Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Uruguay, Notes from Uruguay

(Whales at Punta Ballena, Uruguay)

After almost 6 months we find ourselves back in Montevideo. In some ways it is like a homecoming. The reason for being back here is that Katheryna's grandmother, Olga, who was having some health problems and we were asked to stop by and keep her company for a while. As we were planning on coming this way anyway this fit well into our plans (we are heading to the Iguazu falls in Eastern Argentina). It was really great to be back on the road again after being stuck in one place so long. The ride from Mendoza was mostly straightforward. There is a major highway which goes East from Mendoza straight to Buenos Aires, going through the central grain growing, and cattle raising areas of Argentina. In Buenos Aires we took the first ferry to Colonia and retraced our steps back to Montevideo. There was only one slight hiccup on our way to Uruguay. Namely, we had gone over our 90 day visa by exactly 1 day. In my case they charged me 50A$, and were not interested in hearing about robbery, bike problems or anything else. Luckly for us, Katheryna's immmigration agent was more leniant, and let her go without paying the fine.

(Around Montevideo)

In Montevideo we found Olga doing well, so that was a load of our minds. She had spent a few days in the hospital with problems in her legs, so it was nice that we were able to give her a hand while she got better. Besides keeping Olga company, we spent days looking around Montevideo for replacement stuff for our stolen camping gear, with no luck. There is basically nothing really useful to be found here, and rather than settle for junk which would not last or is to bulky to carry around we decided to replace it with decent gear from home. This fit well with our plans, so our visit with Olga turned into a resupply and wait session. We used the time to visit friends and do some sightseeing and plenty of reading. Have I mentioned recently that the biggest fights we have is about who gets to use the Kindle (if you missed my Kindle entry, a Kindle is an electronic library which we carry around, rather than books. At the moment we have around 4000 electronic books on it, and the list is growing).

Our visit also co-incided with the whales who come to the warm waters along the coast here every year. On one of the best days we had, we took a ride up to Punta Ballena, where sure enough, we caught 4 or 5 whales frolicking in the warm bay. We spent the whole afternoon watching them, first from a look out above the bay, and later from the beach where they had come really close at high tide. There were no major acrobatics, but it was really peaceful watching them undisturbed in the huge bay in front of Punta Del Este.
Of course no ride around this area is complete without a comment on the beauty of the coast and the resorts. First, it was the middle of the week, in the middle of winter, so there was no-one around, and to top it off the day's weather was perfect. The houses all shuttered and closed, the streets empty, the beach deserted, no traffic and plenty of sunshine. This is the best way to enjoy any beach resort, at least in my opinion.

(Whales at Punta Ballena, Uruguay)

Of course I might have to mention a little accident that happen when leaving Metropolitan Montevideo. Stopped at a light an elderly gentleman hit us from behind. Luckily, there was no damage to the bike. The guy in the car just threw his hands up in a gesture of "oops sorry". I checked out the damage, and when I was satisfied that the bike had not suffered adversely from the collision, we got on our way again. Even this little mishap did not dampen our spirits, and by the time we got the whales we had almost forgotten about it.

(A military monument, near Treinta Y Tres, Uruguay)

Our package still hasn't gotten here, so we continue our vigil, interrupted rudely one morning by a loud banging. Which at the time looked like the wind had slammed closed an open window. Unfortunately in the morning on closer inspection it turned out that someone had broken the wooden shutters on two of the windows. Olga was convinced that it was someone trying to break-in, although we were not so sure. It looked more like an act of vandalism to us. Nevertheless Olga contacted the police, who duly showed up and took Olga's statement. After living 42 years in the same house alone, and never having had any problems, she was understandably upset and nervous. I don't want to think about what it would have been like if we had not been here to calm her down and help her cope.

(Northern Uruguay)

Oh, and before I forget, the bike is running perfectly, and although because the weather has been so cold it has not been possible to really test it, I am very hopeful that the problem has been fixed permanently.

(Vale del Eden, Uruguay)

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