Crossing the border between Brasil and Uruguay went very smooth. After facing the African bureaucracy, I’m still not used to this. No questions asked, the passport gets stamped and I can stay three months for free.
So I roll into country number two of the trip! The interior of the country doesn’t seems very interesting to cycle through, so my plan is to cycle down the coast.
First night, I walk up to a family to ask to pitch the tent. I make my Portuguese sounding a bit Spanish and together with some hand gestures, the man understands what I’m looking for.
It’s always exciting to cross into a new country. And for me, the hospitality is the most important factor.
So as the man, Nelson, shows me the garden he immediately invites me to take a shower in the house and to have dinner with them too. Yes! Uruguay is nice!
The interior of the land is sparsely populated so there are not many roads. Therefore I’m cycling on quite big roads, which are always a bit boring. There sure are enough cows to talk to here, but not so many people.
Anyway, I make it to the entrance of Cabo Polonio on the second day where one can visit a big seal colony. The trail across the sand dunes is about six km long so I can’t go there by bicycle. I’m not allowed to camp around the entrance/ visitor centre/ parking lot, but the people are helpful and let me sleep inside the educational centre. Every day is different on a bike trip!
It costs 200 Uruguayan pesos (about 7 euro) to cross the dunes by truck (go and return ticket). I was planning to just see the seals and get back, but the place was really special, so I decided to spend a night there in the hostel.
It was the first time I paid for accommodation on this trip and it was really nice to be in a hostel again. I spend the day together with other travellers walking around, admiring the seals (really impressive!), sitting on the beach watching the sunset while having a beer, looking at the stars and the light of the lighthouse passing every 12 seconds and swiping our feet over the shelves which then somehow give light. Magical place!
When I got back to the entrance (where I had left my bike), I met a Brazilian couple who were cycling across Uruguay to Buenos Aires. So we teamed up for half a day and cycled up to Paloma together.
After passing Rocha, it wasn’t so easy to find a place to camp. All the gates to the houses/farms were closed. But in the end I found a field to camp in.
I then had a good cycling day, covering about 130 km. I passed a couple of nice places, but still it was less fun like in Brazil. People seem to be more shy. Cyclists don’t always great each other for example (unthinkable in Brazil). If I took a break at a restaurant with the bike next to me, there were no questions asked. So I had to be loud myself.
If someone was looking at the bike, I would shout “beautiful bike, right! But I’m not Brazilian, although I have that flag.” And then some questions were asked and I had someone to chat to. I think in a way people are more European than Brazilians.
The owner of the garden I camped in that night, lived in Brazil some time, so it was easy to talk about my trip in Portuguese. He’s a boat captain and got rescued once by helicopter at sea! Always interesting to stay with people and to hear their stories.
I was now one day cycling away from Montevideo, the capital, where my friends Euge and Santi were waiting for me. I had hosted them before in Bruges, and was now really looking forward to stay with them. Always great to see people again in a different part of the world.
I ended up staying five days with them. There was also a surprising amount of photography expositions in the city, both in free museums as in parks. I started writing a text combining all my info about Brazil, we went to the birthday party of Santi’s father, strolling around markets and fairs, catching up with friends and family over the phone….
We didn’t went out, because Uruguay is actually a ridiculous expensive country! A 33 cl beer in a restaurant costs about 4-5 euro. And Euge and Santi are also planning to travel, this time to New Zealand, so they are saving up for that.
I had about 180 km left in Uruguay to cycle from Montevideo to Colonia del Sacramento from where I could take the ferry to Buenos Aires.
Unfortunately there were no alternative roads and it was hard not to fall asleep on this boring main road.
After 100 meaningless km, I asked to pitch my tent at a farm, which was no problem. Pablo, the son, was also cycling and told me it’s possible to cycle on dirt roads towards Colonia del Sacramento. So off I went!
After 60 km I was forced to pick up the main road again. Turned out I had only covered 23 km in a straight line, meaning I did a 37 km detour! This was ok, hence I had enough time to reach Colonia.
And when I was off the main road, I actually met some people! There was Giraldo for example, who gave me a huge jar of honey after I asked him directions.
I got to Colonia, visited the town and went over to the house of Alicia, the mother of Euge’s friend. The last night in Uruguay proved that people in general might be a bit shy, but therefore not less hospitable!
Thank you all!
From Colonia I took the ferry to Buenos Aires which arrived right in the city centre. This was very nice, because cycling into a big city normally means a couple of hours of stressful cycling.
I had bought my ticket for 430 pesos from Seacat colony and this turned out to be a good move! A met a German traveller on the ferry who had paid 1500 for the ticket, just bought with another company! So you might want to ask around the different booths selling tickets.
In the harbor, I met two other cyclists from Australia. I ended up hanging out with them in Buenos Aires for a couple of days.
Allright, talk to you later from Cordoba!