Oriental Republic of Uruguay
PART 1, GENERAL INFORMATION
Capital city: Montevideo
Currency: Uruguayan Peso
Km travelled: 725
Days in Uruguay: 16
Uruguay is the least corrupt country in Latin America. It is ranked first in the region for democracy, peace, lack of corruption, quality of living, e-Government, freedom of press, size of the middle class, prosperity and security, which is very impressive considering the country was ruled by a military dictatorship until 1985. Over half of the country’s 3.3 million people live in the capital, Montevideo. In Uruguay, cows outnumber people four to one. It is a nation of 12 million cattle but just three million people
Uruguay has one of the highest literacy rates in the world with 98.1% for adults. This is largely thanks to Uruguayans’ access to free and compulsory education. Uruguay is regarded as one of the most socially advanced countries in Latin America. It ranks high on global measures of personal rights, tolerance, and inclusion issues. You can buy, sell and grow marijuana — if you’re Uruguayan. Uruguay’s marijuana law is progressive and while it’s illegal for visitors to purchase pot, they can certainly accept gifts or share a fat one with a Uruguayan friend.
We didn’t spend enough time in Uruguay mainly for 2 reasons 1. Running out of time 2. Issues with storage of the truck as the Uruguay customs seized all foreign trucks in the Colonia del Sacramento area. Hence, we only covered the East Coast south from the Brazil border to Montevideo, Colonia del Sacramento and along the eastern Border up to the Argentine Border.
A prime beef exporter — and consumer at 81.5 kilos (about 180 pounds) a person a year — it’s clear Uruguayans take asado (barbecue) just as seriously as their Argentine neighbours.
PUNTA DEL ESTE
With the ocean lapping at one side of the Punta del Este peninsula and the Rio de la Plata on the other, high-rise hotels attract a glitzy Miami-style crowd. Hipper beach bums in search of a relaxed experience head east to Boho bolthole Jose Ignacio, a fishing village where Latin America’s extremely wealthy pitch up in private mansions every January. Visit Playa Mansa and Playa Brava, known for its famous sculpture of fingers emerging from the sand.
With a unique atmosphere that combines Latin American and European cultural influences, Montevideo is known for its rich theatrical and musical scene. See the beautifully restored Solis Theatre — one of the first theatres in South America. Admire the impressive colonial architecture of Plaza Independencia, including the Palacio Salvo. See the majestic marble statue of national military hero General José Gervasio Artigas and visit Montevideo’s old and new quarters. As vibrant as it is varied, Montevideo abounds with culture and excellent dining options. A must do is to eat lunch with the locals in one of the restaurants in Mercado del Puerto, the old covered market situated right on the port, and visits to picturesque Ciudad Vieja and Barrio Sur neighbourhoods.
COLONIA DEL SACREMENTO
Founded by the Portuguese in 1680, this sleepy riverside town is one of Uruguay’s oldest — travel is pure time warp in Colonia del Sacramento. A 17th-century convent, lighthouse and drawbridge form the heart of the UNESCO-protected Barrio Historico, while vintage automobiles lining quaint cobbled streets offer up a Havana-esque ambience.
Covering sixty percent of the country, the Chaco is a semi-arid floodplain where you find an abundance of plants, animals and interesting land formations. Most popular are the Central Chaco lagoons. This is home to lots of Chilean flamingos during winter or sandpipers and plovers between September and December.
THE URUGUAYAN COAST
This is known as the playground of the Brazilian and Argentine rich and famous. Punta del Este is the most developed, and expensive beach resort. For those wanting to see more of Uruguay, head further north where you find many less developed beach towns, with pristine sands and sleepy fishing villages and a real sense of the relaxed Uruguayan way of life. Miles of sandy beaches and coastal forests, including Cabo Polonio, a sand-dune reserve where sea lion colonies laze on its banks, make this part of Uruguay feel like an unspoiled corner of paradise. A great spot is Santa Theresa National park just north of Punta Diablo
SANTA THERESA NATIONAL PARK
Great beaches, great camping and spectacular forest. Named after an 18th century fort that is still standing in its original position atop a hill. The Uruguay army handles the management and maintenance of Santa Teresa. This means that the rules are going to be strictly enforced. This coastal area is one of Uruguay’s hidden treasures, but you should be prepared for lots of wind and waves up to 2 meters (surfers love it).
Uruguay has a climate that is relatively mild and fairly uniform nationwide. Extremes in temperature are rare. High humidity and fog are common. The absence of mountains, which act as weather barriers, makes all locations vulnerable to high winds and rapid changes in weather as fronts or storms sweep across the country. Both summer and winter weather may vary from day to day with the passing of storm fronts, where a hot northerly wind may occasionally be followed by a cold wind named the Pampero. The ocean is cool however it reaches around 22 degrees in January, February and March in the Punta del Este region.
Summer temp: from 15 at night to 28 degrees during the day.
Winter temp: from 7 degrees at night to 16 degrees during the day
Rain : consistent throughout the year with around 100mm per month.
