South American countries, like everywhere else, have their own reputations that vary in accuracy and relevance. Venezuela, mostly due to Caracas, is seen as tough and dangerous; Brazil as an endless brash party; Suriname as some exotic land of mystery… And then there is Uruguay. Before arriving I really knew nothing about it- I didn’t even have an uninformed opinion beyond crude jokes about its name. A quick read of its Wikipedia page certainly surprised me since, well, just read it- it certainly wiped the smug Canadian smile off my face.
I decided to ride in from the Northwest and spend most of my time in the interior since the the little I did know suggested that tourists primarily stayed around the coastal beaches and left the rest of the country to the locals. Not only did this suit my style of traveling, but I was hoping it would give me a break from the masses of tourists I’d been around for the last while in Brasil. Not only were my hopes realised, but I also discovered a true gem of a country that seemed to revel in being overshadowed by its more (in)famous neighbours.
Riding through the countryside wasn’t dramatic or thrilling, just very satisfying. Small country roads that always seemed to end too soon, little towns that hide amazing bakeries , and well designed campsites seemingly waited around every corner. It would be hard to make a case for visiting by simply listing what was on offer, but then the same goes for explaining why a slice of fresh baked bread is just perfect on its own.
The experience was bucolic in every way- a landscape filled with small family farms, warm sunlight, gently twisting roads, and grilling perfection.
Yes, Uruguayans know how to grill- especially when camping. Every campsite had plenty of well cured wood on hand and was within walking distance of a butcher, but one look at the design of this campsite grill is what really removes all doubt- amazingly simple, but perfectly built to provide the full fire experience while also allowing for excellent grilling over coals. As the wood in the basket burns, the coals fall through and are then moved over to the grill section, then as the hot new coals are added the cooler coals are slowly pushed over to the other side- providing a flare-free and perfectly graduated range of heat for grilling/warming/etc. Genius.
The campsites themselves weren’t bad either, with good spacing and facilities.
But what really made for the perfect end to a day of country riding was the relaxing views that just begged you to kick back and crack a cold one.
After this wonderful little interlude, I was more than a little leery about the coast, but it was the best way to get to Buenos Aires and I did want to at least ride through Montevideo, so off I went…