After spending a few restful days in Buenos Aires, James and I headed to Uruguay to explore another country and because if you are like us and haven’t done the proper leg work to secure a Brazilian visa (which can take weeks in most consulates) there is a nice town called Chuy on the Uruguay/Brazilian border that we had heard can whip you one up in a day.
When we were making plans to head to Uruguay, we realized that we would be leaving on a Thursday and in order to avoid having to wait all weekend before we could get our visa, we decided to drive all day Thursday so we could arrive at the consulate on Friday before they close for the weekend. Chuy was the town we were headed for which was on the far side of Uruguay from where we were starting (Buenos Aires).
We woke up early on Thursday, drove all day, and slept in our car on a beach an hour or so away from Chuy. We decided we would drive all the way to Chuy and then hit all the places we missed on our way back. I didn’t know what to expect Uruguay to be like, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was really green and very clean, and it seemed to have a similar culture to Argentina.
After driving until dark the previous day, we arrived bright and early to the consulate on Friday only to read a sign posted out front that it was “tourist week” and they were closed Thursday and Friday (the day we arrived). We didn’t see anything on the consulate sign to indicate that they weren’t open Saturdays so we came back the next day eager to get our visa and move on. Again, they were not open. Only then did we figure out what the “2°- 6°” on their
sign meant. 2°- 6° is how they write the days of the week in Brazil – I assume meaning they are only open the 2nd day of the week through the 6th day of the week. Who knew?
Oh well, there are much worse places to pass the time than lounging on the beaches of Uruguay soaking up some sun. We passed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday exploring Punta del Diablo, Santa Teresa National Park, and Barra del Chuy before finally getting our Brazilian visas ($150 USD each – yikes!!!) on Monday.
During all this back-and-forth from the nearby beaches to Chuy, we had to pass through customs because Chuy is a border town and half of the town is in Brazil and half of the town is in Uruguay. Only during our first pass through customs
did we realize that the wonderful border officials into Uruguay (14 hours of driving earlier) had stamped the wrong date on our importation papers for our car. Not only did they stamp the wrong date (5 April 2011 instead of 2012), they also hand wrote in the date as 5 April 2013. This caused quite a headache each of the 3 times we had to pass through customs (of course we got a different customs agent each time). We also have US plates which always raises a red flag so we were stopped every time. When they would realize the dates were wrong, we would explain to them what happened and show them our passport stamp for Uruguay was dated 2012. They have limits to how long you and your car can be in the country so if 2011 was indeed when we entered, we would have a problem; they seemed to be sure that we had broken some law. After tons of hassle, each time they would finally let us through.
We were so happy when we passed through the custom for the last time with our Brazilian visas in hand. Next stop was Montevideo. We only had a few days in Montevideo but we made the most of it. We spent our time walking the pedestrian streets, strolling along the Rambla, visiting the Mercado del Puerto, and feasting on asado and chivitos. One things that stood out about Montevideo was how much Mate Uruguayans drink. They all have the mate stance with the Thermos tucked under their arm and their mate in their hand whether they’re walking the streets, riding the bus, or riding their bikes.
Our next stop was a quick trip to Colonia del Sacramento, the oldest town in Uruguay, before taking a ferry back to Buenos Aires. The Brazilian visas hit our budget a little hard so we decided to sleep in our car for our last 2 days in Uruguay – we found a gas station parking lot just outside Colonia with a shopping mall nearby with free wifi (score!). We only had a day in Colonia (really all you need) which we spent walking the old cobble stone streets in the historic center and enjoying a long lunch.
We headed back to BA on the morning ferry and checked back into our home-away-from-home the San Telmo lofts where a nice comfortable room was waiting for us after a week of almost all camping. We were only in BA for a few days since we would soon be catching a flight to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Our few days in BA were fairly hectic since we needed to sell our car – at this point we already had a few potential buyers lined up, and on the day before our flight to Brazil we signed over the papers and freed ourselves from the car!