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'I'm a guy!'
URUGUAY - Sep 2003
'Wheres the veggies'
Wednesday 24th September 2003 Colonia

By midday we had arrived in Carmelo, Sarena sneaked her fruit passed the ancient sniffer dog at the port that was probably blind with no sense of smell anyway. We then took a hike through the lazy town. No traffic and barley any people where around. The banks didn't open until 1 so I couldn't get any Uruguay Pesos so we had some lunch at a cafe. I then changed some of my Argentine Pesos at the bank and we paid the waitress and decided to catch a bus to a bigger town west along the coast.

Sarena found us a coach that was just about to leave and we had a very comfortable ride to Colonia. This old portuguese town is one of the prettiest in Uruguay. We where greeted at the bus terminal by a lady who wanted us to stay at here hostel. We took a look and really liked it so ended up in an old converted stable across a courtyard. Very nice.

I took a walk around the old part of town. It was just like a typical olde Mediterranean village, except even sleepier. This is one of the nicest places we have found in South America so far. Sarena and I sorted or own food out for the evening and ended up shunning our plans for a good night out and opting for a good night in.

4hrs later we made our way into Uruguay and collected our bags eating as much of our fruit as we could not knowing if were allowed in the country with it, turned out we could. We then wondered around for a while to find a bank which didn't open till 1pm so went for some lunch first. The town was tiny and very tranquil but not a lot going on so after a huge lunch we went and caught a bus to Colonia where it was supposed to be a little more upbeat,

Turned out to be a lovely bus journey taking us through plush countryside not unlike the Uk which was nice. An hour later we arrived in what looked like a lovely little town, very old and un spoilt. We got off the bus and were approached by a lovely lady who said to come to her hostel. We were thinking of staying at another place but thought we would have a look. The streets were so pretty and quiet so different from the hustle and bustle we had been in lately, the hostel was lovely as well and had tons of character, she showed us a double with bathroom and were sold - lovely. We dumped our bags then checked out the other place to see what it was like and the cost but decided to stay put. We then bought some dinner and went back and i did some washing in a proper outside old stone wash tub whilst Toby went for a walk. After dinner we had planned to go out for a drink but were both tired so had an early one.

Thursday 25th September 2003 Colonia

Had a great lie in and then the pair of us popped down the road to rent out a couple of Scooters for the day. Well for 3 pounds each we couldn't refuse. Mind you the scooters where pretty crap. My one managed a top speed of about 10 mph but it didn't really matter as the place is pretty small. We first took a ride around the old historic part of down and then followed the coast to a small place called Real de San Carlos. This place is famous for pretty much nothing except one guy built a bull fighting ring after it was banned in Uruguay. All very strange. we took a couple of little side roads into nothingness and then stopped at the beach to soak the sun up for a while.

Got back to the old town by midday and stopped at a cafe for a rip off lunch. It tasted not so good too. Never mind it was in a great spot on a roof top over looking the town and the water. After lunch we checked our emails... We keep getting lots of sad news from friends back home which is making us feel very guilty and homesick being out here. We then made a couple of phone calls but had a very bad line which made talking hard. Spent the next hour drinking coffee from the top of an old fortress wall and then headed back to the Hostel.

Back at the ranch Sarena got very excited as a tiny hummingbird came and joined her in the courtyard. Sarena shouted 'oh my god' and I ran out all in a panic (not much faster than my scooter though). to catch a fleeting glimpse of the bright green bird. Luckily it made a few more appearances before we headed to the kitchen to make dinner.

Sarena got chatting to a Uruguayan named Tony latter on in the evening. He was very chuffed that we gave him some fijian and Nepalese money. So he took us out to a bar. It was only round the corner but he insisted on using a Taxi. He then bought all our drinks for us and covered the taxi charge for the 400m return trip. Ohh and the bar was pretty cool. It was quiet as the town only gets busy for the weekend when droves of Argentineans catch the ferry over form Buenos Aires. It was a bit of a take off of the Hard Rock Cafe but set in a great old colonial building .I ended up drinking a fair bit of whisky and we felt pretty guilty that Tony wouldn't let us pay for anything. So I went down to the local Shell garage later on and bought him a bottle of Whisky to say thank you.

