Uruguay is on my mind on these autumn days. As I go through the motions of daily life, I catch myself often thinking of it. I am starting to get restless for the road again.
Uruguay was the first country on a three-month itinerary I embarked on through Latin America earlier this year. An extended stint of travel was something I had wanted to do for years. Finally an opportunity presented itself and I took it, investing a good portion of my savings.
Uruguay is a small country sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina. It is Spanish-speaking and has a population of around 3.5 million. It is considered one of the most socially developed nations in the world. Cannabis, abortion and same-sex marriage are all legal in Uruguay.
I remember my jet-lag-induced nervousness as the plane descended into Montevideo, the country’s capital, through layers of dark clouds. I had never been to South America before and I was excited, terrified and extremely happy.
The first destination my travelling companion and I had planned on reaching was the surfing enclave of Punta del Diablo in the east of the country. The six hour bus journey there from Montevideo was frightening.
It began to rain torrentially as the bus left town. In the lush green of the countryside the rivers were swollen and flooding the road. Lightening tore through the air every five minutes. I was surprised to be alive when the bus finally trundled into Punta del Diablo, unscathed.
The hurricane (as we were told it was later) lasted for most of our time in Punta del Diablo. We took many a walk along the Atlantic when the winds calmed a little, and managed to get some surfing in too. Mostly we talked with the travellers trapped in our hostel with us, sharing stories late into the night.
Our next stop was the tiny hippie outcrop of Cabo Polonio, on the tip of a national park. Life there is rudimentary, the surroundings rugged and beautiful. As evening falls, from the lighthouse, sometimes you can spot a raft of sea lions diving in the ocean.
Returning to Montevideo after ten days of relative wilderness was a strange experience. We rented a room in an apartment on Maldonado, and our hosts were gracious. We visited the fascinating Torres Garcia museum and ate empanadas.
Our final stop in Uruguay was the picturesque town of Colonia del Sacramento, founded by the Portuguese in 1680. We stayed in a sort of treehouse in the neighbouring countryside and walked beside vineyards with our landlord’s dogs. Turning back on our final day we saw the endless sprawl of Buenos Aires across river, our next destination.