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  • Writer's picturePaula Cooper

10 November Buenos Aires, to Colonia Uruguay: Underwhelming Unlucky Uncertain Unready Underprepared

Leaving for puerto Madero to catch the Buquebus ferry to Colonia across the river in Uruguay; why so early? Free coffee, light entertainment watching the skilled captains parallel park enormous car ferries plus nice bathrooms as we waited; appeasement, after a very confusing checkin! Thankful we breezed through immigration; rock bands and every Uruguayan member of their hurling team our companions!

Rio de La Plata, the worlds’ widest river, is the estuary formed  by the Uruguay and Paraná rivers at Punta Gorda. Crossing the brown river at its narrowest ~50km, (widest point  ~200+km) took just over an hour; a huge largely fresh water inland sea!

Portuguese explorers discovered the Rio de La plata in 1512, settling Colonia shortly after; opposite Spanish Buenos Aires an insignificant counterbalance to Portugals’s dominance in Brazil, founded in 1530s then abandoned and re founded in 1580s.

Colonia suffered over a century of invasion and occupation by both the Spanish and Portuguese, evidenced by the architecture and quaint narrow cobbled streets! Portuguese style: jagged paving, locally made red tiled roofs often single story buildings, plastered locally plant died coloured frontage covering stone walls vs Spanish: flat roofed, two story square windowed buildings with round or oblong cobbled streets; and sometimes just a mishmash!

The drawbridge and restored city wall housed, the main square (named after Argentine independence not Uruguay in deference to friendships) significant examples of architecture and the Ruins of the viceroy’s house and monetary plus the Church. When no historic references are available ruins are just stabilised.

Colonia, now more modern with wide plane treed avenues, resurfaced after the pandemic, as a re-vamped tourist attraction, with its long sandy river bay and partially restored historically significant old town; missing ingredient the sun!

We unnecessarily joined a tour, starting with a very sedate corniche drive to the recently restored bullring, now an event space. Apparently in 1910s a local businessman failed in putting Colonia on the tourist map hindered byUruguay immediately banning bullfighting; too violent and bloody! Subsequently his enterprise, metropolis, hotel, dock, train and bullring failed!

Unlucky with the weather, raising brollies, back in the old town, we squelched across the main sites; underwhelmed, uncertain commentary, nothing yet open!

Changing to local currency later, set free we visited those museums open (don’t ask!) took refuge in a warm cafe corner for a sandwich and hot coffee before venturing to walk the walls when our least wet window of partial sunshine appeared! Seeing the architecture inside was interesting but overall we were disappointed!

Uruguay needs the rain. Just emerging for from a long drought, (20 days since it started raining) people had suffered water rationing, having to buy water for drinking or cooking. (The government fortunately delivering water bottles to those in need) Everyone has access to clean water, amenities support and healthcare  etc apparently. Uruguay is the safest most prosperous S American country, with service industries (banking) and agriculture (including food processing) plus tourism fuelling the economy.

Taking refuge from thunderstorms with hot chocolate we waited to rejoin the tour. Unbooked transportation to the ferry took ages; later realising we could have walked faster although relief from lashing rain was appreciated.

Negotiating the confounding scrum through immigration to the boat took almost all our spare time! So many people; free drinks on arrival at our seats helped. The rain streaming down the windows, visibility nil despite lightning, the ferry unperturbed chugged safely across, smelly diesel sadly polluting.

I don’t think we did Uruguay justice, I’m glad we went; maybe enjoying sunny beaches might have helped!

After huge queues for immigration, wet Friday Buenos Aires traffic was interesting; why obey lane markings when you’ve 5-12 lanes to choose from! Sampling local Italian pizzas the last item left; too many confusing options! Pizza is clearly a local completely different dish to that in either Italy or the USA!

Failed popular croissant breakfast bread thingy! Puerto Maldero and Buquebus ferry parallel parking

The river bay beach & failed /restored bullring with remnants of dock

Inside the old city and museums

Dodging rain drops walking the walls

Ferry back during thunderstorm and very heavy rain

Simon's photos to follow or replace mine!

We stayed at Legado Mitico, Palermo, Buenos Aires in Argentina. Yep we came back!

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