20.01.2022 – 12.02. 2022.
The twenty three days of Uruguay were countless moments of joy, discoveries, new friendships and beautiful sunsets. Our excitement was getting bigger and bigger closer we got to the Brazil/Uruguay border. Jorge said that Uruguay felt like our adventure had finally started for real. We thought that we were well prepared to cross the border in these tough pandemic times. In Brazil, the border police barely looked at us; we had to remind them to put the stamp in my passport (Jorge didn’t need one) so I could prove I actually left the country. Uruguay here we come! The city of Chuy through which Brazil / Uruguay border crosses literally in the middle looks like a huge messy market with loads of shops advertising tax-free goods.
Sr. Cabrón Porsupuesto had all the documents, the gas tank was full and we had 26 BRL left in pockets (equivalent of around 4€ LOL). We checked the entry requirements for Uruguay: full Covid-19 vaccination check, PCR test check, special health insurance that covers Covid quarantine check; health form filled in… opppsieee; we totally forgot about that and it’s the first thing they asked us to show at the Uruguayan border. We’re surely not the first ones to have forgotten is because there’s a cyber café in Chuy in which a lady types up the declaration for you in 5 minutes and for the price of 4 euros (no credit cards accepted). Lucky us, travel vibes are on our side!
An hour into the travel through the flat lands of Uruguay (looks a lot like Belgian countryside, minus the palm trees), we reached the small city of Punta del Diablo where we got our first taste of what our next week in Uruguay will look like. Punta del Diablo was love at first sight. It’s a small hippie town with mud and sand roads and loads of bars and small artsy shops. We’ve spent only a couple of hours there, had a quick lunch and went to Barra de Valizas where we staid for a week.
Valizas is a small village that counts permanent inhabitants in hundreds. It is, however, a small piece of heaven for all those who want to wander in its countless dunes, catch a breeze coming from the Atlantic ocean and listen to the music of drum performed by local artists around the fire. It is close to Brazil so the Brazilian influence is obvious (food, caipirinhas, music).
We got to our little Airbnb “cabana” and got immediately impressed with a new lifestyle we’re about to have. The owners of the cabana have constructed it themselves, together with the outside kitchen and outside toilet and shower. Our “living room” was actually a place in the garden with two hammocks and our view was to the garden and the nearby improvised cabanas made of scraps of different materials melting into beautiful sunsets. Now, our days got another pace. We would wake up, fix a little breakfast, get some cold drinks and walk to for 5 minutes to the beach where we would spend time reading books, talking and just watching people enjoying their time on the beach. The evenings were dedicated to sunset walks and exploring the forests and the dunes surrounding us. Not a single worry on our minds.
Our Airbnb hosts have their house near the cabana and they were the first Uruguayans that showed us what Uruguayan hospitality means. They made us feel very welcome from the start, gave us veggies from their garden and invited us for the best vegetarian bbq I ever had. We drank wine and played music around the fire with them and had the best time talking about their and our travel adventures and cultures.
Since Valizas is very tiny, we decided to go for an excursion to a nearby hippie village called Cabo Polonio. It is placed in a nature reserve and you cannot access it by car. The options are either walking 7 km across the dunes or taking a fun truck ride. With temperature reaching over 30 degrees, truck ride was our only option. It’s a bumpy road with nothing but dunes and a few trees around to reach Cabo, but jumping in your seat for half an hour is fun on its own. The village itself is another picture perfect, “instagramable” place great for an afternoon stroll to the lighthouse and sitting on rocks watching lazy seals sunbathing.
After a week in Valizas, we hit the road to further explore Uruguay. On the way to the famous Punta del Este, we stopped for a quick coffee in the village La Paloma. We visited the most Incredible beach with enormous waves, the purest sand and cute little chiringuitos. We regretted not having stayed a bit longer there but were nevertheless excited about exploring the bigger cities of Uruguay and Punta del Este was the next city on our map.
Punta del Este is often described as the (socialite) party city; not really our thing but we were eager to explore it anyway. We booked a hostel room some 9 km from the city itself. We strolled the area, tried famous chivitos and enjoyed the hammocks in the hostel. In Punta del Este we strolled the rambla and watched the waves crushing against the pavement. The most impressive, however, was actually a visit to Casapueblo, a building (now museum) constructed by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. Crazy beautiful architecture and impressive views from the terraces of the museum made our day. Vilaró’s art is my cup of tea, and I completely fell in love with his works (and even bought a reprint of one of his drawings).
And then, it was time for Montevideo. Montevideo’s seemingly endless rambla offers a satisfaction of walking near the sea for kilometers, clearing your mind, admiring the waves and observing the people spending the evenings on beach and on green lawns sipping on their mate, doing yoga, running and biking. Obviously, the nicest part of Montevideo is its historic center, la ciudad vieja. It was a warm Sunday when we visited the old town, and many things were closed so we didn’t get the real city vibe but we did manage to leave our card in the ATM and extend our trip in Montevideo for another day in the attempt to retrieve the card.
Thankfully, all the Uruguayans (but seriously ALL of them) we met are really really kind and helpful. The lady at the bank gave us our card back (even though it is not their policy when it comes to international cards) and wished us a great trip. Montevideo (like the rest of Uruguay) is also about parrilla (Uruguayan bbq) and so we had to try it. Apparently, the best place to try it is the Market at the Port of Montevideo; Jorge agreed after having a huge steak.
But, the best of Uruguay was yet to come. We embarked on our first Workaway adventure right after leaving Montevideo. We connected with the Brazilian family who recently arrived to a village near the city of Colonia del Sacramento and we were really happy to read that they accepted our request to stay with them for a couple of weeks. We were a little nervous since it was our first Workaway experience but it turned out to be our best 12 days in Uruguay. As soon as we arrived Manu, Hugo and their kids Nina and Tomé welcomed us with a big smile and showed us around.
They live in a huge hotel placed in this green, absolutely zen heaven surrounded by fields and animals. Manu and Hugo told us about their crazy adventure of how they got to Uruguay just a month and a half prior to our arrival (as Workawayers). Then life gave them an opportunity to stay and manage the hotel and advance their business and raise their children in the most beautiful surroundings. They both work very hard but always have smile on their faces, always time for a coffee and a chat, and so much love, patience and attention for their super smart and creative kids. Their stories are funny but also really inspirational and motivational and we really feel like we acquired new friends in the world, a friendship that we will always appreciate and cherish.
We spent our days talking about many different things with Manu and Hugo, playing with Nina and Tomé, painting the walls of their house and admiring the green, peaceful heaven we were staying at. It was also great to stay in one place for a while, have a bit of routine (do some manual work was great for us), have a swim in the pool, see the progress of the work and just share the meal and sip coffee with this wonderful family. If you’re reading this guys, thank you so much! We miss you already and cannot wait to see you again!
Other pleasurable moments during these two weeks were day trips and evening dates in Colonia. It’s a small town with loads of history and loads of beautiful beaches (on Rio Plata river), streets, cafés and restaurants and some of the most incredible sunsets.
The time in Colonia has passed so quickly. It was difficult to leave our new friends; we were sad when we hugged them goodbye but we knew it was time to continue the exploration and that one day we will go back to see these incredible 4 and their beautiful home.
Several hours after leaving Colonia, we were crossing the border to Argentina where our new adventures took off quite well.