Part 19. Uruguay Up
Saturday, 7 February, 2009
The landing at the BuqueBus station in Uruguay was so calm, I hardly noticed it. People started crowding the doors, so I headed that way. When they let us pass, we headed down to the vehicle deck and got on the bikes. If they ever strapped them down, there was no evidence of it, but the crossing had been smooth enough that maybe they didn't bother. We waited behind the Land Cruiser to be the first vehicles off the ferry. The Land Cruiser had just come up from Ushuaia, too, I noticed.
We rolled off the boat and through a construction zone. Fortunately, there were people directing us where to go. The new BuqueBus station here was still under construction, so it was pretty confusing.
The Land Cruiser went where the Customs people directed it, and I later saw it leaving a fenced area marked for hazardous materials. I think maybe they had extra fuel cans that had been carried elsewhere on the ferry, but that's just a guess.
Being next in line didn't help us any. The Customs guy waved us off to the side and gave us some forms to fill out on the hood of his truck. He then went back with the others to inspect the in-coming fleet of vehicles. We saw them confiscate some food from one car. No one in any of the other vehicles, including the Land Rover, had to fill out any forms. Just us. Don't know why. Locals, probably.
When all the other cars (lots of them) were gone, the Customs guy came back to us. Second off the boat and the last ones to get through Customs. The guy helped us fill out the forms where we didn't understand it. Gato means a car jack--who knew? I thought it meant cat. And why did they want to know which cars had jacks, anyway?
The agent then wanted to see some other paper, but we didn't understand him. I showed him everything I had from the crossing, fanning through them like playing cards. He eventually liked the BuqueBus boarding passes (or something else in my hand), so we were good.
Anyway, when the paper was done and signed, he gave each of us a copy of the form which we took to be the bike import paper. He waved us on, and that seemed to be all there was to that. Again, no one inspected anything. Never even looked at the bike's VIN.
We felt that we had to do something else, like maybe Immigration. We asked the Customs guy, but he became more confused that we were. We made pantomime gestures meant to symbolize someone stamping our passports, and he directed us back to the BuqueBus station where there was a Migracion office. There, we talked to a couple guys in the parking lot, but they also didn't know what we wanted. It took a while for them to explain to us that no visa or stamp was required to enter Uruguay. I tried to ask them to stamp my passport anyway, but we weren't communicating well. Must be the Portuguese influence on the language here.
So, we were good for Uruguay. Never entered a country so easily. We rode past the edge of Colonia, but didn't see any of it. Just some apartment buildings.
The roads outside of town were very nice. So was the beautiful countryside. No trash anywhere, no obvious poverty, no wild animals on the road... How civilized!
I know full well, however, that all we are seeing of each country is whatever there is to see from the few roads that we are riding. The 'real' country was usually well away from the major highways, so we haven't seen what is really there. When we saw poverty, filth, despair on the highway, that seemed to accurately represent the area, but when we saw manicured trees (as above) and everything looking nice and neat, I was left with a sense of having been deceived--having been shown a pretty face. The big, ugly ass of these countries was probably far from the busy highways.
We didn't know what to do when we got to the first toll booth, but then saw that bicycles, motorcycles, and tractors pass for free. Again, take the bypass lane whenever it is there.
We had about $150 worth of Uruguay Pesos, so we would manage. We expected to only be in the country for two days.
We found ourselves on Highway #1, straight to Montevideo, just as we had planned. So far, so good.
Montevideo is a large city. You can see it before you cross the last river.
Parts of Montevideo were old, and we went through the costal dockyards before the road took us to the beaches and tourist areas. Some of the outer neighborhoods looked nice, but we didn't stop.
Lots of people were fishing from the broad sidewalks. They had large fishing poles, so whatever they were after, they were big. Many people were toting around their mate cups and thermoses. It was almost like an addiction, the way people would be doing various tasks while sipping from their cup and carrying a thermos under their arm. Mowing grass, carrying shopping bags, fishing.
So, okay, yerba mate is one of the healthiest beverages ever, I get it. Do a web search on 'yerba mate' and see what I mean.
Several beach areas in the inner city area, greenery and lawns, and an amusement park.
Montevideo photo interlude:
After cruising along the coast, we headed into the city to look for a central plaza area. Didn't find one, but we circled what must have been a large Central Park area with a soccer stadium and a concert arena. We needed neither, and would have traded either of them for a cheap hotel.
We left the city to find a hotel in the outskirts. Along the way, we passed a large, walled compound with the sign "Deutche Schule." The German influence was already becoming apparent. Don saw a large Italian school, too.
We got a nice little hotel and when I opened one of the plastic envelopes of Uruguay currency to pay, I found that it contained UP/1100, not a thousand as I had expected. That means that I was not shorted on the exchange at the airport when I returned from home. Sorry to have alarmed anyone. Everything is okay, move along.
We then walked next door to the shopping mall. Inside was a small food court area where a guy and a gal were playing music. Don went to McDonald's while I ate in the food court. Nice beef smothered in onions. McD's doesn't do that.
The beer was good, too. Beer is usually so dependable that way.
From what we were told, there is about 20 Uruguay Pesos to the Dollar, so each is worth about five cents.
Back in our hotel room, we discovered that when it was raised, the toilet seat kept you from getting to the in-wall toilet paper roll. Now, I ask you, don't you think someone would have noticed that before now? And how on earth does anyone install something that way? There is no explaining it.
Don took a photo of it, wishing that he had taken photos of all the goofy, stupid, ridiculous bathrooms we have encountered. It's worse than it looks in the photo.
