Uruguay - Carmelo

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May 26th 2017
Published: May 27th 2017
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David here...

True to form, within 20 minutes of setting out from Montevideo by bus, we were both nodding off. The scenery in Uruguay is pretty flat so we weren't missing much really. The journey was 3.5 hours and was very comfortable, although it was also a local bus with people jumping on and off at random points.

Oliver, our host in Carmelo, met us at the bus station and drove us to our lodgings - La Pratica. Along the way he told us about the town, landmarks, where to get supplies, the best places to eat, etc. All very useful and it was nice to be able to chat to someone in English for a change.

We were staying in an old shipping container converted into a room, with a sofa bed, bathroom, and a kitchette. It was small but cosy. Oliver drove us the short distance to his house where we met his wife and dogs and picked up some rather old bikes to use, as we were 3km out of town.

Our first job was to get supplies so we cycled into town and bought the usual stuff; beer, wine, chocolate, steaks as big as your head, crisps, breakfast items. The cycle back with all the stuff was tough going but we made it eventually. The one issue with the area was the mosquitoes. They were big and out in abundance.

We arrived back and immediately set about trying to get the barbeque going. It was not a normal barbeque but a parilla, where you burn logs to make red hot coals and then scrape them to where you cook. We weren't sure if it would work as the logs were a little damp and we didn't have much kindling. After about 10 matches we feared we'd end up with raw steak. Our final shot was to put the kindling into a paper bag and light that, quickly sticking the bigger logs on top once the kindling was going. This worked a treat and we soon had a pile of logs slowly turning into red hot coals.

Needless to say the steak was delicious. We had it with bread and butter before settling down on the decking outside the container listening to music, drinking wine and beer before heading indoors and reading for a bit and then settling down for bed. Well, that was the plan anyway. Until I sat on the bed and it collapsed. We messaged Oliver to let him know and made up a bed on the floor, not expecting him to get back to us until the next day. 15 minutes later, I'm helping to swap beds with another container. After this minor drama it was time for sleep.

We woke up the next morning and made coffee and cereal. We both slept quite poorly on the narrow bed but did get some sleep. The plan for the day was to head to a nearby secluded beach and then maybe a winery to try some local wines. The weather wasn't great, but to be honest, there is nothing else to do in Carmelo. There are no museums, galleries or historical buildings. Just a relaxed, little town with a few wineries and beaches.

The walk took us over an hour and was pretty uneventful really. The scenery isn't spectacular and dogs are barking at you all the time, but it was nice to get some exercise. We arrived at the beach where 3 dogs joined us for a while and we sat down and watched the water with a mini picnic of cheese and bread. The mosquitoes here were more relentless than ever and we were constantly putting on repellent. We walked the beach and then decided to head back to our room.

We stopped off at Bodega Cordano on the way and tried 4 of their wines. We weren't hugely impressed with most of them but couldn't not buy anything so ended up with a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Tannat Rose. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading and drinking the Cabernet.

The evening started with another minor drama. While putting on repellent on the beach, I had taken off my wedding ring, the cheap one I bought in Kuala Lumpur, and left it on the bench. I remembered this just as we were about to head out for dinner. While the ring is cheap, just in case we are ever robbed, it now has sentimental value as it has travelled with me for the last 6 months or so. I couldn't just leave it. So I ended up cycling in the dark, holding onto a torch, back to the beach, braving a main road and dogs chasing me. It was a long cycle - a 14km round trip - but worth it as the ring was exactly where I'd left it. I was back at the room in 40 minutes, ready for a nice meal and some beer.

We walked the 30 minutes in the dark to Delirio Oriental, a restaurant that Oliver had recommended. It was alright. The owners were friendly and attentive, asking us what we fancied (meat!) and cooking us up a big pile of various meats in a soy sauce with vegetables, rice, chips and fried eggs. A homemade chili sauce was also welcome. It was all nice but nothing spectacular. It was cheap and filling though, which was good. We left feeling happy and again walked back, settled in for the evening with wine and beer before a better nights sleep.

The next day again started with coffee and cereal before we walked the 3km into town for a walk round and to pick up more supplies... by that I mean more beer. The weather was worse today, cold and drizzly and it didn't let up all day. We got into the centre of town after an hours walk, looked around, bought bus tickets for the next day, bought supplies and walked back to La Pratica.

After a short coffee stop in the container, due to the rain getting heavier, we walked to another Bodega, El Legado. It felt like someones living room, with a big fireplace and sofas dotted around. The owner ran and grabbed his wife as she spoke some English. She gave us a quick tour before settling us down to try the 3 wines they produce and a platter of cheeses, salami, nuts, olives and bruschetta. This was $25 per person but the wine measures were exceptionally healthy.

The first of the wines we tried was a Syrah and was a complete step up from the wines of the previous day. The second was a Tannat, which was amazing. The third a blend of the 2 grapes, more expensive as it takes 2 years to make as opposed to the year the other 2 take. We drew the blend from the barrel ourselves, the owner encouraging us to draw more and more out. Again, it was an amazing wine. We left after about 2 hours, very tipsy and with a bottle of the Tannat which cost $17. They even offered us a lift back, but we decided to walk. The evening was again spent drinking, relaxing and reading. For dinner we had a tin of Frijola stew and black beans followed by a tuna mayo baguette.

We were up earlier the next morning, glad that it was our final night on the narrow sofa bed. We had coffee and finished the cereal and cheese and crackers, then packed everything up. Oliver had said that he couldn't drive us into town for our 11:40 bus so we were expecting to walk the hour into town with our packs. Fortunately the sun was out. However he turned up at 10:00 to check us out and said he could take us part of the way. This meant that we arrived in town much too early for the bus. We just sat in the main square until it was time to go.

As I mentioned, there is not much in Carmelo itself to see or do. The town is not beautiful. There are beaches and vineyards, but no other real attractions nearby. But we actually really enjoyed ourselves. The shipping crate room was a novelty, being able to barbeque steaks the traditional way was fun, and the second Bodega was such a nice experience. Overall we enjoyed Carmelo. Out of season, 3 nights is perhaps overkill, but we did have fun and enjoyed the time and found it quite relaxing.

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