When we did our research about Uruguay, among the information on the interesting places, the endless beaches and the colorful towns, there was another kind of information, that worried us a bit: the high cost of living. We try to keep our daily budget low, which means that we don’t want to spend more than 20€ (that includes the costs for both of us and for Kitsos) so, we had to plan everything very carefully. Traveling in a country that seems more expensive than our home country, Greece, could easily drain our wallets.
The procedure at the border wasn’t difficult at all, but due to a mistake the person in charge at the customs office made in Kitsos’ TIP (temporary import permit), we spent more time there than we had estimated. So, when we finally left the building it was already late and the sun would be soon setting. Just before it got dark, we made it to a gas station and asked permission to camp at their backyard for the night, as we used to do in other countries of South America. But to our surprise, the answer was “no”. We respected the new reality and headed towards the nearest town. When we asked the price for a night at the campsite, we almost cried with despair. We hadn’t paid that much in months – actually it was in Brazil, some time ago. So, we chose to continue on the NR3 going south. To where? No idea! The drivers in Uruguay were fast and they had their own “close shave” style in overtaking, so we had to find a place to stop soon.
It was almost 22:00 when we arrived at the “Termas de Guaviyú”, a municipal spa complex with campsite and rooms, next to some hot springs. It was our only option but luckily, the price was very reasonable AND it included unlimited access to the pools! Two days later, fresh and rejuvenated we left the Termas and continued south. The cold was almost unbearable and despite we had put on all our clothes, we kept on freezing. Our initial plan was to go towards the ocean, but according to the weather forecast, the next ten days or so would be the coldest of the year. And not only this, but the fuel, groceries and accommodation costs were higher than we expected.
After one more night of wild camping at a random riverbank and many kilometers among endless “tidy” pastures and cultivated land – result of the industrialized stock-farming and agriculture, we were somehow tired. Maybe it wasn’t the ideal time of the year to visit Uruguay, so it didn’t take long before we made up our minds: we’d ride directly to Montevideo, spend some days there and then ride back to Argentina.
Montevideo was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise!
Montevideo was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise! Uruguay’s capital had a certain je ne sais quoi that immediately caught our attention. Since the prices for accommodation were beyond our budget and we are not fans of 16-bed hostel dormitories, we tried our luck and rented an Airbnb room in a local’s apartment. And that’s how we ended up with the best memories from Uruguay! (well, from Montevideo in particular). Our host Sandino and his lovely family, welcomed us as if we were old friends. They introduced us to the unique cultural life of the city, we had interesting conversations about the history of Montevideo, about Uruguay and Greece; we laughed and shared some drinks and Sandino’s delicious pizza.
The week we spent in Uruguay’s capital was full of endless walks around the city center and the bohemian neighborhoods. We strolled along the Rambla (the esplanade), we took pictures of every corner of the casco antiguo (the oldest part of the city) and we spent hours wandering around at the famous street market “Tristán Narvaja” contemplating the old books, searching for used clothes, looking at the various artifacts and the thousands of antiques. One of the top moments of our stay in Montevideo was the luck we had to attend one of the famous llamadas (dance parade) taking place in front of Sandino’s apartment. The uplifting rhythm of the candombe and the whole dance performance is one of the most prominent parts of the Afro-Uruguayan heritage, and it’s difficult to describe the contagious, euphoric feeling spreading from the participants to the audience, making it part of the whole thing!
The time to leave Montevideo came and our next destination was the famous Colonia del Sacramento, the old town with the colorful historic quarter, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When we arrived at the town, we realized that the historic quarter was indeed a very beautiful place, but in our eyes it was too touristic. So, we just rode around its narrow streets for a while and off we went towards the border (Fray Bentos). We spent one last night in our tent, next to a small village on the shore of River Plate, looking at the lights of Buenos Aires in the distance. The next day we would be in Argentina again.
To be continued…
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