Uruguay has always been something like a child of a lesser god .Nowadays after two centuries living in the shadow of its neighbours ,Brazil and Argentina South America’s smallest country is finally getting a little well-deserved recognition. Progressive, stable, safe and culturally sophisticated, Uruguay offers to it’s visitors the ‘not made for tourists’ moments.
As we drove out of the customs of the port of Montevideo we felt definitely a sense of freedom.After taking care of the basic needs in supplies we needed to head straight for the beach no matter what. The choice was difficult as they were 340km of sweep beaches, dunes, forests and lagoons stretching northeast of Montevideo . Still largely unknown except to Uruguayans and their immediate neighbours, this region lies almost deserted for 10 months of each year, then explodes with summer activity from Christmas to Carnaval. Unfortunately for us and although not ready for something like that we had to compromise with the crowds and the high season prices that come with it and seek a campsite near Punta del Este in La Barra. Our advise is to try and make it here slightly off-season, and you’ll experience all the same beauty for literally half the price. After four days of sheer fun-in-the-sun energy and unwinding moments we left Punta del Este with direction Colonial de Sacramento. Colonial seats on the east bank of the Río de la Plata, 180km west of Montevideo, but only 50km from Buenos Aires by ferry, is a picturesque town and an Unesco World Heritage site. Its Barrio Histórico, an irregular colonial-era nucleus of narrow cobbled streets, occupies a small peninsula jutting into the river. As mention earlier it was part of our plan to return this way later so after two nights by the river we pushed further north on the Rio de la Plata in Mercedes a cattle driven city by the river on the way to the border with Argentina.
As time was short we left Uruguay’s exploration for later in our itinerary and pushed to the city of Tigre ,35km north of Buenos Aires in Argentina. The surrounding delta region is a popular weekend getaway for porteños (People from Buenos Aires) that enjoy the latte-colored waters, tinted by sediment flow through Rio de la plata , the third-largest river delta in the world. We took a glimpse into how locals live along peaceful canals, with boats as their only transportation while weekend visitors enjoy all off water-related activity sports , from kayaking and canoeing to fast speed boat roaming up and down the canals before it was time for us to get back on the road.
This time was Ruta 3 a 30630km highway that would lead us from the capital to the end of the world and to the 55 degrees location South in Ushuaia.First stop on this long way south was Mar Del Plata, a classic Argentine beach destination, 400km down the coast . ‘Mardel’ is popular with people from all over the country – a little too popular, in fact. If you end up here on a summer weekend, you’ll be guaranteed to say ‘Wow, this beach is crowded.’ We were not interested in spending time on its comically packed sands, watching street performers on the beachside Plaza Colón so we moved to Mar Azul an area with a bit more space that used to be a glamorous seaside resort in the 1950s and ’60s, a fact that can be noticed in the elegant architecture that most villas of the area have. Further south along the way and after a quick overnight in a place called Pedro Loro ,a river side beautiful village found by the help of a lovely local, just outside Bahia Blanca, worth mentioning stop was the Puerto Piramides in Peninsula Valdez that unfortunately we were out of season for the main attraction – the whales- so the whole experience in the Parque National felt a bit overpriced as we only got to hang out with some cute penguins and some smelly sea lions. Puerto Piramides itself now is built on sandy cliffs overlooking bright blue seas.This sleepy old salt port bustles with tour buses and visitors in orange life jackets. Whales mean whopping and ever-growing tourism here, but at the end of the day the tour buses depart and life in this two-street town regains its slow pace. The Ruta 3 as it moves south it becomes more and more boring with the only thing to keep you from not falling asleep while driving the absolute straight parts of it is the strong winds that can literally move you out of the way in milliseconds . With so strong winds the plants slowly disappear and giveaway to small pushes and to a desert looking landscape.The animal life throughout Ruta 3 is another think that can keep you going .Rada Tilly (Seals and Sea lions), Puerto San Julian(Penguin colonies) and Rio Gallegos were our stopovers with only the second being something more than an overnight stop worth spending a bit more time according to us. We were not so lucky in spotting penguins except a small number in Puerto Piramides along the way, but we came up close and personal with elephant seals in a deserted beach outside Caleta Oliva something that came as a very pleasant surprise after the not so impressive encounter with them from miles away In Peninsula Valdez . With this side of Patagonia completed it was time to enter Tiera del Fuego, the southernmost extreme of the Americas. This windswept archipelago is as alluring as it is moody. Beautiful, ancient and strange this island attracts travellers for the ends-of-the-earth novelty ,soon to discover a destination that’s far more complex than that . In Tierra del Fuego, nature is with bold and reckless, from the scoured plains and mossy forests to the snowy ranges above the Beagle Channel. While distant and isolated, Tierra del Fuego is by no means cut off from the mainland, though the Argentine half is far more developed than its Chilean counterpart.This archipelago features one large island, Isla Grande, Chile’s Isla Navarino and many smaller uninhabited ones.We crossed the Chilean part only to reenter the Argentinian an hour or so further down and drove straight to Ushuaia. A busy port and adventure hub, Ushuaia is a sliver of steep streets and jumbled buildings below the snowcapped Martial Range. Here the Andes meet the southern ocean in a sharp skid, making way for the city before reaching a sea of lapping currents. Ushuaia’s location is matched only by few, and the chest-beating city takes full advantage of its end-of-the-world status as increasing number of Antarctica-bound vessels and cruise boats call in to port. 3500 people were in to town when we first went throw it after a quite night sleep 15km out in the municipality camping overlooking the snow-capped mountains.You get the idea . That said, with a pint of the world’s southernmost microbrew in hand and one of the best -carne empanadas – we have found, this place definitely can capture your imagination and spending time here should be in any adventure seekers bucket list. One thing is sure that for us sure was.
At this point of time and after driving the only mud road further south of the city we could find on the GPS ,we had reached the southern point of our trip the 55th parallel South.Just to be exact though and although Rochelle tried to be illegal and enter some private reserve in order to reach our goal in reality the road ended on 54. 97184. This was the turnaround point and for now onwards we headed back North taking in the western and more exiting route through some of the most remote areas in the world but I will leave this for our next post so I can keep you exited.
The 55th parallel South was reached and the feeling of accomplishing a goal is overwhelming us and at the same time gives us more energy to move on as we tick off out of our long list of places to be and thing to do in the 11North 55 South Journey . The trip goes on and the best are still ahead of us………..