So it goes that I have spent a great deal of time blogging of late. Fair enough, I think, no riding, no blogging.
Quite a lot has come to pass in my life in the last month. Getting to Brazil was a bit of a dare, but now that the real business of cycling is about to start it’s worth giving you, my adoring public, a run down of the coming and goings of a not so lonely WarkAwayer.
Returning to the hostel after four days on the road is good, my Español is improving much faster in the presence of people. Turns out I missed a couple of French cycle tourists in their seventies that spent a night and recalled tall tales of travelling by bike. I always like meeting other locos like me, it makes me feel part of something bigger, perhaps even a movement.
Little time for rest though, the day after coming back the long awaited Gonzalo birthday bash is upon us and the hostel is invaded by an horde of alcohol and dope infused revellers. A night to remember especially as I live almost every last second of it going to bed at a quarter to six in the morning.
The party is great and it is followed a week later by another, even bigger, party. This time the annual gathering of the Barbe clan, the mother side of Martin’s family. All together 95 between first and second cousins, aunts and uncles are expected. In the end only just about 74 turn up but it’s more than enough to raise the barn. The whole thing is enlightening on the way family is both big and important in Uruguay. The people are beyond lovely and genuinely make me feel one of the them (mas o meno the occasional football joke).
After that life rolls by quietly on till Christmas. The number of guests steadily increasing but without reaching the levels that Martin is expecting. I make more friends and connect with more people that I could ever visit in a lifetime, and yet they insist on me going to see them or stay with them as my travels unfold. The list of people that will leave a lasting impression in my mind after these seven or so weeks in the Hostel Punta Ballena Bar is to long and I am just sorry I have not more pictures of all of them to support my fading memory.
Last guests of note are a couple of cycle tourists from Santiago who are in need of my toolbox and my handy skills with the rear derailer. I fix it and got a mega smile from Jen. I have of late found out I’m a bit of a sucker for smiles, especially those big eyed semi-sarky ones I used to get most days from Tarn. Those don’t come by very often, even though, as a sarkoholic I liberally spray sarcasm on my surrounding.
So departure time is coming and the idea is to gather all the people that were around the most in the time in the hostel and have a final attempt at protein suicide.
I pick up Martin’s motorbike and head for Punta del Este where the local branch of the Tienda Ingles (note that in many country Ingles is synonym with quality) has a meat counter to die for. The plan is to get a whole lamb and to BBQ it, unfortunately they only have a frozen one and there is no time to defrost and cook it for the evening.
Plan B includes: 7Kg of ribs, 3Kg of roast meat, and another Kg of variously shaped cholesterol rich delights. All of this was accompanied by 4 baguettes and no vegetables, as I know there are a few tomatoes and 4 potatoes at the hostel.
In the end there are eleven of us and most of the stuff gets eaten washed down by: three bottles of wine, countless litre bottles of beer and two litre bottles of Jonny Walker Black Label.
Consuming that amount of meat with the corresponding amount of whiskey, and wine for good measure, and finally sharing in the totally legal and quality crop of smoke available in the country had the predictable result of delivering me a barely warm corpse in the morning.
I stagger from bed to amok and from amok to the bench all morning. Have a little to eat, pack up and elect to leave on the bike for the 25 miles ride to the Jaureguiberry to stay with Max (an Italian researcher here since two years ago to study marine stuff). The plan is to sleep there tonight and then tomorrow ride to Montevideo to stay with Maria Lucia (Martin’s cousin). Thursday get a bus to Colonia and the ferry to Buenos Aires on Friday.
But I am really in no state to go anywhere on a bike. Mother of all life buoys, like a sign from above, a message comes to me heralding the good news that Livia is coming to say goodbye on her way to Montevideo. Predictably I ditch the last shred of pride I have left in me, abandon the riding plan and in the process both Max and Maria Lucia, and drive Livia, the bike and all the rest to the city in one fell swoop.
Livia is the daughter of an Uruguajan painter called Miguel Fabruccini who moved to Florence aged 25 and, bewitched by the beauty of my former country never left. Being here to visit family she had use of a flat in Montevideo and that’s where I ended up staying for a couple of nights.
We have a great time drinking and eating in the old town and I catch up with other friends while she is seeing relatives. Thursday comes and it’s time to catch another bus for Colonia del Sacramento, the last bit of Uruguay to be seen before getting on the boat to Argentina.
The stop in Colonia turns out to be full of surprises, first I meet up with Maral and Ugur, a Turkish couple that sailed down here from Turkey on their maiden voyage. I had met them for the first time at Gonzalo’s party and it is truly amazing running into them again. We have a chat and a walk and they invite me for coffee on the boat the morning after.
Yes that is the morning where I am supposed to go to Buenos Aires, but wait I’m not going now. I had manage to convince Livia to ditch the evening family gathering and to join me on a day outing to see Colonia, it turns out she had been meaning to come for many years but on way or another it always got swept aside.
Colonia is a magic pace, it’s gorgeous in the day, and unbelievably enchanted at night. It is rather small and compact and it does not take much walking to get round but it’s the true photograph paradise with hundreds of views clustered into amazing landscapes.
The morning is busy. I get myself at the boat at ten and there I find additional friends of Maral and Ugur who, instantly, as it is down here, become my friends too. We spend a fab couple of hours drinking coffee and talking of, well, everything, then Ugur and myself head for land, he to fetch supply, me to fetch Livia from the bus station.
Knowing she was coming I had down tools quite early on Thursday, not to end up doing twenty laps around Colonia. We walk quite a bit, we climb the lighthouse where we stay chatting and gazing at the horizon for a remarkably long time, we have a less than extraordinary lunch and then, after more walking and a great deal of laughing at the inability to check her in onto her flight home on line, we sit by the shore with a G&T watching the sun go down. All in all a rather pleasant day.
After that she heads back to Montevideo, a nearly three hours bus ride, to get ready to fly back to Europe.
For my part it is time for me to get ready to leave Uruguay too and that included getting a ticket for the ferry, collecting the washing and packing up to be able to get that little extra sleep in the morning.
Last day breakfast is a little revelation, I can speak Español now, I even have a couple of jokes with the guy in charge of jam dispensing at the hostel I’m staying at.
At the port I get to pose for a picture with the bike, allegedly, for the bicycle museum in some godforsaken part of the interior, and I just casually strike a conversation with some Ducati bike riders from Buenos Aires on the way to embarking.
I think Uruguay has now firmly gained it’s pace in the top three country I like the most. Farewell, I’ll be back soon.