It goes without saying that to travel for long periods over vast expanses, you have to be less tied to the idea of arriving and more to the means by which you arrive and the opportunities along the way. While there are myriad different ways of getting from A to who knows, some are certainly superior to others; on the roof of a jeepney through the Philippines, a sleeper carriage across the plains of India or teetering on two wheels through the deserts of Mexico definitely count as some of the best, anything to avoid coach travel which is predominantly the default mode anywhere you go (unless in countries like Myanmar where you are forced into more unconventional and interesting methods)
Having done little to no research prior to leaving and with an embarrassing lack of geography knowledge in this part of the world, finding a water crossing from Argentina to Uruguay was a lovely surprise given that my transport top three reads as:
1. Two wheels (engine optional)
2. Train (preferably with rickety wooden carriages and huge gaps between which you can pretend your a dog in the wind or smoke cigars)
3. Boats (especially with sails made from U.S. food aid bags)
That being said, despite it beauty, leaving Buenos Aires through the waters of its industrial port is like getting married in a French chateau and driving off to your honeymoon in a 90s Renault Espace. No offence to Renault Espace owners, but you have no taste.
Thankfully on the Uruguayan side of El Río De La Plata (you can choose to go to the capital Montevideo as well further East if you prefer) is the picture postcard town and world heritage site of Colonia Del Sacramento.
With its tree lined cobbled streets and low-rise colonial villas it reminded me a great deal of Trinidad in Cuba, although with far more trees which seems to be a nice common trend in urban areas here.
Set out in a grid, surrounded on three sides by unusually verdant coastline, I challenge anyone not to be completely delighted by the place. Indeed after the bustling excitement of Buenos Aires, sitting in the historical squares, watching the sun set over the sea surrounded by Uruguayans sipping their maté allowed me the the first period of reflection since leaving. A reminder of the beauty and variety that can be found on the road. If nothing else, affirmation that for now, spending my savings on the travel is still the best way to go.
As if to compound my feelings of positivity and at one-ness (sorry this is descending into an existential one) I was joined by a particularly attractive feline who sat with me for quite some time as I fed her the majority of my cheese and olive empanada – I went through the whole of Mexico entirely incorrect in thinking these pastry packages of goodness, and bastion of vegetarian comida in a see of beef, were Mexican when they are in fact Argentinian. After about an hour she stalked off into the reeds, skinny as she was, tailed by two kittens so I was very happy to see her some time later crossing my path again with a mouse in her jaws, still trailed by her tiny kittens. I called her Gatito.
In need of some beaches I am pondering heading East towards Cabo Polonio via the capital Montevideo.
Until then, hasta luego
Vashti Bunyan – Diamond Day