Thursday, August 28, 2014

Uruguay

My next destination after Florianopolis was Uruguay. This was an exciting point in my journey, since it meant I would now have visited all countries in South America. 

Yay. Go me!

Getting to Montevideo is not especially easy since there is limited information on the internet about how to do it. I looked at flying but it was ridiculously expensive. TTL is the main bus company, however, I believe they only do a direct night bus a couple of times a week. Your best bet (if you can't get that bus) is to get a day bus to Port Alegre and change to a (more regular) night bus from there. It is a long journey, but hey, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it to get where you want to go. The people at the hostel can book these buses over the phone for you, which is easier than going into town to the bus station and then trying to speak Portuguese (unless you do).

It's a fair trek to Porto Alegre, however, major works had been done on the freeway in January 2014. I imagine this was part of the World Cup infrastructure upgrade. Even though I think soccer/ football is stupid, this was possibly the best road I went on in South America. So thanks World Cup!

If you do have to change buses in Porto Alegre, TTL has it's own air conditioned, private waiting room with free wifi. It was like being in an airport lounge. Nice.

When you check in they take your passport. This concerned me a lot since giving your passport to a stranger is never entirely risk free in case they lose it, or steal it, or whatever. However, I reluctantly handed it over and hoped that I would see it again in the near future. I didn't really understand why until the next morning. 

The border towns are Chui/ Chuy. If you take the night bus, you end up arriving in the middle of the night. Now you'd think being an international border, you'd have to get off the bus and line up to get stamped out of Brazil and into Uruguay. 

This isn't what happened. 

The bus stopped in Chui and the bus guy with our passports got us stamped out. Then we drove down to immigration in Chuy and he took our passports to get us stamped in. There was no getting off the bus. I don't even recall any immigration officials getting on the bus to have a looksie. This was the most relaxed border crossing ever! Seriously, you could have slept through the whole thing. Then, in the morning when they are serving breakfast the bus guy goes around and hands all the passports back.

The first stop is Punta del Este. Stupidly, I didn't know this and thought it went straight through to Montevideo. If I'd known it stopped here, I would have booked here and saved myself a day trip down and back.

Montevideo

The bus station in Montevideo is attached to a major shopping centre so you can easily get some local money here. As far as big bus stations go, it feels very safe.

After getting some change I went looking for a local bus down towards the beach since I was staying in this hostel. It was not difficult so I recommend local buses if you want to save money on taxis.

Down by the beach is a really nice residential area and I recommend staying here. It's also very green and you want this in summer to give you some relief from the heat.




The beach is nice.


  

Yes, that's me sitting on the top. It would have been nice if the girl taking the photo could have stood more centrally!





The city centre is also worth a look. All the guide books say it's like a mini Buenos Aires. Meh, I guess it could be but that didn't jump out at me.

It felt pretty safe, except for one area at the end of the pedestrian bit. I started going down there, but then it felt a bit dodgy so I ended up turning back.








This building is so ugly. Also, it's weird seeing windows open on high rises.



Being vegetarian/ vegan is not difficult. There are a reasonable amount of veggie restaurants here.



I had lunch at this place and it was pretty good. They could tell me what was vegan in the buffet.

This lock love fountain was the first I'd come across. Apparently it started in Paris and has spread to other cities around the world. Now the French are cracking down on theirs since it's a bit of an eyesore. Fair enough cos they are a bit stupid. But hey, I'm a cynical Gen Xer and half my friends are divorced!




Punta del Este

Like I said, if you're coming from Brazil the bus goes here first, so you can save yourself some time and money by making this place your first destination if you want. If you're coming from Montevideo, the buses run like every 20 minutes (so don't bother booking in advance) and it takes 1-2 hours depending on traffic. 

It is basically a resort town and was packed at this time of year. Interestingly, most of the parked cars I saw were from Argentina.

Even though the water looks warm, I thought it was really cold.



 


I love this beach art.



There are a lot of weird shell things on some bits of the beach. Like a lot. I don't know what they were, or if they used to be alive.



This is so handy. We should totally get them in Australia.



This Brazilian woman asked me if I'd take a photo of her and email it to her since she really wanted a photo beside this mannequin but didn't have her phone. I was like 'sure' and then she wanted to give me money. I'm like 'no that's fine the internet is free'. But she really wanted to give me something so she dug around in her bag and gave me a CD of her 1970s cover band instead.

They weren't very good.



There's an excellent veggie place that sells raw foods in Punta del Este. I highly recommend it if you're having green smoothie withdrawal and/ or you want to stock up on raw snacks.

Mmm... vegan sandwich...



Colonia

A couple of hours north of Montevideo is the historical town of Colonia. The buses are less frequent than to Punta del Este, so it may pay to book ahead in peak times if you don't want to sit around waiting for the next one.

This town is really pretty and laid back, and only takes a couple of hours to walk around. That was perfect, since I only had an afternoon here.





 








It's a pretty compact place and all the hostels are in the centre so you can just walk up from the bus station. The international ferry terminal is next to the bus station, so again, no need for taxis.

I enjoyed my few days in Uruguay. It's kind of like the Adelaide of South America. It's nice, laid back, and the water at the beach is cold most of the time despite it being 40C! 

It is also the most gay friendly place I've been. Both hostels I stayed in had heaps of gay flyers with places to go etc. Then again, that's not surprising if you listen to Homer Simpson

LOL. That video never gets old.

Uruguay's president is also pretty awesome. Our knob of a Prime Minister Tony Abbott (and others) could definitely learn a thing or ten from him.

So that was Uruguay and a major bucket list item (i.e., visiting all countries in South America) ticked off.

Next stop: Buenos Aires.

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