This post is a little late since this story happened nearly 2 months ago when Rodrigo and I headed to Buenos Aires for three days before we headed across the Atlantic to South Africa (another post will come soon about the Bright Red Backpack returning home…). Whilst in BA, we decided to hop across the Rio de la Plata (which is wide enough to actually look like the ocean) to a small town called Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay.
But I have to rewind a bit to the night before in BA in order for you to understand how our one day in Uruguay started off. We had wanted to check in online for our flight to South Africa on the Friday, but a nasty surprise was in store for us. The booking code for my flight was all fine and I was confirmed, but for some reason the SAA website would not take the code for Rodrigo’s flight. I had visions of him not getting on the plane with me on Friday and that stressed us both out. But it was late at night and we could not phone the SAA office in Chile through which the flight had been booked. We were also leaving on the ferry for Uruguay super early the next day, so Plan B we was to try and phone them from Colonia. As soon as we were off the ferry Rodrigo tried to phone, but annoyingly the roaming function on his cellphone was taking us around in circles without being able to connect to the correct number. Plan C then entailed us having to find an internet café to try and phone from.
But before doing that we decided to rent a golf cart to get around on since we only had one day and wanted to get the ticket issue sorted out as quickly as possible. The first hurdle in the hiring process was that my drivers licence was expired and Rodrigo didn’t have one either. But that didn’t seem to be too much of a problem for the company…they basically told me that as long as I obeyed the rules of the road and drove with confidence I shouldn’t get stopped by the local police and thus the licence would not be an issue. The key part of that sentence was “with confidence”. Not only was this the first time I had driven any kind of vehicle in 19 months, but it was also the first time I had driven on the other side of the road. Confident was the last thing I felt.
Thank goodness golf carts are actually rather easy to drive, especially since they are automatic. So off we went in search of an internet café or somewhere to phone Chile from. After asking two different people for directions, we found our way to the local telephone company’s store, only to be told that they only accepted Uruguayan currency. So off in search of a Bureau de Change and back to the shop. Long story short, the SAA office basically said they had no idea why their website was not accepting the code and he was definitely on the flight the next day…huge sigh of relief and we could both finally relax and enjoy exploring the town.
So with me as driver and Rodrigo as map reader we headed off to see the old historical town. I soon became confident enough driving the golf cart and thankfully the local drivers seem quite accustomed to crazy tourists hurtling around town in the carts (kind of like the locals in Mendoza, Argentina being used to drunk tourists cycling around the vineyards on bicycles).
The only thing that I found strange was driving a vehicle that had absolutely no rear-view mirrors…
A brief history of Colonia: the historical part of the city was declared the first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Uruguay in 1995. The city was founded in 1680 by the Portuguese, but had various periods throughout its history when it swopped between Portuguese and Spanish rule until it became permanently Spanish in 1778. So it is a town with a very interesting mixture of architectural styles, best described through photos.
I am not too sure why, but Uruguay and especially Colonia, are known for many antique cars…
But besides the cars, which made me think back to Guy and the little yellow Citroen 3CV, Colonia was also full of beautiful, cobble-stoned streets and small houses.
Being one of the main tourist attractions in Uruguay, Colonia has its fair share of fancy restaurants and cafes dotted around the old streets.
But despite every one of them vying for the tourist trade, we skipped them all and on the advice of the lady at the golf cart shop, we headed to the carito on the main square. This is basically like a kebab van in the UK and sells very typical local food very cheap.
Too soon, our day exploring Colonia came to an end and we caught the ferry back across the river to Argentina. Uruguay, even though it is one of the smallest and least populated countries in South America, is well-renowned. Not only from a sporting perspective…Football world champions twice and Copa America champions 16 times, but also because of the people…very friendly and welcoming. Definitely another reason to visit again and explore more of the country!