A practice run was in order before embarking in our Andean adventure so we decided to cross into Uruguay. We had no fixed itinerary; we only knew that we wanted to visit the charming city of Colonia del Sacramento on the shores of the Rio de La Plata (arguably the widest river in the world). We ended up motorcycling for 2,205 kilometers (1,370 miles) in 6 days. We spent five nights in Uruguay, two in hotels and three camping. Organized campgrounds in Argentina and Uruguay are jam-packed, no-privacy, constant-noise tent cities that make it nearly impossible to enjoy nature—something similar to what one might find on a summer weekend at Yosemite Valley. It was clear to us that any camping would have to be “agreste”, meaning, by the side of the road hopefully in the middle of nowhere. The first day we rode all the way to Colonia and discovered one thing that would be a constant during the entire trip: it would not be possible to ride during the early afternoon because of the heat. At about 1 pm we would pull off into some town park or wooded area by the road, get our sleeping mats out, and take a break for a few hours. One afternoon that was particularly hot we stopped between the towns of Florida and Durazno and under miserable conditions I composed the following verses:107°F Too hot to ride The gusty wind blows hot air Hog-smelling hot air. Away from the high noon Uruguayan sun Under tall, whistling Casuarina trees Wishing for equid twitching skin As flies feast on my salty sweat. Fighting the persistent uninvited guests With a wispy casuarina branch An improvised horse tail I reflect on the meaning of adventure.
We spent the first night in Colonia at a hotel and visited the beautiful old city in the morning. We then rode in the direction of the Atlantic following route 11 —known as “la ruta de los santos” because it connects several towns named after saints (San José, Santa Lucía, Santa Rosa, San Jacinto). The rolling hills of the Uruguayan countryside are a lot of fun on a motorcycle. We were surprised to find several vineyards along the way. Argentina and Chile are the traditional wine producing countries in South America. It would be interesting to try some Uruguayan wine (we did not, Patricia was our beer of choice). We arrived at the busy beach town of Piriapolis as the sun went down on the Rio de la Plata and soon discovered that most, if not all, hotels were booked. We ended up pitching our tent on a nicely kept lawn behind a white fence at the back of a gas station (I am not good at trespassing anymore). It was a long and loud night. It turned out Piriapolis is quite the party town.