I made my way for the third time to the port, again by taxi. I thought I was going to be one of the first to arrive; the BuqueBus terminal was heaving. I was on the eight o’clock departure, but it never crossed my mind about customs and passport control. Despite the long queues, we were moved through seamlessly. Border control is uber efficient with your passport being stamped twice in minutes, staff from Uruguay sat beside their Argentine colleague, the same happened on return. I was impressed; this is due to the agreements under MercoSur, the South American Trading Block.
A high-speed catamaran flies over the fifty two miles between Buenos Aires and Colonia de Sacramento, the small port I was going to visit, there are also direct daily ferries to Montevideo. The ferry had no outside deck so unable to get a breath of sea air, which I love, I visited the duty free which was groaning with customers but looking like a carbon copy of most other duty frees I had visited. I changed some Argentine pesos for Uruguayan pesos; I didn’t need to, as they accepted Argentine pesos as well as US dollar.
On arrival, we picked up a map and shown which coach to take to arrive at Colonia. I had heard about South American coaches, they cross all over the continent, they are spacious, have comfortable roomy seats and a lower leg rest. They come out from the lower half of the seat in front and do they make a difference, a novelty on arrival, much appreciated on my return.
We made our way through narrow streets and were dropped off about five minutes walk from the hop on hop off service, ticket included in the price. We had a live guide who wasn’t very good and she was also to be our guide for the walking tour also included.
What did impress me were the beaches we passed on the bus. There were hardly any people on them, vast pristine expanses to go and settle for the day. I am not a beach lover, though don’t mind the odd day to read, relax and listen to the sea, but I was in sight seeing mode.
The little town was set on a promontory, and has the distinction of being the only port on the river Plate founded by the Portuguese, the European influence very much in evidence. It had some steep inclines and many cobbled narrow lanes. Left to our devices after the walking tour, I located the lighthouse as a landmark to get my bearings. I was still finding the new world designation of blocks here, there, and every where a bit alien and not suited to my inner compass.
It was a popular spot for Porteños, Buenos Aires inhabitants, to pop over for the day or weekend at the beach and to get some duty frees. Hopping off at the duty free mall was one of the most popular drop off points on the bus. Most shops were all tourist orientated especially the tempting looking cheese, which Uruguay is famed for. I was tempted but I remembered cheese doesn’t scan well as I recalled having to empty my carry on luggage returning from a trip to Guernsey, with the islands’s goat cheese, at security in Birmingham airport.
After the walking tour, I made my way to a square with a church and found a bench to rest my feet, suffering in the heat on the hills and cobbles. A couple sat down beside me and we got chatting. they popped over regularly from Buenos Aires. Conversation got round to politics which lead to the current US president, South American opinion little different to everywhere else. They were concerned about the lemon producers, Argentina is the world’s largest producer of lemons, and Trump had banned imports; the US was their largest market. Just one of a long list of grievances, which will no doubt be one of the many negative legacies of his presidency. Once again speaking the language opened so many possibilities and I had found everyone to be very pleasant and friendly.
Time had moved on and I made my way back to the other square with the lighthouse, it was time for some food. I had a chivote, a Uruguayan fast food specialty, in ciabata style bread, the local cheese oozed over a slice of breaded steak and salad. It was enormous, quality and price a very good deal, filling an understatement. I found another row of shops saw a lot of things to buy but I didn’t want to change anymore money, then I found the ice cream shop.
I love ice cream, my favourite flavour classic vanilla. I don’t normally choose chocolate ice cream because I find it too cloying but they also made orange ice cream not sorbet so I went for the classic combination. I made the right choice the orange tingling and refreshing, on this hot afternoon the chocolate giving the perfect back note.
Still having time to kill I decided to use the hop on hop off once more. A different guide who was much better than the previous one, who had sounded worn and flat. I looked at the sparsely populated beaches and wished I had time for a wander but I had a ferry to catch and a bus to catch to the ferry.
I made my way back to the bus stop, wandered into the local produce shop and once more was tempted by the cheese especially after I had now eaten some, but common sense prevailed.
At the ferry terminal, I saw my Brazilian hotel mates who had also been at the Tango performance. They called me over to join them in the queue and we made our way through security and passport control. We located seats, we were all tired, we sailed out of Colonia in the sunset to arrive in the pitch black in Buenos Aires, the cities lights twinkling against the brooding summer night sky. My ticket had included drop off at the hotel. Colonia had been pleasant but I wished I had opted to visit Montevideo the capital. Another time.