After three days at Destino 26 Hostel in Montevideo, I announced to the hostel owner, Mauricio, that I would be on my way – to which he retorted – “but why?”
Destino 26 was a tranquil and relaxed experience with some very friendly staff and guests. It was impossible to pass through the place without being fed and watered, entertained and amused, all due to the very laid back atmosphere. On one occasion a whole bottle of Colombian Aguardiente (aqua = water and ardient = fiery) was shared between us and lessons in salsa ensued til four in the morning.
I had to hit the road though, and decided to head out to a campsite in Ciudad del Plata where I hoped two of my favourite French people would be.
On board the cargo ship I had adopted Gilberte and Jean Paul as my French parents – two of the warmest and kindest people I have met.
The fox nearly went down to take a nap on the gas station forecourt in Montevideo – which had nothing to do with me not noticing the sidestand had come up whilst moving the bike…ahem – but with the help of an attendant we managed to keep her upright.
Fuelled and tyre-pressures corrected we were on our way, and made it to the campsite in Ciudad del Plata, but it was closed.
After an Austin Powers 50 point turn on the narrowish path we continued west to the colonial gem – Colonia del Sacramento, famous for it’s Barrio Historicó – historic quarter – and cobbled streets.
We camped out at Los Nogales on the outskirts of Colonia. I had only just jumped off the bike when Berto, a Brazilian traveler, who was so excited to see us, put a hot glass of coffee in my hands and bid us welcome.
Los Nogales Campsite on the outskirts of Colonia
All the charms of Colonia
The Uruguayans know a thing or two about Motorcycle luggage – Touratech eat your heart out!
We only stayed the one night and after consuming more of Berto’s good coffee the following morning, we continued to a little, Swiss paradise called Nueva Helvecia – which was so charming – we stayed for three days.
Camping out in the “Alpine” Paradise -Schön!
Here I met Dorly and Wolfgang – a Swiss couple – who have traveled all over the planet in their camper over several years. Hardcore travelers.
Having, by now, shed around a third of the stuff I had brought from home I still struggled to organise and neatly pack my bags – however after an hour or so of faffing, we headed north towards Salto.
The roads in Uruguay are mostly…well straight.
At the halfway point in Andresito we set up camp by the lake and it was a lovely sight watching the sun set over the lake with cumulus clouds building in the distance.
Said clouds, however, turned into a full blown electric storm which hit the site at around one in the morning.
Storm in spanish translates to tormenta, and that’s exactly how I felt, tormented! I was clinging to the FT (f*cking tent…long story) , wishing I had pecked the damn thing down properly. But the most terrifying thing was the lightening – it was relentless.
Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night. The fox just stood there in the morning as if nothing had happened and from the very early hours, a dog – dragging a long rope behind him – had joined us and was keeping watch outside the tent.
Bleary eyed and with nil coffee in the blood stream I got packed up and hit the road towards Salto.
Salto itself was not very inviting but the campsite San Nicanor Termas was just what the doctor ordered. It is a 12km ride down a dirt road to get to the site, so it’s well out of the way to say the least. Beautiful, quiet and teeming with wildlife day and night. They have two pools which are pumped full of hot water daily from the natural springs in the area. Soothing, crystal clear and 37-40 degrees – depending of what time you get in. Lovely!
The next day I went into the local town to get some supplies when I recognised Dorly and Wolfgangs camper van in the street. As it happened they were looking for San Nicanor. What a coincidence! We spent the day at the springs and the evening in front of a fire with a good bottle of wine and they shared some great stories from their many travels.
Time to pull the pegs – which I had properly administered this time – and the road took us to Tacuarembo which is the capital of north-central Uruguay and Gaucho-country!
We spent the night in the town and the following day we hit a 140km ride to San Gregorio de Polanco via a rocky dirt road.
The rocks seemed to get bigger as I got more tired – the fox could care less
Of course, if a little effort is exerted in any endeavour – there is usual is a reward at the end. After three and a half hours of off road effort, San Gregorio appeared on the horizon, and it was definitely to be a reward.
I had a bag full of dirty clothes, no food and the fox and I were covered in dust and I opted for a hostel so we could have a nice rest and get cleaned up properly. Immediately upon meeting the proprietor I knew I was going to like my stay. Liliana and Jose Maria owns and runs Hostel San Gregorio and it is a gem. Liliana is an artist and has contributed with a lot of the art which is displayed as murals around the town. What an easy going, cool place.
Jose Maria and Lilliana
Shortly after settling in my room Jose Maria invited me for a Parilla (barbecue) with a few locals.
What a lovely evening in great company! They told me that the minister of tourism Liliam Kechichián was visiting the following day and I was invited to meet her and listen to a local accordion player perform some of the traditional tango music. What an honour.
We set off a couple of days later in 33 degrees at 10am and huge summer storms were building in the distance. Only fifteen minutes later the heavens opened and I took shelter at a bus stop to get my rain gear on. It continued to rain – very heavily at times – until we reached Montevideo at 7pm (after a lot of shelter breaks). There was only one place to go – and it was back to Destino for a hot shower and a bed.
We got the Buquebus ferry from Montevideo to Buenos Aires where I was to meet a friend of the family. I had heard a lot about the traffic in BA like; don’t expect anyone to stop at the red lights and the horn is your best friend and be very, very alert. Oh and; don’t drive in Buenos Aires!
I had a relatively short ride (I say relatively, because all the distances in Argentina are enormous) to a safe car park for the fox. After approximately 15 minutes in customs to get the temporary import permit for the fox, we dived into the madness of the traffic.
It didn’t take long to adjust to the level of aggression which is required to get anywhere in the city – having the ability to accelerate quickly and manoeuvre past the long queues in the opposite lane with oncoming traffic was very nice (yikes!), filtering through the hordes of trucks, buses and aggressive taxis not so much. But we made it unscathed albeit a little hot under the helmet.
I wasn’t surprised to see this scene..the traffic in BA is relentless
The pure scale of Buenos Aires is hard to comprehend let alone explain. More to come about this great city in the next instalment of Venture the Horizon.
It is with a heavy heart that we leave this place, but summer doesn’t last forever in the southern hemisphere and we have to make our way into the land of fire.
See you out there!