It is unique. Unrestrained development gives it a magical quality, its dirt roads emanating from the centre in all directions shared equally by pedestrians, cars, bikes, cyclists, hawkers and dogs. My days spent swimming, reading, walking and of course hanging out at some spectacular little bars and restaurants with stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.