Uruguay

I know, a post title that’s a country instead of a city within a country. That’s not to say that Uruguay is all the same, but it’s just that I spent 5 nights visiting 4 cities, with pretty bad weather, so I just didn’t get to see that much. I know some people spend weeks traveling here and I’m sure there’d be a lot more I would’ve seen if I had done the same.

I got to the country by means of a ferry crossing from downtown Buenos Aires. At one point, we hit what felt like dangerously rough waters, though the pictures I took of the “destruction” on the boat are awfully reminiscent of those from the east coast in the US after an earthquake struck Virginia in 2011.

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Recovery was expected to take 1.5 minutes.

The ferry drops you in the touristy old town of Colonia del Sacramento. I think you’re supposed to appreciate the old town wall and gate, which looks like this.

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They also have cars filled with plants, and one driven by two startled-looking fish.

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I think the highlight for me, however, was this cute dog that for five minutes could not stop trying to break a stick off of a waterlogged branch, while his friend impatiently barked in the background.

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Feeling like I’d checked something cultural off my list, I continued on to Montevideo, the capital and largest city in Uruguay. Here, they have beer and mate companies sponsor street signs, which looks kind of strange.

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I headed downtown to see whatever I could in the few hours I was there. I hopped off the bus when I saw a open tango session along the main avenue, which reminded me a lot of the one I had seen in Cordoba. It was a nice improvement for me, though, in that I recognized some of the steps, having had taken a beginner class in Buenos Aires. Which does not mean I actually tried to practice them here, just to be clear.

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By the time I got to the main pedestrian shopping area, everything was closed already. Part of that was the fact that it was the start of Easter weekend.

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Nope not a gentleman’s club, just a clothing store.

I did have a beautiful walk home though along the boardwalk on the water, which stretches over 13 miles and even at this time of night had a good amount of bikers, walkers, and joggers.

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By this point in the trip, I’d already taken advantage multiple times of a strange Uruguayan law that refunds you part of the sales tax on any purchase you make with a debit or credit card. At restaurants, that amount gets up to 16% of the total bill, which leads to the strange phenomenon (at least for an American) of paying noticeably less than what you see on the menu.

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Apparently, part of the intent of the law is to encourage consumers to use plastic as payment, which in turn forces businesses to be more honest in their tax filings. Maybe it’s worked: Uruguay is among the most card-friendly countries in South America.

After Montevideo I jetted (bused) over to Punta del Este, which is a classic high-rises-on-the-beach city.

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Literally the only tourist attraction here, as far as I could tell, was a giant bust of a hand coming out of the sand on the beach.

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After sheltering a day from the rain, I continued to Punta del Diablo, which has similar-looking beaches but replaces the high-rises with little houses and a strong hippy culture. Accordingly, I rode in on the back of a pickup.

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I was glad to get in during daytime, because there is almost no street lighting around.

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The road back to my hostel.

It also has a strong dog presence, both stray and owned. Whenever I left the hostel, some or all of the five dogs that belonged to it would follow me all over town and guard me.

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That’s kind of a joke; whenever we ran across other dogs they would bark fiercely but quickly back off, run back to me, and look at me as if hoping I would paths to not bother the other dog.

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They were also good at begging for food.

I left the country the next night. At the border, I had a laugh when the border police officer shooed me out of the station to wait outside on the highway for four hours for the connecting bus, saying that the station was an office and not a waiting room. He proceeded to watch two soccer games on TV during that time, so every 15 minutes or so I would here a loud AHHHH when a team scored or came close to it.

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Instead, I got to watch the ominous blinking red lights that marked the Brazilian-Uruguayan border. It would actually be another 24 hours before I arrived at my destination in Brazil, after some bus delays and breakdowns.

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