Had a lovely nights sleep for a change and had a job to get up to be honest. We had some rice cakes for b'fast and then headed down the corner to hire out a couple of scooters for the day. They were only 50s and very funny to look at as they both had little baskets on the front where we could put our shopping - how sweet

We then spent the next few hours going around all the old part of the city which was absolutely beautiful, looked just like the little villages in Greece with the small brightly coloured houses and cobbled streets with shady squares and courtyards. I took tons of photos on my new camera! then we pottered over to look at an old run down Bull fighting arena which had never been used because Uruguay outlawed it, very strange. Toby's bike didn't seem to run very well and i kept overtaking him on my very speedy bike, but every time i passed him i just fell about laughing cause he looked so stupid, on a scooter that kept sputtering and spewing out smoke and his little shopping basket bobbing up and down. It was a really sunny day but quite cold on the bike so we stopped to sit in the sun on the beach for 20mins before heading back into the old part of town to find a restaurant for some lunch. We found a lovely place and sat upstairs on the roof over looking the sea for a couple of hours chilling and eating before going to check out our emails and phoning some friends. I then went back to get a thermos of coffee from the hostel then went and sat in the sun on an old forte wall for an hour. Took the bikes back then went back to the hostel and whilst Toby did his diary i sat in the sun in the courtyard and saw the most beautiful humming bird. At first i thought it was a big green insect but then realised what it was and tried to get Toby out, but he is so slow to react he missed the bugger. Luckily it did come back and we had a chance to witness what a wonderful bird it is, small,green and sooooooo pretty! We cooked ourselves some dinner then drank some white wine before heading down to a bar for some more vino on our last night in this lovely place. I started talking to a guy called Tony whilst sat in the little lounge drinking my Vino whilst Toby sat in our room reading. He was a lovely chap who didn't speak a word of English so it was an entertaining couple of hours! I did find out though that he loved Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones so i said i would take a photo of where he used to live in Richmond and email it to him which completely made his day, also gave him some of our coins from the Uk and Fiji and a note from Nepal as he son collected money from around the world. I suggested we all go out for a drink at a local bar which Tony thought a great idea so he ordered a taxi and we all bundled in only to find out it was just down to the end of the road! seems they don't walk much round these parts so i was really shocked to get one for a few metres down the road. The bar was lovely though and we spent the next couple of hours trying to understand each other and drink very sweet cocktails. Tony paid for everything which was really kind so when we got back to the hostel and Tony went to bed, Toby ran up and bought him a bottle of whiskey to say thanks.

Friday 26th September 2003 La Paloma

Sarena gave Toni the bottle of Whisky in the morning. He was very happy as he was off to Buenos Aires to visit his son so I guess he now had something to drink when he got there. We headed down to the bus terminal at about 10 and caught a 10:30 bus to the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo. The bus journey was another 3 hours through countryside and Montevideo suddenly appeared like a blot on the landscape. Neither of us had much inclination to stay in Montevideo so as soon as we got to the station we got a ticket for another bus that will take us further east to the small seaside down of La Paloma. This bus wasn't until 4:30 so we spent a few hours at the bus terminals cafe which surprisingly served the best food and coffee we have had in ages.

Again we spent another 3 hours (and a bit more) on the bus to La Paloma and arrived in the dark at about 8. The whole place was deserted and it took a little walk down black alleyways until we found the main high street. This too was deserted and everything looked closed. We visited one hotel but found it a bit too expensive and characterless, so we ended up at a strange old place called, Hotel Embeleco. Aldo, the manager was a very cheerful chap and was all on his own with just the company of his two dogs. We managed to get him down a little on the price and ended up with a pretty decent room with cable TV and bathroom for about 4 pounds! The town was dead so we spent a couple of hours with Aldo drinking wine and talking about the area. I managed to get a good look at his restaurant. The whole ceiling is covered in pine cones and the walls with various bits of marine artifacts including one manky looking giant turtle with its decomposed head lolling just above one of the dinning tables. Nice. Aldo assured us that it was found dead by a fellow fisherman. We kind of believed him as he seems to love animals. We then disappeared to bed. 'Antiques Roadshow' in Winchester was on the cable TV so we watched that with homesick eyes before falling asleep.

I was up at 5.30am so had a shower and sat outside for a bit. Tony go up for his b'fast so i gave him the bottle of whiskey which he was sooooo chuffed about and couldn't believe we would do such a thing.

We went and caught the 10.30am bus to Montevideo which took us 3 hours through vast countryside and hardly a house to be seen. When we got to the city, which was pretty nasty, we went straight into the terminal to purchase a ticket onto La Paloma. Unfortunately the bus didn't leave till 4.30 which gave us 3hrs to kill so we sat in a restaurant and drank coffee and had the best meal i have had in weeks, even had some chocolate cake, something i don't usually like.

