Uruguay 1

From 21 january upto 04 february 2014: 162km
Montevideo – Colonia del Sacramento – Fray Bentos – Gualeguaychu

After a turbulent landing with a lot of airsacks and passengers screaming out of fear, the plane touches earth at precisely 10am local time in Montevideo.
It´s pouring rain, but we have to assemble our bicycles (which we packed very carefully with a DIY-method in Malaga) first of all anyway, and than gather info about the nearest hostal.
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The center of Montevideo is about 25km away, too far in this weather.
We find a nice pension in Carrasco (small suburb of Montevideo) and stay there a few days to get acclimatised.
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In the meantime we discover Montevideo by bus and by foot, and we´re both rather disappointed.
Big city, but not a lof of atmosphere. Most parts look a little bit neglected and there aren´t many places that make you wanna explore more.
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At least, the lay-out of the streets makes orientation easy, and on the day of our departure we get out of town quite easily with a last good advice 🙂
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First weˋll follow the old Ruta 1 for 35km in direction of Colonia del Sacramento.
Then it meets the new Ruta 1 which is a rather busy dual-carriage way and the largest freeway in Uruguay.
We bike about 40km on and start looking for a campsite, which prooves out to be a lot more difficult than we expected.
The sides of the road are all fenced and the landscape is flat without any shelter to being out of sight.
At last we find a camp spot on the grass perch in front of a small shop and we can even close the day with a cold beer:)
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The next day greets us with dark clouds, the landscape is more of the same, and the street is only straight ahead – no steering needed – therefor the legs are put to work due to a endless series of small hills, not 1 flat km in sight.
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In early afternoon weˋre treated to a huge shower so we have to make up a shelter of our equipment (footprint of our tent comes in handy) and stay put for half an hour.
Short after that we decide to take the bus from Ecilda Paullier to Colonia del Sacramento to avoid the oncoming thunderstorms.
In Colonia, 60km further, it´s hot and there are no clouds in sight. We head to the campsite just outside the city, which is very basic but still ok and try to sleep despite the heat.
The town is a lot nicer than Montevideo. It has an old center (supposedly the oldest one in Uruguay) with a lot of small shops and coffee-houses, the streets are made out of cobble stones and pedestrians have priority over vehicles.
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In the evening the bad weather catches up with us again. Dramatic gatherings of clouds, lightning and thunder first, followed by pouring rain which continues the next day.
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At noon we decide to – again – take the bus north to Carmelo, where the weather should be better. Having arrived there it´s actually dry, so we cycle on a little to Nueva Palmira and set up camp in the Yacht Harbor. This sounds luxury but was in fact not much more then a little grass stretch between the waterfront and the street with a lot of people passing by.
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More rain and thunderstorms force us to stay there for two days, then locals tell us that this kind of weather will probably stay like this since Uruguay experiences an exceptional bad weather period. In the last two weeks it had rained more then normally in a whole year and big parts of the country are flooded.
So we decide to leave Uruguay and head to Fray Bentos to cross the Rio Uruguay (the natural border to Argentina) over the “Puenta Internacional”, a 5km long bridge.
Unforunately, at the border station we get to hear that it´s not possible to cross the bridge on our bicycles but the custom employees are very friendly and help us to seek a lift on a pick-up or truck.
After an hour´s wait, we get lucky and can ride along with an Argentinan couple on the back of their pick-up, amongst our bikes and our gear.
A unique passing of the border, to much delight of the people present.
Behind the bridge, we change back from four to two wheels and continue our way with the friendly “Welcome in Argentina” from our driver in the ear 🙂

Our impressions from these first two weeks in Uruguay:
– nice and friendly people, interested in people on trekking bikes
– uncomprehensible accent for people who are used to european spanish 😉
– expensive: prices are as high as in Western Europe or even higher
– weather: this period it was either very hot or it was raining, both made it hard to find a good cycle rhythm for travelling
– mosquitos are a pain in the ass – sometimes literally 😉

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