15 February 2009

Uruguay 2009, part 2: Colonia

Callecita (by pablodf)
A Colonia street

Vieja ciudad (by pablodf)
Another street in Colonia

Puerto de Colonia (by pablodf)
Little boats on Colonia's port

Espiral de madera (by pablodf)
A wooden sculpture by Ricardo  Pascale
We arrived in Colonia del Sacramento on the sun-filled noon of Friday, January 31. They made us disembark through a long tube with many turns; we were led to the customs office, and there, mysteriously, all the forms we'd had to fill in to become temporary immigrants into Uruguay were rendered unnecessary by a simple gesture and the words "keep going, keep going" from the guy who checked the luggage. So we took our bags and entered the country just like that, though we were still looking over our shoulders in case some official was coming after us.

The hostel we would be lodged in was a few blocks from the port and on an upward slope, but we managed to get there with our heavy stuff (Marisa was carrying a long backpacker's backpack; I'd taken a wide military-type backpack with a steel frame; both also carried extra bags). The hostel was an old house with lots of tile floors, flowers and shade and quiet.

We had only booked one night in Colonia, so that afternoon we spent touring the older part of the city, wandering along cobbled streets, visiting the port, the small beach of the Old Town, the remains of the ancient wall of the fort, and lighthouse, which we climbed right before sunset. We watched a kart race on General Flores Ave., which was closed to other traffic and full of people: a noisy and at first sight very dangerous event that seemed to us rather alien to its context.

Colonia is, no doubt, but also sells itself as, a picturesque place, away from noise and modern urban decadence, and beautifully preserved. The tourists, mostly high-class porteños and middle-aged foreigners with delicate skins, are after that. Young backpackers and traveling artisans you will find, too, as everywhere else, but these belong to a different kind. We young Argentinians from the inner country, on a budget and without any chance to take away anything (not leather, not carved wood, anything but photographed memories) were also a little alien there.

Here, on our first day in Uruguay, we found out that ice cream is not the forte of this country. What was served to us on a corner of Colonia was a half-melted mass of cream with little flavour and too much colouring, which cost us twice what a larger, much tastier ice cream would have cost us in Rosario. (Rosario, in case you didn't know, is the National Capital of Artisan's Ice Cream. The title sounds pretentious, if I may say so as a native, only until you taste the ice cream that is made in other places.)

The next day we only had time for a brief final tour, on a cool morning, along the coast of the river-sea. We were ready and set for the two-hour trip to the capital, Montevideo.

To be continued...

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