The easiest way to get from Buenos Aires to Uruguay is on a ferry. After looking at the cost of the tickets, I was inclined to just take a bus, but there is no direct route, and the bus ride would have been six or eight hours, and not much cheaper. So onto the ferry it was. Compared the ferries we’re used to in the Pacific Northwest, this one was not so nice. There was no way to get outside, it was full to the brim inside, and it was small enough of a boat to really roll on the swell. There was no internet, either, and the bottled water I bought was extremely overpriced, just like the tickets.
It was also very strange to be out in what seemed like the open ocean, and for the water to be brown. The larger rivers are all brown, but the ocean? In fact, this body of water is not the ocean, but an estuary formed from the confluence of the Uruguay and Paraná Rivers, called Rio de la Plata. The sediment from these large rivers turns the water brown way out into the bay.
The journey took about an hour, and, we disembarked at a small town called Colonia del Sacramento. We had read good things about Colonia, so rather than jumping right on a bus to Montevideo, we decided to stay a couple of nights so that we could have a day to explore the small colonial town.
This would prove to not be no easy. We looked at hotels in Colonia before leaving Buenos Aires, but we ran out of time and didn’t book anything. The ferry station didn’t have wifi, so we took a cab to a café where there would be wifi. We had all our stuff and were not very mobile, so it was a problem when the café told us they had no seats. They allowed me to use wifi while we waited, but the signal was terrible and it kept getting interrupted. I managed to get online for long enough to find that there were even fewer places available in Colonia than there had been that morning when I first looked, and all that was left was over $200 a night. Even hostels were expensive, and most were full. It was a weekend, and Colonia is a popular place.
I decided to check Airbnb, entering Colonia, Uruguay into my search. A few listings came up, and one was very decently priced. I read over the details of the room, though not as thoroughly as I might have, as I wanted to book quick if I could, before the internet cut out. It looked good, so I went ahead and booked, two nights for just over $100. Right as I completed the booking, I got a message, saying “Congratulations! You’re going to Salto!”
Salto? What? My blood ran cold and I checked back at the listing I had just been seeing. How could this be? Sure enough, it was for Salto, Uruguay, some six hours to the north. It turns out, there are few Airbnb listings in Uruguay, and none in Colonia. What came up was an expanded search for the whole country. True, I could have read a little more closely, but I was mad that it didn’t give me more clear notice that I was choosing a listing in a different city than I had searched for.
Anyhow, right after I discovered that I had made a big error, the internet went out again. I was now seething, and I told Laura that she needed to hang out for a bit while I went to find better wifi. Fortunately, there was a café across the street that was closed, but that had some tables and chairs set up on the sidewalk, so she and the girls could chill there.
I took off down the cobblestone street in search of wifi. When I found a place that had some, I bought a bottle of water and got busy trying to undo my mistake. It turns out that there was a strict cancellation policy (meaning no can-do) and the money had already been transferred.
I could do nothing through the Airbnb site, so I contacted the owner of the property, hoping she would be cool. After much back and forth, we came up with a solution. Thank goodness we were planning on traveling through Salto on our way to Iguazu, so rather than cancel the booking, we just changed the dates. We hadn’t planned on spending two nights in Salto, but unless we wanted to lose fifty bucks, we had to, so I arranged for new dates and breathed a sigh of relief when it seemed settled.
This took close to an hour, and we still had not solved the problem of our lodging for this night. The day was getting on, and everyone was hungry. Plus, my battery was getting low, so back to our pile of luggage on the sidewalk I didst trot.
I told Laura that we needed to move our camp, and once we were all at the other café I plugged in and resumed my search. Nothing for under two hundred. I asked around, and some people recommended the Hostel El Español. I had seen this one online, but the site said they had no available rooms. Still, on a hunch, I thought to run over there. It was close, and if nothing else, maybe they could recommend something else. So Laura kept the search going while I ran the six or eight blocks to the hostel.