THE FAR NORTH EAST OF URUGUAY
Summer temp: between 18 degrees at night to 32 degrees during the day
Winter temp: between 7 degrees at night to 21 during the day
Rain is consistent throughout the year around 120mm per month
PART 2, BLOGS PICTURES AND GALLERY 2017
Welcome from Uruguay, the second smallest country in South America (Suriname is the smallest). Our first impressions were perfect smooth roads, great infrastructure and nice clean well maintained National Parks when we cross the border at Chuy just 19 days before we fly back for a short break home. The name Uruguay means river of the colourful birds. It is a word in Guarani that was spoken by the natives of the area. Our plan is to beach hop to Colonia Del Sacramento. Except for beautiful beaches it became clear that the scenery was dominated by lots of water courses and flat country. For this reason, Uruguay is known primarily as a Summer beach destination for Argentinians and Brazilians.
Mount Cathedral is 514 meters high. It is the highest point in the country and it rules over a low range of hills which stands out in the landscape. Uruguay’s windswept Atlantic coastline features dunes and lagoons.
While Argentina is known for having great steaks, Uruguay is the world’s highest consumer of beef. We agree the best steaks are from Argentina. Don’t tell Uruguayans this as they like the Brazilians do not agree. Uruguayans are very passionate about their football and their world-famous player Suarez.
BORDER TO MONTIVIDEO
Our first stop was Parque National Santa Teresa. Right on the beach with lots of free firewood. The area is supervised and maintained by the armed forces. In two words PERFECT and FREE. In summer apparently, you pay for camping as the park offers over 2000 campsites. We were the only campers in the park. We took the scooter to explore the area and visited Punta Del Diablo, a small village with a population of just over 100, however, over the Christmas and New Year period the population swells to over 30000, a prime summer getaway for Uruguayans and Argentines and the epicentre of Uruguay’s backpacker beach scene. The stunning shoreline and laid-back lifestyle outside the season makes Puerto Diablo a great stop.
Further south is Cabo Polonio a little hippie village where residents depend on renewable sources of energy, including solar panels and small, modern windmills. Fresh water is obtained by wells. Next stop Punta Del Este the Miami Beach of Uruguay. Known for its beaches and nightlife, Punta Del Este is the place to go if you want to soak up the sun, get a tan, and go to little kilombo’s (crazy parties). Many Brazilians and Argentineans love to come to Punta Del Este for vacation and many famous names have been spotted in the city as well. But as per the opening statement: Uruguay is a summer destination, 90% of places where closed when we travelled south along the coast. From late December to February Punta Del Este hosts wealthy vacationers from Argentina and Brazil and party until sunrise at the nearby discotheques in La Barra.
We now arrived in overlander country and with the bad news regarding the Temporary Import Papers and changes by the Uruguay customs department it was time to get more information. Uruguay is often called the Switzerland of South America mostly due to a developed financial sector based on bank secrecy and we saw many Swiss, German and French people. Not just the residents living here but the south coast is full of Swiss and German overlanders (Like Namibia); they even set up small Swiss themed villages. Hence, we visited Suize Paraiso in the low-key Atlántida area. A great camp spot run by a Swiss couple, popular and (you guessed it) full of Swiss, French and German overlanders. After 6 months of South America travel it was here we met the first overlanders. It also was here where other overlanders told us of the 2 or possible 3 motorhome storage areas in Uruguay closed by customs and where all motorhomes were impounded.
MONTIVIDEO to BORDER ARGENTINA
The campground was expensive, hence we left for Montevideo and found a carpark on the beach. We are no big city people and Montevideo is not a city we liked except from nice breezy promenades and sandy beaches. Montevideo has the highest quality of life in South America according to the tourist brochures. We were told by locals that unfortunately the city is deteriorating rapidly and it is nowhere near the splendour that it used to be. Nearly half of Uruguay’s population lives in Montevideo. And the one place we were told we had to visit was the Mercado del Puerto an old, covered market filled with a dozen or so restaurants grilling steaks and various cuts of meat all day long. The food is excellent, but the dark, smoky atmosphere is what makes this place so interesting. Our overnight parking spot was right on the La Rambla, a 22Km boardwalk along Montevideo’s waterfront and beaches. Nice but we were looking for another quite beach before visiting Colonia del Sacramento hence time to leave town. Colonia del Sacramento reminded us what life was years ago with cobbled streets. Colonia is the oldest city in Uruguay, and the historic district is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was a surprise to hear the change of attitude towards parking your motorhome in Uruguay. Uruguay has always been lenient with the TIP law and allowing people to leave the country while storing their motorhome in Uruguay. But by law this is not allowed and this has now become a topic of discussion and the court should decide on Oct 18. It was impossible to get a correct story from the Swiss Camping / Motorhome storage owner. (the story changed by the day and it became obvious that since Sept 14 he had done little to get proper info, hence, we decided to visit the National Office of the Aduane in Montevideo. Click here http://helvecia.com.uy/…/todo-en-regla-procedimiento-de-ad…/plus http://www.aduanas.gub.uy/…/mas-de-1-millon-de-dolares-en-v… for the story of the first motorhome storage to be closed and motorhomes impounded. As I am typing this we are told over 70 vehicles have now been impounded in 3 different storage areas and are awaiting outcome from a judge on Oct 18. In the meantime, this meeting has eventuated, and no motorhomes have been released and the judge has asked for at least another 10 days before owners, Aduane, solicitors and the judge meet again. In the meantime, many owners are now waiting in Uruguay for the return of their motorhome since September 15th!
We are heading home for a short break before we restart our South America trip from Buenos Aires covering Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia.
LATEST NEWS, VEHICLES ARE RELEASED IN DEC 2017
BUT NO DETAILS ABOUT FUTURE PARKING IN URUGUAY.
PART 3, VIDEOS URUGUAY