I journeyed from the capital, Montevideo, towards Punta del este. The city is considered the Miami of Uruguay, and you can immediately see why. The town is filled with gleaming hotels that tower high on the coast, along with designer shops and expensive restaurants.
From Punta del Este, I took a local bus down the coast to a smaller town called La Barra. The population of the coastal towns of Uruguay swell with tourists during the warmer months, and then reduce to almost non-existence for the rest of the year. Affluent families flock to the golden beaches during this summer window, and soak up the baking Sun. The clean beaches were a refreshing change from the city, and as the town shared the same relaxed atmosphere as the rest of Uruguay, I spent most of my time in a hammock. A nearby bakery stocked enough Empanadas to keep me full, and that was essentially all I needed.
After a few days, I started to drift west in the general direction of Chile. Spending a single night in the towns I had previously visited, I hopped from Punta del Este to Montevideo, Colonia, and Buenos Aires. I enjoyed the familiarity of returning to old places; it’s a rare feeling when always on the move.
With the exception of a famous 2lb (32oz) steak which I enjoyed in Buenos Aires, there were no major moments on my journey through to west Argentina. I briefly reunited with a British girl called Kirsty who I first met in Vietnam 18 months ago, and for the second time in Buenos Aires (proof of how small the world is).
On the way to the wine region of Mendoza, I stopped off at Rosario to break up the journey. The city held a quiet charm, and the famous street “Cordoba” was filled with neoclassical architecture and Argentinian monuments. 300km upriver from Buenos Aires, Rosario grew from a small community to become a major cultural and commercial centre of Argentina. Bringing in the progressive thinking of the vast immigrant populations that surged into the country, Rosario was a liberal contrast to the aristocratic and conservative surroundings in the region. The grand centre is punctuated by the National Flag memorial, including a tower which can be climbed for spectacular panoramic views of the city.
The final stop before Chile was Mendoza. Mainly known as Argentina’s primary wine region, many of the vineyards sit in the foothills of the Andes producing various high quality Malbec’s and other varieties. The city was certainly in a drinking mood too, as the annual wine festival was about to begin before the grape picking season begins.
Many vineyards are free to visit, and along with an Italian called Giacomo I had met, we were able to cycle between various wineries and try several varieties. The day was dry and hot, which made the shade of the wineries’ trees even more enjoyable. There were plenty of delicious red wine available, although admittedly after half a dozen glasses it became a less thoughtful drinking process…
I felt after a few weeks of sauntering through Uruguay and Argentina, and absorbing the local culture and delicacies along the way, I was ready for something different. The next day, in a Malbec haze I took towards the mountains and what would be my first taste of the Andes. On the other side Chile was waiting, along with my dad who was flying out from the UK for a few weeks. The plan was to drop south into Patagonia without much of a plan. The wilderness awaits.