Uruguay here we come! And collecting many more stamps for our passports!
We took the 3 hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento on Thursday morning. Arriving in the afternoon at the port we walked around the historic district in the tiny area of Colonia. We got some lunch which was super expensive and my Dad got completely cheated on his shrimp. He paid probably US$25-$30 for his lunch which was one tiny shrimp skewer and a not-so-much-to-brag-about artesanal Uruguayan beer, I got some really good garbanzo beans in rice. We observed the dogs running around while we ate and noticed how differently they behaved here than in Buenos Aires, they have their own cultural differences. BA dogs are so well behaved and the ones in Colonia were just like normal, USA dogs that run around and beg at tables and chase cars. haha
After lunch we walked around and saw the lighthouse, the port and boats, an old soap factory, some old cobble-stoned roads, a lot of plazas and parks, some art fairs, and lots of flowers. My Dad started walking up to this house that was set back a little from the road and some nice old man stopped us by saying it was private property. We apologized but my Dad still asked if we could look. Haha, then surprisingly, after a second of deliberation, the man said “sure you can look,” and walks to the gate with us as we look in. Then he opens the gate and invites us in! He explains it’s his children’s house and they are doing renovations and that he was born in Sweden. Such a nice old man! This would never happen in Buenos Aires! I’m liking this place already! He kept welcoming us to Uruguay and wished us luck on our travels. That’s what I call hospitality!
We walked around a bit more, my Dad still fascinated by all the of the different cars that they don’t have in the States. We made our way back to the bus station to catch the last bus to a farm where we would be COUCHSURFING for the night! I couldn’t believe my Dad agreed to go couchsurfing but it was more than great! The guy we met was amazing! He was so relaxed and he lived on a huge farm with lots of kittens and dogs and chickens and dairy cows and space. (Did you know the black and white cows are for milk and the brown cows are for meat?) It even had a private beach which we tried to walk to the next morning but got confused when we saw a locked gate when we should have just kept walking, so we never actually saw the beach. On the way it was so dark outside, there was no way we even could know where we were. The bus attendant tells us we have arrived and there are no lights anywhere expect the ones from the bus and a dim green bulb glowing in the distance. We disembark and are greeted by a man in a hat named Juan and his dog El Bandido. We walk along the dark road towards the green light and he shows us into his house.
Inside his home the walls were covered in drawing, recipes, song lyrics and other writings from his over 200 couch surfers. It was like the house with talking walls. He showed us to our room and then we all had mate together. We sat outside for a bit in the chilly air playing with little kittens. Then he made us some cake batter type dessert that he likes called crema pastelera– for which we had to go outside to the hen coop to collect some eggs that his free range chickens sometimes still lay in the hen boxes. It was really tasty and then he turned off the lights, lit some candles that were in wine bottles as holders, turned on the radio, and we all sat and talked in his living room until 1am.
In the morning my Dad and I got up and walked around outside looking at all the animals and all the space that was there that was invisible to us last night, hidden in the blackness. We thought Juan had probably gotten up early to tend to farm things so we decided to go for a walk with the dog and just enjoy the fresh air until our bus that afternoon to Montevideo. Eventually, 30 minutes before our bus was supposed to come when we went into the bedroom to collect our bags Juan comes out of his bedroom as if he had just woken up. All that time we thought he had been out working somewhere and were thinking about how much of a shame it would be to leave without saying goodbye and leaving nothing but another note on his wall and a souvenir magnet from Florida on his fridge.
He prepared a mate and we went outside to wait for our bus. He was such a cool guy! I would really loved to go back and hear more of his stories. He told us about how the house used to belong to his grandfather but who tragically died in a fishing accident since he couldn’t swim and the house had been abandoned for 30 years. Also about his great (?) grandparents who came there, cleared all the land, and from the balsa (raft) they had used to cross the river before there was a bridge they named the new bridge, river, and road after it. He had so many cool stories from other couchsurfers too, like a guy from New York who stayed with him for over 20 days and convinced him to get a pet pig that he ended up loving a lot and started being best friends with his dog, learned to chase cars and scared a lot of drivers so they had to trade him with some family for a huge pile of wood. He also met a Russian guy who was traveling the whole world by foot. Walking around the world!! Just so many great stories. He even let people couch surf when he wasn’t there! Just letting random people use his house. I have never met anyone like him, so honest and easy going, I would love go back just to visit and talk to him more. Not to mention that where he lives was peaceful and beautiful and would be a great place to stay, it had everything, and a private beach! I just can’t get over how nice he was to us and how genuine someone could be to total strangers. He told us he found out about couchsurfing in a magazine at the dentists office and decided it was for him. He has surfers every weekend, pretty much all the time. And he will sometimes travel with them or camp with them on the beach when he doesn’t have class during the week– since he is learning to become a 3rd grade teacher after he had gone to college to be an economist and I’m certain he is very smart. Just a unique life he has, everyone I’ve met through couch surfing has been really interesting, I really love this project, in case you couldn’t tell. :p
The bus ride to Montevideo took us through a lot of countryside and a lot more cows. Montevideo was a really nice city, a lot smaller than BA and much more relaxed. The city borders the beach and is just gorgeous. Of course since it was feriado there were a lot of things closed and the festival that happens only during Semana Santa didn’t happen until the afternoon which was when we were leaving so unfortunately we didn’t get to see it either. We just walked around, saw some artisan fairs, and looked at the buildings and cars, trying to kill time mostly since we couldn’t do much on account of the public holiday until our bus came to take us back to Colonia and the ferry. We also stayed in a hostel, which was the first time my Dad has stayed in one of those too. Such a new and adventurous weekend for him. Haha. Personally, I really enjoyed how nice the Uruguayans seemed, after that old man in Colonia and Juan. I wished I had chosen that country to study abroad in rather than Argentina at some points. Uruguay was just never really a place I even thought about much before I came here and it was practically our neighbor. It was a great weekend and I really want to go back to Uruguay, apparently there are hot springs more in the interior! And I know a great farm to stay on!
We got back on our cruise ship like ferry (on the way over they even had a tango dancing show for entertainment which was great!) and we sat in our comfy chairs for three hours on the way back to BA. After arriving and passing through the basically non-existent customs, my Dad and I walked around Puerto Madero, saw the bridge of the lady, which is supposed to look like a lady dancing tango, and looked at all the fancy restaurants. We took a bus back to Palermo and went to bed, getting ready for our last day before my Dad had to leave back to the States.