This blog needs more dogs and more capital cities of Uruguay, right? I’ll try to add both of those things in this post. So begins our time in country number 15….
Monday, June 18th (cont.)
As much as I had loved my stay in Buenos Aires, Annie felt like she was ready to get back on the road. It was almost 2pm by the time I left town, but I still wanted to make some progress towards my next country: Uruguay.
Though it is a fairly short distance as the crow flies, one needs to go north quite a ways to catch the first bridge over the Uruguay River. Map for the next two days:
Taking a ferry across is an option too, but I think it was around $100 for bike and rider.
My ride was a calm cruise through terrain that was really marshy at times. (It looks like I lost my camera footage from this day…)
I ran out of sunlight really quickly and had to make a plan for the night. I stopped at a Shell gas station that was really interesting. They had lots of amenities and a diverse collection of animals living behind the store: Alpacas, sheep, goats, peacocks, even emus.
This was great and all, but now I want a baby emu and I think every thing else I do in life will be just a distraction to mask that desire.
I asked the staff about setting up a tent on the property since I was a bit concerned about finding a stealth spot among the marshy terrain. They were very helpful, directing me to set up in a place where the security cameras would be on me. I had some very nice conversations with them.
I went to retrieve Annie to take her to the spot. A white dog with black spots noticed me and stared at me really intently, hardly moving a muscle. When I had driven Annie over to the other side of the property, I found that this dog had followed me to my place. It laid down and observed my set up process, occasionally placing itself right where I needed to be.
It was a nice, friendly dog, though, so I didn’t mind.
After set up, I went inside to the lobby area of the station. They had free wifi, two TVs, fresh empanadas and the place was very clean. I cobbled together a bit of a supper and spent about 2 hours working there. It was a great atmosphere to get things done.
Returning to my tent, I found that my little four-legged friend was still waiting for me. For some reason, she had decided that I was pretty alright. Or maybe she just thought I knew where I was going, as she started to follow me everywhere.
It took some effort to keep her out of the bathroom, but the next guy to enter was obviously less careful. When I turned around, she was there. Waiting patiently.
I went back for to the tent and got myself mentally prepared for a cold night. My little friend seemed to understand that she couldn’t come inside and curled up right by the corner where I lay my head.
As I was doing some reading, I heard her get up swiftly. I could see her shadow standing at attention through my tent.
I glanced outside and saw that a guy was looking at my tent. My little sentinel trotted up, checked him him out and waited until he walked away before returning to her post. It was nice to have my own guard dog. I could have used her in Idaho. (The bear story)
Tuesday, June 19th
It was a really chilly morning (38 F, 3 C), but my little friend greeted me warmly.
I went back in the station to do a little work, drink some coffee and watch half of a World Cup game. While I was spectating, I too had a spectator.
She really was the perfect dog: Very friendly, but not needy; enthusiastic, but not wild; never barked, whined or made any sound; didn’t stink; and endlessly loyal.
If I had been traveling in a van, I don’t know if I could have left her behind. In some strange way, it felt like this animal knew me or had been waiting for me. It’s maybe worth noting that I never gave her any food, so that’s not the thing that drew her to me.
I was not looking forward to saying goodbye, but I had to start taking down my tent and packing up. She seemed to understand what was going on and casually placed herself in the way, even laying on top of the tent at one point. But I persevered and told her goodbye.
I knew what I was going to see when I looked behind me as I rode off. My little friend was running after me. I gotta be honest, I felt both glum and guilty.
Now let me say this: I’m probably in the camp of thinking that dogs are often treated a little too much like members of the family. (Wait! Don’t kill me!) This is not because I have anything against our canine friends, it’s more because I feel like there are so many members of our own species who face a deficit love and affection. I feel aggrieved that, in the US at least, it is easier to find a place for a homeless animal than it is for a homeless person. Still, I can’t deny that there is something special about these animals. Even this road-worn biker fell under their spell.
It was time to get my game face back on. Today I had a border crossing on the agenda. Additionally, I had to withdraw some money since I knew the bridge into Uruguay had a toll. I still don’t get what is wrong with Argentina, but getting money from an ATM is possibly the worst thing about traveling here. Finding a machine to accept my card took a full hour and came with a $10 fee. Ughhh
The Argentine Peso has been in free-fall lately. Perhaps the reason for their economic woes is that they make it so hard for foreigners to access their currency. Oh well…lesson learned: Bring US dollars!
At Guauleguaychu (Salud!), the first bridge over the Uruguay River, I turned east to cross the bridge into Uruguay.
The fee was just 30 pesos (about $1). This was a pleasant surprise as I thought I would have to pay the same as cars (160 pesos). The countries have their offices in the same building on the Uruguay side. I parked in front and instantly knew I was going to make a new friend.
The New York plate was encouraging, but what kind of person would let strangers write on their vehicle! The madness!
I had to think really hard about when the last time was that I had met an American. I think it was in Northern Peru, two months prior. The US must be pretty great, since people never seem to leave!
The office was really calm, but the workers seemed much more interested in watching the World Cup than processing travelers.
Soon I met my fellow travelers, Sergio and Marcela. He is originally from Argentina, but they now leave in Peekskill, New York. As coincidence would have it, this city is just across the Hudson River from song place 33 of 92, Haverstraw (visited in this post).
We obviously had lots of stories to swap and had many common experiences. They were near the end of their adventure, as they would be selling the truck in Paraguay. We exchanged signatures and information.
