17th Aug 2009 - South American Adventure
Uruguay Day Trip
It is very easy to make to Uruguay from Buenos Aires and is a very easy way to get a quick sample of Uruguayan life.
I boarded the Buquebus in the morning for my 9:30am departure. The terminal in BA is quite nice and it seems brand spanking new. I went through customs and immigration really quickly. However, I do have a bone to pick with the man stamping the passports. My entry stamp for Uruguay was stamped in the middle of two pages. Who does that? I have about 15 spare pages on a passport that expires in 8 months. Give me a proper stamp!!! Argh.
The ferry ride over is what you would expect of such a ride. There is a duty free shop selling overpriced cigarettes, alcohol, perfume and chocolate. I was enjoying watching the scenery and catching up on my diary. The river dividing the two countries is called the Rio Plate (Silver River) named such to entice the foreign interests of Spain and Portugal, but it is just brown water...not silver.
I arrived in Colonia, found my hotel and started to wander around 1:30pm. By about 2:30pm I felt that I had adequately done the city. There is very little to see here. The guide books say that Colonia´s old sector is a UNESCO heritage site, but most of it is roped off with those theatre ropes. You can´t wander around it freely. If you are interested in museums, there are 7 here to show artifacts from when the town was founded by the Rio de Janiero mayor as a way to intercept goods and communications between Spain and BA. However, I didn´t quite feel like staring at old cloths and such. One highlight of the town was the lighthouse. I had to go up to see the view from there. It was a little disappointing, but at least I can cross ¨going in a working lighthouse¨ off of my life´s to do list. The artisan´s market at the north end of the city is filled with crap...don´t even bother venturing around there. On my way back to my hotel I found a bunch of shops that sell better quality items and have much more charm.
I was disappointed in Colonia. The Lonely Planet book makes it sound as a very quaint town with a romantic charm. While it is true that there are cobblestone streets and old buildings, they lack the personality that I was expecting. If you have been to a place like the old city in Talinn, Estonia, it is hard to find Colonia as picturesque.
Since I was late booking my boat tickets, I was unable to return to BA in the same day. So, I figured a nice long dinner would be good. I went to a roadside cafe to watch people go by at one of the historic intersections. Here there is a sign telling cars that pedestrians have the right of way. I was highly amused watching the drivers in this town. Here, anything is considered legal transport. I watched many vehicles pass me by: dune buggies, scooters, golf carts, bicycles with motors on them (very much reminded me of PeeWee´s Big Adventure movie) and other vehicles often missing major parts of the car. At one point I watched a car do a three-point turn in the middle of a four-way stop intersection. It was hilarious. They drive everything here...but not well.
At dinner, I ordered a large coke to drink. I saw a table beside me with a tiny class and knew that I needed far more to drink than that tiny glass would provide. When my meal came, I was given a large 1 litre bottle of coke! I had no idea that´s what they meant by large. I was determined to take my time to finish it there, since I wasn´t allowed to take it with me since the bottle was glass and they wanted the bottle deposit back. I really tried my best to finish it, but seeing as I had to be up at 3am to catch my 4:30am boat back to BA, I decided to leave it with a quarter left.
While I don´t see myself recommending Colonia to anyone in the future, it is a nice laidback atmosphere compared to BA and a very easy way to get a new stamp in your passport...just make sure they do it on one page only!
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