Before I start the following is worth noting:
Most people or any Google search will tell you that if you go to Iguazu Falls from BA that in order to get to Uruguay you should go back to BA and get the ferry across (bare in mind that the bus back to BA is 18hours!). We had no interest in doubling back on ourselves so we got a bus from Iguazu to Concordia (border town, Argentina side) and got a taxi (local buses go but we missed it by 10minutes and there was 4 of us so getting the short taxi was reasonable) across border to Salto (border town, Uruguy side). From Salto many buses go direct to Montevideo. Simples.
Ok, so when we got to Salto, guess what, it was a national holiday, I’m beginning to makes a habit of this, the buses were not running as frequently as normal but we still set off after only a couple of hours waiting. No big deal. The bus to Montivedeo was uneventful but comfortable much like the Argentinian buses. Only a 6 hour journey to the capital this time and the countryside reminded me a lot of Ireland. I got a nice little home away from home feeling so I was looking forward to exploring this part of South America.
At this point I should probably mention that we made some more ‘travel friends’ for the Uruguay leg of the trip. When we were getting the bus from Iguazu to Concordia we noticed two other girls who looks like they were making a similar trip to Montivedeo. Arleta and Arnena, sisters from Poland, had planned on doing some sightseeing in Montivedeo and then renting a car and driving the coast of Uruguay. We hadn’t much of a plan for Uruguay apart from the fact we wanted to see it! So this was perfect for us to tag along since we planned on heading up that way anyway to Brazil.
When we arrived in Montevideo it was evening time, dark, so we decided to grab food and get an early night. The next morning we got up and explored the city of Montivedeo on foot. The city has a real charm about it and some of the architecture is fantastic. Unlike BA where some classical older structures are mixed between some newer modern buildings, here many of the newer buildings were still designed with a classical look. Dotted around the city were some older shops and markets laid out in a manner you might expect in a small village. This really added to the charm of the city.
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Uruguay was based on what Sinead had told me about the last president (I had not heard of him at all before). He donated his wages to charity, never lived in the presidential house, legalized weed and drove his own car (a banged up old beetle). We even came across a shop growing weed in the middle of the town.
If ever lost, people were as helpful as could be and it seemed like the sort of place that would be full of laid back and friendly people. And that it was. ould be, oh and Arleta spoke Spanish so we could communicate pretty well for once!
The people we met in our hostel dorm were a very different bunch of characters but again friendly as you could imagine. The three men in the dorm seemed to be living there, at least for a short while. One was a younger Rastafarian looking guy with a funny laugh who called himself a professional musician To be fair he was good on the guitar but I’m not sure if his Spanish singing was good or not! One had some sort of dress up costume (fake mustache, hat with a fake bird on it Etc.), I’m not sure what he was. Finally the last guy, Alejandro had a tool box and was a bit of a ‘fixer’ I think.
Alejandro was a bit of a talker but I had no Spanish so I just observed as he burned the ear off Arleta more than once. There is a local tea (mate) that is very popular in Uruguay and Argentina that he had and was more than happy to share with us. It’s always nice to try local traditions. Basically there is a cup filled with tea leaves that has a silver (alpaca) straw, that looks a bit like a spoon, in it and you carry your own flask of hot water to keep adding as you need. It’s seems a strange idea to carry it all about with you but the locals are more than happy with the set up.
The next day we rented a car and headed up the coast. It was only as we started to move by the coast, still in Montevideo, that I noticed how beautiful the coastline of the city was. The beaches and seaside apartments combined nicely for a fresh seafront layout.
Once outside the city I continued to notice the similarities in Irish countryside, although I must admit as we went further north a few palm trees were appearing that you wouldn’t see back home!
Our first main stop along the coast was Punta Del Este. This coastal city, appeared a bit like a playground for the rich and famous. Don’t get me wrong it’s a lovely place and worth a visit if you are in this part of the world but as you look at the countless apartments and fancy houses u can’t help but notice the closed shutters and blinds in the middle of the day, suggesting the town is more of a summer retreat for those who can afford it.
We tried to make a couple of stops on the coastal route, at a lagoon, a sea lion gathering spot, and even the lovely Punta Del Diablo for some whale watching (probably pushing our luck with that one anyway!) but we seemed to time everything slightly off with things either being closed or it getting too dark. Punta Del Diablo struck me as the sort of place I’d like to have seen in the summer, or at least a little brighter than when we arrived. A little village by the coast with a nice beach and only dirt track roads. Reminded me of a little seaside town I once visited in Sri Lanka called Arugam Bay. Quaint.
All day long we talked about where to stop for food, should we just get coffee and then food later, should we get lunch and a bite to eat later… In the end we settled on peanuts, oranges and biscuits in the back of the car until we got to Punta Del Diablo but by the time we got there it was dark and most places were closed so we decided to push food back even further. The biscuits had well run low at this stage so we were all eager to get to the border town of Chuy, or Chui if you are on the Brazil side. This is where we would get our bus to start the Brazil 3 week adventure. We went for dinner and settled our bill of who each owed each other what for our little Uruguay group trip (download Tricount app – great for keeping track of different peoples payments and splitting bills etc.). In the end, based on the fact that I slept in while the girls went and paid to rent the car and buy bus tickets that morning, it was clear that I was the only one that owed anyone anything. My bad. Anyway, with all that sorted, it was time to say goodbye to our Polish friends!
Sinead had booked the bus tickets while in Montevideo so now that we were fed and in Chuy (where our bus leaves from to go to Brazil) all we had to do is find the bus stop. Easy right?! Nothing is ever straight forward but that is part of the fun of a trip like this. We had thought the bus stop was just around the corner from the place we had eaten so we waited in the restaurant until about 30 minutes before our bus was due to arrive. Then we went around the corner… To the nonexistent bus stop… I know, why didn’t we check before food when we had time, well we thought we seen the stop, but I guess the hunger caught up with us and we were seeing things! So now our fantastic buddy and translator Arleta had gone, we had to try and find out where the bus stop was from our restaurateur. He, with the help of google translate, told us that he was sure that we had to go back to immigration to get the bus, this was 2km back down the road, we were full of pizza, had no money left for a taxi and had big backpacks on our backs and had 15 minutes to get there. No matter. No time like the present for a run. Back we went to immigration, in time for the bus but the time comes and no bus arrives. But at least we made a new friend.
We laughed for a bit, and when we would see lights in the distance every now and again (it’s after midnight at this point) and hope it’s our bus but invariably it would be a car or a truck. 1 hour late, approaching 1am, our bus finally arrived and it was time to get the Brazilian adventure started. This time as we sat into our seats on the bus two Irish people from Dublin are sitting next to us. Maybe we have a new group for Brazil already, who knows. Until next time. Adios!
Tips and Prices:
We met some people who were renting a car in Montevideo so we joined in and helped pay for rental, petrol and tolls until we reached the border to Brazil. So I don’t have any information on bus times or prices.
Bus from Uruguay/Brazil border town to Florianopolis. Over night bus, same comfort level as before, no food, 12 hours.
*if you are getting this bus, the pick up point is the immigration station on the edge of town, not inside the town itself which some blogs and the person in Montivedeo station selling the tickets seem to suggest!
**If you get this bus from Montivedeo it will be 4 hours longer.