I rode a short distance to the control checkpoint and was told that I had to return back to the office. The distracted border agent had written that there were two people traveling on my vehicle. I turned around and had to get my forms re-stamped because of the error. Still, the whole process was probably under an hour.
Let’s talk about Uruguay
First, let’s work on your pronunciation. If you call this country “your-uh-gway” nobody will know what you’re talking about. The best way I find to say it is like “oo-doo-why”, but you have to say it really fast: Oodoowhy. Good, now you sound like a local.
How should I describe this country? Maybe the best way is to call it a magnified version of Argentina.
Argentina loves soccer, Uruguay loves it more. Despite being home to just 3.4 million inhabitants (just a little more than the population of Iowa), they have won two World Cups. They also hosted the very first competition in 1930.
Argentina drinks a lot of yerba mate, Uruguay drinks more. Seriously, everybody is lugging around a mug and a thermos. I don’t know how they carry anything else.
Realtime update: I’m trying to learn to like it. It’s good, I just love coffee so much. A new friend in Buenos Aires, Roy from Tierra del Fuego, gifted me my own bombilla (straw).
Argentina uses the “zh” sound a lot, Uruguay uses it more. Especially in the more rural areas, I had a hard time understanding the language here. I was perpetually unsure of whether they were asking me a question or whether they were imitating the start up cycle of a 2-stroke weed-eater.
It is a rich country, so it is an expensive country in which to travel. Gas was $5.11/gallon, easily the most expensive of my trip. Unfortunately, the income from these taxes does not appear to be used to fix the roads. The highways were probably the worst I’ve seen in South America.
My goal for the day was to reach Montevideo. No, this is not your local movie rental store, it is the capital city of Uruguay. Over half of the country’s inhabitants live in this metropolitan area. I had a bouncy ride down the poorly maintained roads.
I was kind of confused because I couldn’t seem to keep my mirrors properly adjusted. Then I realized that my handlebars had shaken loose. Just when I thought I had adjusted every bolt on Annie…
It’s been awhile since I have seen “gute fahrt” (“Have a nice trip” in German) written anywhere. I still giggle. 🙂
I reached Montevideo and set my sights on Buenas Vibras Hostel. The gal at the desk welcomed me in American English, as she was from California. Another American! So they’ve all been hiding in Uruguay!
I was welcomed to bring Annie inside, but the only place available was the entrance hallway. I debated leaving her on the street, but a local warned me that it was not safe. My only option was to remove all of my luggage, which is at least a 30 minute process. Still, I thought it was better than heading off to search for another spot.
Good thing there are no fire codes in Uruguay. The hostel was a little more expensive than I normally pay, about $14.
Wednesday, June 20th
Wait, so why was I here? Well, first of all it was a convenient place to stop on the way to my next song place, La Paloma. Secondly, I had planned my timing so I would get to attend another World Cup watching party. Today Uruguay was playing Saudi Arabia. I walked over with a couple of new friends from the hostel. One of them was Leo from Sao Paolo, who I’m hoping to meet up with when I reach there.
Even the statue of David in the city square had forsaken his birthday suit to don the colors of “La Celeste.” (the national team)
It was a good crowd.
It was a fun experience. The crowd was more lively than the one in Buenos Aires, but still was less crazy than I had hoped. Perhaps I’ll have to get to Brazil to experience that. Uruguay won 1-0 and clinched a spot in the next round.
This is just a friendly reminder to always check your chain clearance when wearing a cape on a motorcycle:
I still had lots of the day left, so I walked all around the city. I ended up logging about six miles on the day.
I’ve seen lots of statues of military leaders in Latin America, but the one of Jose Artigas, the father of Uruguayan independence, may be my favorite.
It’s not just the statue. There are some stairs which lead downward to the side of the monument. After going down about two stories, you enter a chamber. Here are where the ashes of Artigas are kept, guarded by two soldiers at all times.
Some other things that stuck out to me: The architecture.
Unfortunately, this city seems to be a hotbed of false advertising. This first business said it was “my place,” but they didn’t even sell EveryMan bobble-head dolls. Come on!
And this second store had none of the products that I thought they’d have. I almost requested to speak to the manager.
Sorry. Moving on. 🙂
I walked until I saw the Atlantic Ocean. The coasts of Central America and Colombia are technically the Caribbean Sea (I think), so it was my first time seeing this ocean since my trip reached its halfway point in Jacksonville, Florida. (that post here) I didn’t jump in to rescue a flip-flop this time.
Thursday, June 21st
Time to roll out of my little hallway and get back on the road. I met some great people at this hostel. Nilda, from Sweden, wrote the first Swedish phrase on Annie. I feel embarrassed that this took so long.
On the way out of town I made one more brief stop, at the stadium where the very first World Cup game was played in 1930. To all of my American readers, I apologize for all of the soccer talk lately. We’ll get back to talking about freedom and trans-fat soon.
Let’s leave it there for now. In the next episode, I’ll tell about my visit to La Paloma and finish up in Uruguay. I had some interesting things happen. Thanks for traveling along with me.
Stay loyal, everybody.
Realtime update: I’m in my next song place Eldorado, Argentina. I accidentally booked an AirBnB without wifi so I’m sitting at a gas station. 🙂 Today was the first time that I’ve seen temperatures in the 70s in over a month. Gooooooooo Sweden!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!