While we were covering our bikes in the parking lot, another guest came over to us and chatted with us about our travels. Again, we didn't understand much of what he said, partly because of the local dialect and partly because he was really drunk. He ran off (twice, strangely) and came back (twice, unfortunately) with maps from the hotel office so that he could jam his stubby finger onto the map and then into my shoulder, insisting that we do this road and go to that place. Only when I promised that we would go on the coast road to Punta del Este would he relent. Then he added that Punta del Este was very expensive and people there drove Lamborghinis and had fat wallets. Great.
When a mosquito bit me and another landed on my face after we went to bed, we got back up and got our our nets. I hung mine from the curtains and draped it over my bed. Don assembled his Bug Hut. We still got bitten again during the night. The little buggers must have a SWAT team.
Sunday, 8 February, 2009
We were up and on the road early, taking a quick photo of the back of our hotel.
We stopped at a small deli along the road for breakfast. Since it was Sunday, lots of places were closed. Ironically, as much as we had had our fill of ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast, that's what we found again today. The sign in the window says that they have ham and cheese sandwiches, but that referred to some tiny finger-food snacks. They wouldn't make us a real ham and cheese sandwich, but they did sell us several slices of ham and cheese, and a bread roll. I added some yoghurt and juice, Don added a Coke.
We had parked our bikes along the service road, but when we walked to this deli, some men came and told us to move the bikes to this parking lot. I'm not sure if it was because we were infringing on someone else's parking spaces or if they were concerned on our behalf for the safety of our bikes. Either way, we moved the bikes and they left us alone.
We rode on for a while, stopping at a gas station so I could change my oil. I had a few hundred miles on the new piston and cylinder, so that should be then end of the break-in. I parked my bike next to their small garage and asked the mechanic if I could change my oil. He asked if I needed to buy oil, but I told him that I had some and only needed a pan to dump the old oil into. He gave me a pan and a rag (actually a fluff ball of shredded rags which worked really well), so I changed the oil and asked him what I owed him and what to do with the oil. He seemed surprised, and said that I owed him nothing and to just leave the oil there. I thought to tip him, but he was suddenly gone like a shot, working on someone else's car.
We got back on highway 8, north toward Punta del Este. Nice roads.
We came to another toll booth just as a group of riders clustered in front of us. The way to the moto bypass was blocked by a bus that was there for a while. Eventually, we got by.
As we neared Punta del Este, it was obvious that this was a wealthy area on it's own peninsula. This large beach was lined with big homes and new condo units like the one shown below. Most beaches had big hotels and tall apartment/condo buildings, but this beach probably housed the rich and famous.
Across the street from the beach condos were these new buildings.
Some beaches were very rocky, and were very pretty. These life-sized sculptures looked like metal, but I couldn't tell.
Most beaches looked like this--rocky on the ends and nice sand for most of it.
It was Sunday, and lots of people were enjoying the sun and sand.
These fingertips were in some of the tourist photos we had seen, so we stopped for photos. It reminded me of the hand that comes out of the Atacama desert in northern Chile.
Beach police on patrol. Work, work, work.
Away from the high-rise buildings, we came to a length of the highway that had many homes like this one. Huge single-family homes, although a few looked like small hotels. You would have to be very rich to afford any of these homes. I couldn't get a better photo of any, so this one will have to do.
As we left the peninsula, we crossed a river on this wild bridge. The humps are very abrupt, and you could get some air under your tires easily if you wanted to. No idea why it was designed like this. Big speed bumps?
Back on the mainland, we pulled in behind a gas station and found a small restaurant where we stopped for ice cream and something cold to drink.
We rode on. I saw lots of farms with cattle, emus, rheas, horses, some sheep. A lot of the country looked like this.
We went past many miles of farmland and forests that were covered in these mounds. We assumed they were anthills.
Near the city of Trienta Y Tres, our maps became inaccurate, and the GPS was worse. They must have done some significant re-routing of the highway here. We eventually found highway 18 to the border.
Don stopped to check his rear shock. Sure enough, it was leaking. It had been rebuilt in Rio Gallegos, in southern Argentina, but it only got him up this far before going out again. As we motored on, he was bouncing more and more. Fortunately, the roads were usually good.
We stopped short of the border at the Customs and Immigration checkpoint. One-stop shopping, folks. Step to the window for all your needs. The guy at the desk stamped us out of Uruguay (why? they never stamped us in) and took our bike import papers. Then he wanted something else that we couldn't understand. Once again, I fanned out my set of papers for the country, and found the odd slip of paper that the Customs gal at the BuqueBus depot in Buenos Aires had given me. That was what he needed, and he took that from me. I have no idea what it was for. Don didn't think that he had his odd, stamped piece of paper anymore and that caused us a moment of anxiety. But, yes, he still had it in his ever-fatter plastic bag of stuff that he has collected. The guy at the desk was happy, we were happy, everybody was happy.
Never exited a country so easily. Uruguay is easy.
Before we rode on, I noticed that one of Don's exhaust heat shield screws was missing and the other was loose. I had some steel zip-ties, so we reattached it with those. He had also left a small puddle of shock fluid.
We went the short distance to the border and stopped at a restaurant. We spent most of the Uruguay money that we still had, and were left with only a few small bills and some coins. The food was good, too. We didn't spend enough time in Uruguay.
On, then, to the border. The actual border was in the middle of this bridge. There was a Customs office built into it at each end, but they didn't seem interested in doing anything. A bus in front of us got stopped while they pretended to look at the luggage, but that took about 30 seconds. No other vehicle was stopped or looked at. We rode across, wondering if anyone cared that we had just entered Brazil.
I mean, we had gone through the trouble and expense of buying the visa, you know.
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Part 19 - Uruguay Up
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