Hello Uruguay - Colonia del Sacramento

Published: June 4th 2012
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We had our usual early morning city change start. It was a bit of a chaotic start when the landlord rang the door bell 20 minutes early. I was just towelling off from my shower so I made a quick naked dash to the bedroom before a fully dressed Eileen opened the door. The landlady returned our bond and then chatted and waited patiently until we were ready to leave.

Our cab ride was an entertainment. Our driver was a surly chap who squished our bags into his minute boot. Like many of these cabs most of the space was taken by a CNG tank. Bags securely squished, he was off and racing. This is becoming typical for us when we are ahead of schedule, 30 minutes ahead of schedule on this occasion. He was on his horn and swapping lanes continuously, wedging his bonnet into any gap that appeared. At traffic lights he would squirm in his seat until we were underway. His most interesting move was when we hit a line of traffic at a stop sign. He pulled into the opposing lane, ducked past 10 cars and pulled into the pedestrian crossing area in front of all the other cars.

When we got close to the ferry terminal he did a U-turn across a flexible barrier marker and stopped in the main road not the usual taxi drop off point. He grabbed my 50 peso note and jumped out depositing our bags on the pavement. I told Eileen to keep the door open and I calmly sat inside the cab with my hand out. The fare on the meter was 19 pesos. He handed me two 10’s and I waited, then a 1 peso coin and I waited. Finally another 10 pesos was handed to me after I reminded him of the 50 peso note and then I got out!

We queued to book a ticket, we queued to pay the cashier, we queued to check the luggage, we queued for customs and then we queued to board. When you travel you get use to pissing about. The big catamaran whisked us across to Colonia, Uruguay, one hour less time than we spent in the terminal.

It was slightly disconcerting getting off the ferry. Our bag emerged from the luggage carrousel just as we emerged. We then trailed out of the terminal building looking for customs, but there was none! A check of our passports and there was the Uruguay stamp. It had been done in Argentina; now that is a productivity gain!

We planned to spend five hours exploring Colonia del Sacramento, a world heritage site, before catching our bus onwards so the clock was ticking. I made the usual dash to a money machine for local currency. We purchased our bus ticket and the salesman made the call to the hostel to advise them of our arrival time before we stored our luggage at the bus terminal.

Eileen had read about hiring golf carts so you could whisk around the town which sounded like fun. We hired a Kawasaki mule, a sort of quad bike with a cab. It was an auto with a centrifugal clutch. It was a fun buggy to drive and probably good that it was not too fast as this was my first time driving on the right hand side of the road for 7 years. I was not sure of the road rules and the only advice from the hire company was to stop at all corners! We would slow at each intersection then gun it if the coast was clear.

We ventured forth along the waterfront for 5 kms so we could visit Plaza de Toros (the bull ring) and Iglesia San Benito, the oldest church in South America; both were closed along with the two museums we wanted to visit, Museo de los Naufrgios y Tesoros and Museo Paleontologico.

Across the road from the church was a rough South American bar. I looked in and checked the menu – hmmm, this would be good for the budget. A large pizza, a litre of beer and a bottle of water NZ$11. Part of the entertainment was watching the other customers! I took a moment to really look at the place; wow, what a dive!

We raced around a few other sights; the Hipodromo (race track), the old town square, some parks, the cultural centre, and the main shopping area. It was nice of the military to line up their men for my photo! We gave the market a miss as “tacky” would be a compliment. Overall we agreed that Colonia is an attractive town with some interesting sights especially if your visit does not coincide with a local holiday!

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