Into Uruguay

And so we bade a fond farewell to Buenos Aires by jumping on the super slick, super fast, catamaran ferry which ploughs the Rio Del Plata between BA and Colonia Del Sacromento. Another cloudless blue sky and temperatures tipping into the low 30s made me grateful not to be in my motorbike getup for long.

Topping out at 38 knots, and turning the already flat delta into a billiard table, it’s an impressive piece of engineering, I needn’t have worried about Bumble being tipped off her side stand. Pulling into the port of Colonia I spotted a bigger, even more stealthy looking ship. But what to call such a slick, powerful piece of kit? Errrr… you might want to have a second go at that…

Colonia Del Sacromento

Making the short hop from the port into my digs in Colonia, it was immediately apparent that I was in a different country. Gone were the bars on every window, tags everywhere and rubbish in the streets. Colonia couldn’t have been a greater contrast to BA. With a rich colonial history steeped in smuggling and tax evasion it has retained enough of its cobblestone charm to be granted UNESCO world heritage status. Despite being a magnet for tourists – mostly it seems from Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil – it managed to keep a very low key, warm, local vibe.

Staying in a quirkily charming air B and B, a former restaurant with massive windows looking out into the street I felt like a working girl in the ‘dam as I tapped away at my laptop, topless of course.

Over the next couple of afternoons and evenings I spoilt myself with long walks along the enormous Ramblas – pedestrianised paths along the costline – punctuated by ice cold beer, provided in ice buckets, at low key kiosks along the way.

I was surprised at how few food/drink outlets there are on this stretch of prime real estate. That’s because Uruguay, to the untrained eye, doesn’t seem to have a drinking culture, or even so much of a going out to eat culture, as I’ve seen elsewhere. What they do have is a very chilled social practice of driving somewhere with grass/sand/a view/other people, unfolding the camping chairs and camping out for hours at end drinking mate, the traditional tea concoction that has been described as tasting like stale green tea made in an ashtray. I’ve seen this ubiquitous, traditional cultural everywhere – I mean EVERYWHERE. I’m probably not exaggerating if I wre to say that anywhere I’ve been between 6pm and 10pm every second or third person who walks past has the stainless steel flask of hot water and the traditional beaker with shining metal filter/straw. These informal gatherings look incredibly tranquil, conversations rarely rise above softly spoken. Everyone is involved, mum dad, kids, toddlers new born babies, grandparents.

Even groups of youtes that would be a cause for concern in the UK hang out in their little friendship groups very placidly. They all fly by on their little scooters and it’s not a case of putting your phone away so it doesn’t get swiped by some hoodied-up jackal, rather making sure you don’t get run over by some over zealous beautiful boy or girl two’s-up on their wheels with no care in the world.

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