I hadn’t known what to expect from Uruguay. I’d managed to subconsciously overlook it when planning this trip, knowing that the plan was to get from Brazil to Argentina. I’d seen it as a thoroughfare, a bridge that perhaps contained some beaches.
In other words, I was utterly ignorant.
The first observation since leaving the border town of Chuy was that the roads were incredibly easy. Smooth, well tarmacked and quiet. Since leaving the border I’d felt very relaxed. The hardest part of the journey was behind me. Ahead were a couple of hundred miles of rolling hills and sandy coastline.
Punta del Diablo was the first stop. In winter, it’s a quiet fishing village with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants. Come the summer holiday season, thousands of visitors descend and the party begins. I spent three nights there in a tiny campsite, eating freshly caught fish with new friends, trying to surf and relaxing properly for the first time since leaving Rio.
Then down to Cabo Polonio, a picturesque ecological reserve accessible only by authorised vehicles across the 6km of sand dunes. No new buildings can be constructed, and no mains electricity serves the village. A working lighthouse warns ships to not stray too close to the dangerous rocks that surround the peninsular – many have been sunk there over the years. Sea lions laze on the rocks, barking to secure their territory, and the occasional fishing boat hauls in their catch.
Perhaps I’d been lulled into a false sense of security with the regular and rapid bus services that shuttled people to Montevideo and Colonia, with the ferry services beyond to Buenos Aires. My goal seemed so tangible that when I got back on the bike, I was a little shocked to realise it wasn’t going to be easy. A constant and powerful headwind pushed me back. Even going downhill I could only reach 14mph at a struggle – usually 22mph would be easy.
And the sun had a different kind of power to that which I experienced in Brazil: a dry, baking heat that sucks the moisture from you and crackles your skin. I’ve heard there’s a hole in the ozone layer over Uruguay. The heat is exhausting.
I made it to Pan de Azúcar, only about 60 miles from Montevideo. There had been a story in the news a few days earlier about how a cyclist had been killed on the stretch of road that would take me to Montevideo. The authorities had, presumably with knee-jerk reaction, subsequently banned cyclists from that stretch. My bloody-mindedness encouraged me to continue anyway, as I wanted to cycle the whole way. But fortunately I saw sense and swallowed my pride. I took the bus the Montevideo and onwards to the historic town of Colonia del Sacramento, where I could catch the ferry to Buenos Aires.
I made it most of the way. Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires: 1,695 miles of cycling. One month, one day.
And now a week in Buenos Aires before meeting Sophie. I’m super excited about her joining me! There have been many times in the past month that I had wished she were here to share the experiences. The past few weeks have been rich, and I’m certain the following weeks will be richer still with her.
As ever, if you’ve enjoyed reading these posts, or if you see value and a challenge in this trip, or if you’d simply like to support a wonderful cause, it would be great if you drop a little sum towards my fundraising goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Edmondstone/ to get involved. Thanks
Vida! Saúde! Felicidade!