Many travellers skip Uruguay on their South American travels. But given it's only a two and half hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires, I'm not sure why.
We hadn't heard anything about Uruguay and a bit of research before we left probably would have been a good idea.
We hopped off the ferry in Colonia with just our day packs after leaving our luggage in BA, no expectations and no mosquito repellant (more on that later).
A short bus ride to Montevideo, the capital, and we were in the meat headquarters of the world. Our first stop was the Mercado del Puerto or the meat market. Here they grill every part of an animal on hot coals and serve it on giant platters called a parrilla. We opted for pork and beef ribs (yes - goodbye vegetarian days, hellooo carnivorous bloodhound) and one can only imagine the size of the beasts they came from. Certainly larger than your average Australian rack. The pork won the taste test hands down. There is so much meat that they are served with nothing but a blob of hot apple.
We stuffed oursleves beyond stupid and rolled on to our dodgy aforementioned (in my last post) hostel.
Montevideo was fairly quiet and after walking round the city for a few hours we felt we'd seen enough. So we caught a bus to Punta del Diablo, a small fishing village off the beaten track that is slowly becoming popular as a travel destination. The hostel had told us it was only a few hours away so we thought we'd do a quick day trip. Six hours later we arrived cursing ourselves for not researching more. Then we saw the beach, the strange looking beach huts and the very friendly, chilled out locals. Our hostel was absolute beachfront. Suddenly our plans went out the window and we were working out how we could stay.
If you have been on the road for a while and need a few days to chill, Punta del Diablo could be your place. It's cheap and chilled out... to the point where the chef is so busy chatting to you that he forgets to cook your meal.
A couple of days later we were leaving Punta on a red eye bus to Colonia va Montevideo. But not before having been kept awake by a swarm of vicious mosquitos that bit through our clothes. We scratched our way to Colonia, cursing ourselves for leaving the repellant with our luggage.
Thinking we had escaped the mozzies, we wandered around the historical part of Colonia and treated ourselves to a nice lunch. If you listed the countries most affected by mozzies, Uruguay must be up there. Wearing no repellant, shorts and t-shrts, we were eaten alive. Instead of enjoying our nice lunch, we sat and slapped at ourselves till there was actually blood spattering on the table cloth. Feeling paranoid about looking paranoid we left in disgust and pretty much gave up on sightseeing. Regular repellant doesn't work here.
We just about ran out of Uruguay slap, slap, slapping which was a shame because there was more we wanted to see.
Uruguay hasn't quite got the hang of tourism. The postcards are terrible and the information bureaus haven't a clue. But that's probably part of its charm. Don't miss out on coming here but plan ahead and bring strong mozzie repellant!