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suebluesky and non-sparky’s adventures in uruguay

As my blog headlines proves, Montevideo is the ending point of my trip. This place had often been on my mind when thinking about where to go – not really knowing why. I suppose half because it is located in Latinamerica and half because it has such a beautiful name. Unfortunately it took quite a while till I finally managed to get there as it is not exactly located close to my door step. Looking a bit closer to the former Switzerland of Southamerica I was surprise by the fact that the population of entire Uruguay is only 3.3 Mio of which about 1.8 Mio live in Montevideo. With its surface of approx 176,000 km2 it is the second smallest country of Southamerica after Suriname but still 4.2 x bigger than Switzerland!

The start was not ‘TAMbien’ as my flight got changed last minute to route via Sao Paulo instead of Rio de Janeiro which didn’t really matter as net the time was the same. Upon arrival it obviously turned out that my low-budget rental car agency had no counter at the airport. Nevertheless after calling them, they quickly picked me up and introduced me to Sparky and off we went.

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Driving into Montevideo turned out to be easy and the city presented itself in beautiful light as the sun was just about to set over the Rio de la Plata. I felt happy crusing along the Ramblas into downtown pleased to have finally made it to this place and the fact that I travelled without incidents for more than 3 months. With my GPS app i found the hotel with ease – parking the car with the elevator in the garage i found a bit more of a struggle – luckily Sparky-mate is a rather small car!

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Next day as already again departure time… heading to Sierras de Rocha. I was very excited about this as it will be my first horse experience ever! The drive was smooth though at a modest speed of max 100km/h as there was not much more sparkling to earn beyond that. Following the description of the people i passed bridges, passed the local police station, then 3rd turn left, pass 2 gates without names, then this, then that until Sparky and I came to the right gate:

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Once arrived / i was installed, it was time for my first riding lesson in the coral. I have to say i was highly surprised how patient yet energetic my teacher the beautiful Criollo horse Titi was. Due to her i gained quickly more confidence and it was not as terrible as i feared it might be. After enjoying  the dinner on the terrace of the house in the sunset it was time to rest and mentally prepare for more horse riding. The following day it was repetition and also time to try out trotting. Puh that was shaking me through quite a bit as i didn’t really had any technique yet. Nevertheless Anais my other teacher besides Titi decided we go for a ride through the community which involved crossing a river. Imagine this in Switzerland: leaving the riding center on your 2nd lesson and cross a river (in fact crossing it twice!). Well it all was fine and i was really happy and feeling ready for the 2 day horse trek for the following days.

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Once the horses were packed we left with 4 horses and 1 dog, riding through green fields, passing Eukalyptus tree forests with its distinguised scent, along meadows with cattle and climbing small hills where we could enjoy the view over the Sierras. After 4 hours riding we arrived at the place of destination and took the luggage and saddles off the horses and brought them to the river. Afterwards we started to set up a fire place, put up the tents and then it was time to have some maté.

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A wonderful co-incidence was that it was full moon that night so right after finishing dinner, we could observe the white ball rise up to the sky.

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Following day packing up all the stuff – go and find the horses on the big field (there were fences…) and another 4h riding back home through more cattle fields, passing horses… it was a wonderful and peaceful trek as i could hardly imagine. The following day which was my last day at Caballos de Luz was another 3 h riding to visit the other horses of Lucie & Santiago which involved once more some river crossing. But no worries, Titi would not let me down 🙂

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Next destination in Uruguay was Punta del Diablo, a godforsaken place in the very eastern corner of the country. Driving some 190km Sparky and I arrived this very laid back place, where streets were not paved and mainly nameless. Still amazed that my GPS guided me to the hostel at first attempt as it didn’t make any sense to me. The hostel El Indio was a cool relaxed place overlooking the beaches of Punta del Diablo featuring an amazing terrace, with comfy chairs and hammocks. Todo tranquilito – fancy a spliff? Unfortunately i was there only for 1 night. Thus went for a stroll on the beach in the afternoon right after arriving as that would be the only time i have to explore.

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Then it was time to through the bags back into Sparky’s boot and head back west to Cabo Polonio. Besides the tiny villages I visited in Bolivia possible the smallest one counting only 95 permanent residents. To reach this place situated on the ocean front you have to leave your car at the entrance of the park and hop on a truck that drove us through approx 9km of dunes where admission is not granted to public cars.

