Colonia del Sacramento
Uruguay, the smallest country in South America with a population of no more than 3.4 million people. This is where my journey takes me after Argentina. From Buenos Aires, I cross the Rio de la Plata in a ferry and after a couple of hours, I arrive at the small town Colonia del Sacramento. The old historic neighborhood of the town was proclaimed an UNESCO world heritage site but to be honest, a visit to the place can be done in less than an hour so I end up being really happy I only booked one night in town. There is really not much to do and at night the town almost feels like a ghost town. To be fair, it is low season which is the reason for the limited amount of people.
The Capital Montevideo
My next stop in Uruguay is the capital Montevideo which is home to half of the population of the country. Montevideo has a beautiful setting with the ocean all around. It’s small so once again one day is enough to experience most of the town. Together with my newly meet friend we do a walk at the malecón, visiting the nice beaches that the city got to offer. After that, we do a Plaza hopping and at night we enjoy some good Uruguayan meat.
Punta del Este
The magical hand coming up from the sand or los dedos as the Uruguayans call it. Yes, Punta del Este is home to the famous piece of art, and normally this place is also the place where you can party till you drop but once again, it’s low season meaning that I got both the dorm room and the beautiful beaches to myself. Sure I have to share the nature with a big amount of parrots. In all, it feels kind of strange being here at this time of year with all the huge skyscrapers and no people.
Cabo Polonio, A Getaway from Civilization
Windswept Cabo Polonio. This has by far been my favourite Uruguayan destination. Just getting here is an adventure. After 2 buses, you’ll have to go with a pickup for the last stretch going over a big amount of sand dunes. It’s a crazy bumpy ride, and after half an hour, Cabo Polonio will start showing itself. A small village set in the middle of nowhere with small wooden houses. The place is actually part of a national park and has a big population of sea lions, seals and elephant seals. Other marine life you’ll find here are dolphins, penguins and whales. I’m actually here in the season for the Southern right whales but sadly, I don’t get to see any.
Arriving here, I get told that the hostel is closed so together with a Polish girl, I’m brought to a cabin nearby. A cabin with a double bed and as we enter, we realize that they want us to stay there together. So we shake each other’s hand since it seems like the right thing to do before sharing a bed for the next couple of days. The life as a traveler is always full of surprises and new people coming into your life in weird and funny ways. Together with my new friend, we spend the days walking the beaches, reading, writing and cooking shark caught by our host who turns out to be a fisherman.
Besides watching the animal life, there’s really not much to do in Cabo Polonio but I guess that is the whole point. It’s a place without Wi-Fi, and the electricity comes from wind and solar power. It’s really a place to des-connect and reconnect.
Mate and Marihuana
If I thought the Argentineans loved their mate, the Uruguayans definitely got me to reconsider. Here it’s almost as if their arms were stuck in an awkward position from carrying the thermos underneath and with the cup of mate in the hand. I’m even taught that they drink the mate differently than the Argentineans since they build a mountain of tea in the cup and “don’t move the bombilla (straw) like a steering wheel like the Argentineans do” (quote from a Uruguayan). I learn that this way of emphasising the differences to their neighbours, the Argentineans, is really common in Uruguay. Somehow, the Uruguayans hate being compared to their neighbours.
But in one matter, the Uruguayans really stand out from not just their neighbour Argentina but from all of the South American countries since Uruguay is the only country in South America to have legalised marihuana. I get told that you can even buy it at the pharmacies where each Uruguayan is allowed to buy as much as 40 grams per month plus allowed to grow 6 plants at their house. Everywhere you go in Uruguay, the sweet smell of marihuana will find your nose.
In all, Uruguay ends up being a fun and different experience. An experience I had no idea I would get since the country was never part of my original plan. But I guess, this is all part of traveling, ending up in new and funny places.