A friend, Sharon had recommended Colonia, Uruguay before we embarked on our trip to South America. This planted a seed in working out possible routes into Brazil. Uruguay attracts a lot of sun lovers to its coast and we started to research traveling to Brazil through this beautiful country. However, now is autumn and the cool weather isn’t perfect for beach travel and we also wanted to head north to Iguazu Falls, so we decide to take a day trip to Colonia instead.
Colonia del Sacramento is a frequently visited place from Buenos Aires especially with a wide selection of ferry options. Our style of flexible travel doesn’t allow us to plan in advance and this worked against us when it came to buying tickets. A two hour ferry was going to cost $130 each way. It was also Easter long weekend coming up and Uruguay was gearing up for the holiday makers from Argentina. Apart from a sightseeing trip, the other important reason to head across the river, was the availability of US dollars from ATM’s in Uruguay. With policy changes in Argentina it is virtually impossible to get access to US dollars. With the high rate of inflation here causing an increase in the black market rate for the faithful Uncle Sam’s notes (now worth 8.2 pesos instead of 4.5 pesos), we need a way to make the rest of our travel in Argentina more economical.
Fortunately we managed to find cheap fares departing midweek at 11am. A bit late to embark on a day trip especially as this ferry takes two hours. We are able to return on the last ferry at 9.30pm. This would be ample time to find an ATM withdraw cash, have a look around, grab a bite to eat and return to BA.
Esta bien! We take a taxi to the ferry terminal at the southern end of BA and proceed through immigration. Quite strange as it felt like going to Manly for the day and having our passports processed at Circular Quay. Unfortunately the ferry was delayed for two hours and we didn’t get away until 1pm cutting short our already shortened trip. We arrived at 3pm at a new terminal that looked almost like a domestic airport back home. Our tickets enabled us to take a free English speaking guided tour of the old town and this was interesting to learn about the early Portuguese settlement.
The historic old Colonia is a beautiful preserved and well kept colonial town on the shores of Rio de la Plata. It is surrounded by an old fort wall on the peninsular. Only a small town and easy to get around in the few hours we had. Well catered to visitors it gives that sense of old world cobblestone streets, white washed walls and even a few vintage cars lying around. The modern day provides outdoor cafes, inviting restaurants and boutique guest houses and the warm sunny afternoon is a welcomed change of pace from the bustle and hustle of BA. It was also gorgeous being by an open sea after been inland for the last 2 months.
According to the lonely planet there are only two ATM’s in the old part of town. We found the first one with a queue of people. Quite the norm here as there are many Argentines with overseas bank accounts making regular trips to Uruguay to withdraw US dollars.
It becomes extremely frustrating waiting in line for half an hour and realising the guy in front of you with four credit cards has cleaned out the machine of US$. It is already 5pm and we are on a mission to not return empty handed. We then race up the street to find another bank and again no luck. The fourth machine and another half hour wait we strike gold or shall I say green. So strange for us to see Uncle Sam notes spit out of an ATM in a Latin American country. We had also carried Aussie dollars since January and although our dollar was above parity with the US we could only get .90c and bit the bullet to change them also. Mission accomplished. Now not to get robbed with all the cash we were carrying.
Feeling relieved we now had time to look around the town. Simply tranquil and peaceful. Most of the tourists had taken the 3.30pm ferry back and the next one wasn’t till 9.30pm. Can imagine this place busy on a weekend. Stumbled upon a pub with outdoor tables and there was a band dressed from the 70’s playing The Doors music. Perfecto, neat place for a drink and now time to try a highly recommended national sandwich called Chivito. A steak fillet with mozzarella, tomatoes, mayonnaise, olives, bacon, a fried egg and ham on a fresh bread roll. Hungry we ordered one with the lot. I still salivate looking at the picture as it was the tastiest steak sandwich by far and perfect to wash it down with a cold Uruguay cerveza called Patricia. We cheered to our friends called Patricia.
We are also told the sunsets here are spectacular and this will be the first time since Adelaide we have seen the sun set over the ocean. We head down to the river and take far too many sunset shots with Buenos Aires lights flickering on the horizon.
A few hours left before we catch the ferry back so we take the time to explore the cobbled streets at night. Ben brought his tripod over so we begin to experiment with long exposures.
Time to head back to Buenos Aires and a full moon follows us back to the ferry terminal. Border crossing by ferry is exactly like flying. Going through xray machines, immigration, queues and waiting in a lounge to get on board. Bus borders are much simpler.
Although we cross a river, it is so wide it feels like an ocean of brown water. Two hours on the ferry flies by quickly. A big day to another country and we are exhausted but it was well worth the effort, both for the scenery, the Chivitos and of course the future savings we will make. Now to trade our US$ on the black market.