Cabo Polonio presented itself on that day in a rainy grey. The village is a like somebody dropped a few colorful wodden houses without any planning onto the dunes. Any shape, any colour, any style just as you like it is fine. My hotel was directly on the ocean front so that i could watch the waves from my bed. As there is not much electricity in this place – most of the day you have no power / no light – though wifi ha ha. Clearly visible what is important in nowadays travellers lives. Though it was raining a lot on the day of arrival, we got blessed with a double rainbow in the evening and a lot of sun the following day. It was so beautiful i could have easily stayed for a few days in this place.

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Clearly this was quite a chance after i emerged from the sleeply surfer spot to bustling Punta del Este within about 2 h. PdE is called the cote d’azur of Uruguay, the city where rich Argentinians & Brazilians own mansions facing the sea. The place where you can have dinner at same prices like in Zürich. Only difference is that the lomo is double the size than in Zürich !! So not really same prices 🙂 And of course dulce de leche till you die… mmmmmmh delicious!!

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In Punta i treated myself with a hotel with a pool to enjoy the place in adequate style. I moved around the city mainly by bike, to see la mano, shop till i dropped in La Martina. A slightly longer bikeride (only 15k) along the oceanfront lead me to Casapueblos on Punta Ballena. This hotel and museum had been built by Carlos Paez Vilaro. Besides the hotel and the paintings and pottery that was exhibited already the bikeride offered a beautiful view of Punta del Este. Very nice side trip from the flashy city. Luckily many of the people don’t have such an upmarked way to dress so that i managed to keep up with my globetrotter glam. Next day i spent mainly on the pool and only interrupted it in order to go for a pedicure and manicure. Was an interesting place mainly because they had the floor re-done while remaining open – watch the picture carefully. Then it was time to go to la Huella situated on the beach side of Jose Ignacio which seems to be one of THE places around PdE. Hotel prices per night go sky high and it was really not an option to stay there for sueblue and sparky. Nevertheless I enjoyed a fabulous lunch in La Huella which on could compare with Chez Vrony in Zermatt not only by its style but also the fact that one should book a table 2 weeks in advance ha ha! However similar to Zermatt it is worth the effort to either reserve in advance or be brave and try your luck in this beautiful laid back shabby chic beach restaurant with melt in your mouth food – unfortunately couldn’t enjoy too much wine as i still had to drive. Well driving was not really an option anymore after I left La Huella as Sparky’s battery was empty because sueblue missed to switch off the lights – though Sparky could have beeped, really! Luckily the old man who was assisting the people with parking their cars promised me quick help for 50 Uruguayos, they always try their luck and well within less than 5 minutes his friend turned up and bridged Sparky back to life! And i drove off with destination Montevideo. Bye bye Jose Ignacio, bye bye Punta del Este – i really enjoyed it.

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Arriving in Montevideo for the 2nd time it lost a bit of its glamour – the water was this time brown and the GPS lead me in to town by a different less stunning route. However still arrived in the right place after only one small detour. I was very excited about Montevideo as i decided not to stay in a hotel but in an airbnb – no not entire apartment but a room. Situated in the Barrio Sur which is a residential area of working class people this area was very different to Punta Carretas where i stayed on my first night. Small tiendas, people greeting each other in the street, small restaurants where people still know you versus fancy cafes, shopping malls, exclusive shops. However as a foreigner life generally is easier in the upscale areas. Upon arrival at ‘my home’ i was welcomed by my host and got a nice introduction into MTV, their house, went together for a walk with the dogs and had a couple of beers. airbnb turned out to be a very successful form of accommodation. In order to see more of MTV again i rented a bike and cycled down all the Ramblas passing numerous beaches until i reached the suburbs. Though due to the fact that the water was actually the Rio de Plata i would have never got tempted to go for a swim – the water just didn’t seem to be on the clean side.

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As 4 days seemed a bit long for MTV i decided to drive another 200km up to Colonia del Sacramento. A picturesque colonial style town situated exactly opposite Buenos Aires which can be reached from there by ferry. Hence lots of Argentinians in town.After strolling through town, climbing the lighthouse it was again pool time – the last one before heading back home. For dinner i picked a nice little bistro with a bar facing the waterline. After the well timed meal i had just enough time to run to the best view point in order to watch the sunset for which Colonia is famous.

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ah yes and when driving from MTV to Colonia you pass Nueva Helvetica.. where people apparently still speak Swiss German. I drove passed it but didn’t challenge their language skills.

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Next day back to Montevideo for the last bits of shopping, dulce de leche, chimichurri, handicraft souvenirs and with help of Santiago i shopped a fantastic leather jacket. For dinner i was buying – of course – a steak in order to celebrate the amazing time i had in Uruguay. Definitely a destination to come back to enjoy again the untouched wild nature, the amazing food (sorry meat lovers only) and the Uruguayan hospitality!

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