Another 3hr trip to La Paloma which was pretty dark and deserted when we arrived. We walked around the very small town for a while until coming across a cozy looking hotel that had the nicest bloke working in it, so decided to stay there for the night. We got quite a nice double with bathroom so just dumped our bags and went back down stairs to sit with Aldo for a chat and a bottle of white and some of my rice cake for dinner. The dining room was chockablock with interesting things hanging on the wall and the ceiling was made up of pinecones. He also had a cat and 2 dogs, one of which was a Alsatian puppy with the biggest ears i have ever seen. I went to bed and found on the TV, Antiques Roadshow which i absolutely love!

 

Saturday 27th September 2003 La Paloma

Aldo got us breakfast at 9 (yep that was included in the price too).

We wanted to get to a nearby village of Cabo Polonia as there are massive dunes there and a large seal colony. We went to the tourist office to find out about buses only to find that that was closed. A cheerful looking Uruguayan came up to us though and said that there are no buses but he would take us for 200 Pesos. I didn't quite believe that there where no buses but his price seemed pretty good for a private tour for the day. Nilder spoke very little english and seemed to have a lot of trouble understanding my Spanish so we spent the whole day picking words out of my dictionary. This was a little disturbing as he insisted on doing this while he drove us. Anyway it was an hours drive to the turn off to Cabo Polonia. We then had to jump into a huge 4wd truck which took us through a park of dunes to the village of Cabo Polonia.

Cabo Polonia is pretty deserted there are loads of these tiny holiday houses on the peninsula but only about 30 permanent residents. Nilder said that it only gets busy in the summer and turns into a bit of a drug haven, with loads of ganja and cocaine... Looks like we will have to come back here then! We spent a good 2 hours walking around the place. Past the old Seal Abattoir where they used to kill the seals for the oil for lamps and the teeth and genitals for aphrodisiacs for the chinese. Fortunately this practice was shut down years ago and the only dead seals we saw had died of natural causes (so Nilder told us). Most of the seals where out on two small islands just of the coast but we found about 100 of then just below the light house right on the end of the peninsula. The view from the top of the lighthouse was pretty cool (well bloody freezing actually) and by the time we returned to our big truck and spent the day having very hard conversations with Nilder I was ready to return to La Paloma.

Back at La Paloma and bit of a party was going on. Everyone was out on the street in celebration of Spring. I didn't realise there was actually anyone living in La Paloma but now it was pretty crowded. We grabbed a coffee and a bite to eat whilst watching the party and then very slovenly I spent the rest of the day in my room watching crap TV.

We had a lovely b'fast of pastries and coffee all included in the price of £4! then went and had a look around town for some info on getting to Cabo Polonia which was an interesting little fishing village and seal colony. The tourist info place was shut but a nice little man came over to talk to us trying to explain that you couldn't pay for a taxi and couldn't hire a car so offered to take us there himself for the price of $10 - definitely do that then. We then bundled in his car and spent the next 30mins whilst he took us to the dunes, having a stilted conversation with his Poco English and our Poco Spanish. He took us to a place that had some 4x4 vehicles and sorted out a price,then we all hopped on the back of the open van and got taken across the dunes and along the beach to the little village. The place was really strange and just had loads of little shacks and stone cottages, Whale bones and hundreds of seals. Nilder took us for a guided tour around the little place pointing out all the little things like, turtle eggs washed up on the shore and dead fish and seals that we seemed to stumble on now and then. The walk was really interesting and there didn't seem to be a sole about apart from a couple of old people sitting out on their verandas. He showed us the old factory where they used to produce oil from the seal blubber and sell the genitals and teeth to the Chinese, not any more thank goodness. We also went up to the top of the lighthouse for some more sightseeing, it was nice to be the only ones for a change. After about 2hrs we caught the truck back then Nilder drove us back to La Paloma, we were both quite tired from all the sea air so thought we would just have a quiet evening. The town however seemed to have come to life and what we thought was an empty town turned out to have quite a few locals, all of whom were lining the main road to watch lots of different bands perform their tunes. Seems it was a fiesta of Spring, and what a good reason to celebrate. So we went and watched for a bit and took some photos before heading into a cafe and having a well earned omelet and coke then went back to the Hotel. Toby went out to find some info on a bus ticket whilst i sat out on our balcony just in time to witness a dirty great big coach that had it's sun roof open go underneath a low hanging wire which got caught on the sunroof hatch and ripped out the big wire and breaking the wooden pole. This seemed to create huge commotion amongst locals who came out to watch all the excitement. The poor coach had to wait for ages before someone came to cut out the wire.The repair work went on well into the late night and caused havoc to our evening entertainment of Jason and the Argonauts.

