Saturday, January 28, 2012

Uruguay Utopia

Colonia in Uruguay

We went by ferry from  Buenos Aires as Colonia is only 45km away. We were met by a very knowledgeable tourist guide and we were her only clients that day, so it turned out to be a private tour. This place has a fascinating history as it was originally owned by the Portuguese but the Spaniards were very unhappy about that and kept attacking them and kicking them out. After a few decades they would come back and the story would be repeated until the Portuguese built a big wall. In the end they gave it to Spain anyway. Going into the old district is like stepping back in time with cobblestone streets and a mixture of old Spanish and Portuguese buildings side by side. Dogs seem to rule and we found them sleeping or wandering everywhere, even in the church where people were stepping over one. Lunch was good, thanks to these gluten free cards I have on my smartphone explaining what I can eat in Spanish, and they like their coffee strong, black and sweet. No pictures of Colonia until I get back in April as I did not take any on my phone.

Montevideo in Uruguay 

After that we went to Montevideo, Uruguay's capital  with the same population as Perth. We just loved the atmosphere of the place. Don't get me wrong, these people are very poor with the average salary being about half of what the cost of living is, but they are so friendly and courteous to each other. For example, while we were having dinner (my best so far as the girl bent over backwards to understand what the hell gluten free was and got me exactly what I wanted) we just watched the streets. Over that time we saw 5 horse and carts go past checking bins, heaps of cars and bikes and pedestrians weaving in and around each other like some urban ballet. Cars would stop for pedestrians, go around the carts, it seemed as if everybody was watching out for each other, no impatience or road rage. Lanes and indicators seem optional, speeds seem unlimited but courtesy rules the day. Made me think of our overregulated roads in Perth, by taking away personal responsibility we have stopped paying attention, stopped being courteous and stopped looking out for each other. I really loved the atmosphere of this place. After dinner we took a long walk back to the hotel along the beach.

Big tip, if coming to South America, learn some Spanish, very few people speak English. I spent all year at work with a Chilean and a language teacher, hola Jorje and Olintonino, and it only occurred to us at the end of the year that I should get them to teach me some Spanish, idiot.

Don't PANIC. IT IS NOT $115 FOR A BURGER. These prices are in Uruguayan Pesos, they merely divide by 19 for US$, so it is really only about $6. We bought some maccas chips for $40.

Keeping Fit

Being the exercise freaks that we are, finding places to exercise each day is not always easy. One hotel had free passes to a local gym with the full gear. For me it was like being a kid in a candy shop, I wanted to try everything, Elizabeth initially seemed a bit confused by the choices. The hotel in Montevideo called a gym a room with 2 situp mats and an all purpose household weight machine. Instead we decided 15 minutes running up and down the 12 floors of stairs a better option. Mind you that has taken me 2 days for my legs to recover.

Hasta Luega Amigos
Michael and edited by Elizabeth to make me look good.