Driving 'The Beast' through South-America

Uruguay: A vast, green country

by Isabelle Demaeght, October 18, 2018

I look out over an idyllic little lake. There is a peaceful silence here, only the twittering of birds and the rustling of palm trees in the background can be heard. We spend our last days in Uruguay at the San Nicanor Thermal Spa, some twenty kilometers from the Argentine border.

San Nicanor

Finally, on October 5, we finally landed and said goodbye to our French friends. Thanks to a friendly agent (hired by Grimaldi), the importation of the car at customs and immigration for ourselves went very smoothly.

Dancing the Tango in Montevideo We had made a reservation for an overnight stay at the organic farm of Serena (of Swiss nationality) and Matthias (Uruguayan). This farm (where we stayed the next three nights) is only half an hour away from the capital city of Montevideo. From there we visited the lively city (by bus). The people were cheerful and dancing the tango in a square.... An elderly man politely asked Adriaan if I could be invited to a dance. With that, a dream of mine came true: dancing a tango :) We used the remaining time in Montevideo to give our luggage a permanent place in our car.

Dancing the Tango in Montevideo

From Montevideo we drove north-west and by the evening of Tuesday we ended up in the National Park "Salto del Penitente" near the city of Minas. The park ranger offered us to sleep in the parking lot because there would be no one in the park. We did not follow her advice and parked the car in the park, in a place with horses running loose. We spent the night away from civilization, with no electricity, lights or cell phone signal. Even sanitation was missing (because it was at that parking lot). At night we were awakened by a snoring sound coming from the bushes behind us. We couldn't make it out, but we were sitting upright in bed!

Some horses recognize the scent of a banana

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday at the coast: Punto del Diablo. Since spring started here about ten days ago, everything is being prepared for the summer (high) season. Also our camping place could use some improvement works. The sanitary facilities were very rundown. The coastline of Uruguay is very attractive for tourists but still very deserted. We hiked along the beach for 19 kilometers, spotted seals and enjoyed the spring sunshine.

It is not always rosy when we open our eyes in the morning. Friday turned into a cold rainy day for the first time. After some lingering in the morning, we took a cab to the restaurant "La Rueda" in the town of Tacuarembo. The entire back wall of the bar is occupied by a giant grill with a lot of meat on it. Steak, chorizo, tripe, ribs, tripe, chicken, sweetbreads lie next to the "main fire" and are kept warm with smoldering coals. We are just in time for the midday meal so we just tasted everything. My language falls short to describe the taste of this steak.

An enormous grill

In the afternoon, looking for charcoal for our grill, we were invited to a couple's home who gave us their charcoal. We both went to the hairdresser. Adriaan looks neat again. My hairdresser didn't get it right. My hair was not washed, but a small section of my curls were removed. A straightener was abruptly put in my hair. The result was not what I had in mind.

On Saturday, we arrived at the thermal spa. A paradise on earth. When we are ready we will travel further and cross the border into Argentina. I will continue to remember Uruguay as a sparsely populated, beautiful country, with vast green pastures where screaming Gauchos on horseback herd the cattle.

Horse mounted Gaucho

I should have paid a little more attention in the year I took Spanish, because my poor knowledge is definitely a shortcoming. People are very friendly and not shy of a chat but often it just slips by me :(

With the two of us, we usually end up intuitively (admittedly sometimes with the help of a special app) in special places. The biggest problems we have is about what meals we will choose. We really like traveling without any stress and little planning. I am very grateful for it and happy about it.