Squeezing In One More Country
April 26, 2009 by rtwsenior
My four months in South America will end tomorrow night when I take off from Buenos Aires for Houston, Texas; change planes early in the morning, and fly on to Tampa, Florida. Dear friends will meet me for the ride across the bay and I´ll be home by mid-day on Tuesday. I´ll soon be surrounded by my familiar life, my son, my neighbors and friends whom I have genuinely missed during this third of a year on the road.
After returning from my quick trip down to Tierra del Fuego at the tail end of the South American continent, I realized that Uruguay is just across the river from Buenos Aires and can be accessed by various ferries that run about four times a day. So, Friday morning, I zipped over on the fast boat to my last new country. The Buquebus ferry only takes one hour to make the gentle crossing of the River Plata. This is a big, fancy, car-carrying ship with airline-type seats and a cafeteria and duty-free shop aboard. A delightful ride.
I stayed in the small town of Colonia because that´s where the ferry lands and Montevideo was an extra few hours on the bus and I could only sample the new land over the weekend. It´s a delightful place and feels nothing like the rest of South America. It was almost as if I had stepped back in time to small town America…though that´s not to say that Colonia isn´t modern.
Actually, the town encouraged that impression by planting old 1920´s and 1930´s antique cars all about. Many of them obviously don´t run and have become decorative foliage planters or even a special seating area for a restaurant. Some simply seem to be parked outside of a residence or business as if the driver will be back in a minute. I did see a 1929 taxi tooling down the road though with passengers.
So, this is a cute little one-story town with a tree-lined main street and a yacht harbor and a lighthouse. They encourage tourism but don´t go crazy pandering to it. We are welcome to wander about and be absorbed into local life. There´s no big souvenir emphasis, but there are good restaurants with good food.
People live in beautiful houses with lovely, grassy yards. It´s clean. They live a good life in their small town and they absorb us without any fuss, muss, or bother. Naturally, there´s a tiny downside.
It feels expensive. One dollar buys twenty-five Uruguayan pesos, but things are priced in the hundreds and thousands and nothing is cheap. For instance, I blew through $250 in a flash. My lovely hotel room cost $50 per night (2 nights = $100) and one fabulous grilled salmon meal cost $38, and another meal $10, plus fruit for supper in my room. My round-trip ferry was $80. Maybe that doesn´t sound like much to other travelers, but my money usually goes much further down here.
But, I´m glad I went because I really like the country and would like to get to know it better. I can recommend it as a tourist destination and I believe it´s usually overlooked on the travel rosters. So, go to laid-back Uruguay for comfort and a familiar setting. Just take a little money.