This was the first run I had taken in several months, having injured my ankle back in November, with a slow recovery. It felt great to be able to run without sensitivity on that ankle, and the scenery of the town rushing by me was so beautiful that I really hoped I could find us a place to stay, and one that was affordable enough to stay for two nights, otherwise we wouldn’t get to walk around and enjoy the old world colonial architecture and serene classy atmosphere that was evident to me even as I ran past.
When I arrived at Español, I was shocked to learn that not only did they have a private room that could hold five, with a private bathroom as well, but the price was way lower than anything I’d seen online, $75 per night. It was such good news. I booked it right away and ran back to Laura triumphant.
We took a cab to the hostel and settled in, opting not to go out that night. We had eaten some vegetable crepes at the café where we did our searching, and we were satisfied enough to chill, after a stressful afternoon.
The next day we set out to see the city, but alas, it was raining. This didn’t stop us, but it made things more difficult. We went to an artisan market, which was full of awesome handmade crafts and clothes, none of which we bought, because we don’t really have room for more stuff, and because our budget is pretty tight now that we’re drawing to the end of our trip.
We walked along the waterfront, and the girls seemed content to just play on the rocks by the water for some time. I let them to it and went further out to do some qigong, which was much needed after much rushing and many troubles. The wind was strong and clear, and the rain stopped for a bit.
We continued around the waterfront. Colonia is a small town on a peninsula, with old town being at the tip. We looked at many ruins of an old church or monastery compound, and the remainder of the old city wall, with a gate and drawbridge structure still standing and a cannon mounted on the top of the wall. There were many quaint little cobblestone streets with old buildings, and if it weren’t for all the tourists with their cameras (including myself) it would have felt like walking through a different century.
We stopped for lunch and then walked to a few other locations of interest. Old town is small enough to see in half a day, but we retraced our steps a few times, looking for other points of interest on our map. We went back to the market so Eva could buy something that she didn’t buy the first time, only to find that they were closed. So we went back to the waterfront in a new spot, where the girls played in the sand and played with bricks they found.
That night at the hostel we cooked our own food in the kitchen, which was quite a feat with all the other travelers using the kitchen. I did most of the cooking, and I managed, having some conversations with some French and Swiss people, as well as some Uruguayians. It’s so fun to be in a room where there are conversations in several languages, and I love it when I can converse in those other languages as well. I speak no French, but I managed well with the Spanish and I practiced a bit with my German as well.
Laura loved Colonia and wanted to stay, but unfortunately we were running out of time. We still had Montevideo to see, and now we were obligated to spending two nights in Salto, on the way to Iguazu. After Iguazu we would have just enough time to get to Asuncion, Paraguay and catch a flight up to Mexico. Our time in South America was nearly done. We were very bummed about missing Brazil, but it’s probably best that we save that, the biggest of the South American countries, for another trip when we can spend a month or so just on Brazil. When that will be, we can only guess. We still have the east coast tour and Europe coming up this year, and I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep up this pace with the girls. They have decided that they don’t like travel. They want to live in one place again and just have a more “normal” life. Not that our lives are ever normal, even when we do have a house. They complain about being bored when we are living that way, so I wonder if maybe they just like to complain.
Still, I know it’s hard on them. This trip has been rather rushed, especially after Peru. We spent two weeks in Ecuador and two more in Peru, and then we’ve rushed through Chili, Argentina, and Uruguay to make sure we get to all our destinations. Live and learn!
The next morning we got up and got packed, had a nice big breakfast, and then got our stuff out to the curb. I asked the front desk to call us a cab, and she said he would be there in twenty minutes. An hour later, we were still waiting. It wasn’t too far to the bus station, but the rain was really coming down, so we resigned ourselves to wait.
The bus trip to Montevideo would be short, and this time we had a hotel already booked. Thus far, Uruguay had been lovely, though pricey. Everyone was very nice, and for the most part, the infrastructure was modern and looked more like the first world. Not that this is, in all ways, a measure of greatness, but there is something appealing about a place where the buildings are nicely painted, the streets clean, and the electric lines not bunched and clustered overhead along every block. Of course, even better would be for us all to find a way to live where we don’t depend on central electric systems and fossil fuel vehicles, but as long as we do, keeping it classy seems the best way to go.