Sunday 28th September 2003 Montevideo

Said our goodbyes to Aldo. He was very kind and gave us a little souvenir from the hotel as well as his number incase we run into any problems in Uruguay. Very Kind. We then headed to the bus terminal where we ran into a fellow backpacker. The first one for ages. Benteh was from Germany and we ended up on the same bus to Rocha, and then waited at a cafe for the same bus towards Montevideo. She was great fun. We had originally planned to head north into Uruguay but the bus schedules where a bit duff so we opted for a quicker route back into Uruguay. This meant us spending a night in Montevideo after all.

We got into Montevideo at 4, booked the first ticket out of town in the morning and checked into the first hotel we looked at, Hotel Solis. Montevideo isn't really too bad, we have just spent a lot of time in cities lately so we weren't to fussed on another one. Well we are here now and it is the capital so we took a quick walk around whilst there was still day light. Montevideo is what I would expect an Eastern European city to look like. Loads of block towers overshadowing run down beautiful buildings. The beach area just near the town centre was pretty unforgettable. with two sunbathers lying in between piles of rubbish. Being Sunday everywhere was shut so we spent an hour back at the hotel catching up on this diary and then went our in search of a typical place to eat.

Said our goodbyes to Also who had been such a sweety then walked to the bus terminal to wait 20mins for the bus to Rocha. Whilst waiting we met up with a German girl called Benteh, the first backpacker we had seen for days. She was going to same way so ended up chatting away for the 30min bus journey, she was really nice. We were planning to get a bus from Rocha straight to Treinta Y Tres but seems they didn't leave till 6.30pm so changed our plans and booked a bus to Montevideo that left at 1.30pm which Bentah also needed to catch. So we sat and had a couple of coffees and talked about the 80's for a bit before getting on our bus and settling down to a 3 hr ride. Benteh got off at a little town not far from Rocha so we said goodbye and dosed off for the rest of our journey. Montevideo is not somewhere we wanted to stop off at, as it is a pretty horrible place but when we got to the bus terminal we couldn't get another bus ticket out of town until later that night so decided to stay in town for the night. Hopped in a taxi which took us to a rather odd looking hotel in the bottom end of town. A bit bleak for my liking but friendly people and a lovely family of cats which took an instant liking to us. We dumped our bags and went for a donder around the area and a little walk down to the water. The place looked like some old detention camp or open prison, it was all pretty horrible but when we got to look over the wall to the sea it was even worse, the water was the colour of chocolate and was absolutely full of rubbish. The little beach, if you could call it that was covered in filth in amongst slept a drunk looking man and a sunbathing fat lady even though it was freezing, all very strange. We walked around for a little longer but the place was just depressing the hell out of us so went back to the hostel where we sat and played with the cats for a couple of hour ( they had now joined us in our room) then went out for our first meal of the day at 8.30pm. Found a place that was recommended and it turned out to be rather bad but edible, just went back to the hotel afterwards and realised just how dingy and dark the place was, paying far too much for a shitty little room.

Monday 29th September 2003 Colon, Argentina

Another day on the buses. Left the hotel at 9 and grabbed some breakfast at the bus terminal. We then spent the next 5 hours heading north through uruguay to the border town of Paysandu. I had hoped that we would then be able to take a night bus all the way to the Argentine / Brazil border. But I couldn't find any, so we got a quick bus over the Rio Uruguay and back into Argentina...

Up early and straight the the bus terminal to grab a breakfast and coffee then catch the bus for the 5hr bus journey to Paysandu on the border. When we arrived we realised there wasn't a bus to take us to Iguazu from that bus station so hopped onto another bus which took us over the border into Argentina and the town of Colon

< ARGENTINA SEP 2003

ARGENTINA SEP/OCT 2003 >
ENGLAND - RUSSIA - MONGOLIA - CHINA - NEPAL/TIBET - INDIA - SINGAPORE - AUSTRALIA - NEW ZEALAND - FIJI - FRENCH POLYNESIA - EASTER ISLAND - CHILE - ARGENTINA - URUGUAY - BRAZIL - PERU - ECUADOR - U.S.A - SPAIN - ENGLAND
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