To say it was blowing a gale the day I visited the small town of Carmelo would be understated. The Uruguayan flag mounted at the ferry dock stood horizontal to attention as the wind lashed the sandy shore and I sipped a glass of artisanal vino tinto. Unhelmeted locals zipped through the deserted streets and albeit lovely I wondered why exactly I was there.
The day before I had arrived in the town of Colonia de Sacrimento after a short ferry ride and despite my sickly state the prospect of a nice cold beer was strangely appealing - or maybe it was the offer of a beer with a handsome young Uruguayan that appealed!
After a much needed 11 hour siesta I set off the explore the small town which featured not much more than picturesque 1730´s cobblestone streets and a distant view of Buenos Aires from the top of the town lighthouse.
As I headed back it was if the tempest winds had expelled the neboulous weather far the from Uruguayan coastline. I gazed accross the fields of grazing cattle and horses, the sky now clear and azul and the late afternoon sun seeping through the wooded countryside; warming me through the bus window.
I was feeling much in need of a new junket so I set off for a fleeting night in Montevideo before I headed to the interior, estancia bound, to find myself a gaucho!
El Silencio is a working estancia about 200km North East of Montevideo, I arrived on a perfect autumn day. Thankful to be out of the city and keen for a new experience, what I wasn´t quite prepared for however was being completely immersed in the Spanish language. It was quickly apparent that my time in Argentina would have been much more wisely spent practising and improving my Spanish rather than the development of my wine and ice-cream palate.
There were seven other guests on the estancia, a family from Montevideo who visit every Easter and a family from the nearby town of Durazno. To my relief the beautiful young Monserrat spoke English, much to the frustration of her handsome but broody boyfriend and I managed my own version of Spanglish with the other guests.
My afternoon was spent in my own little piece of heaven; a light breeze whistled through the tree I lay under, the scent of grass and manure with the faint waft of a smouldering fire filled the air and I could hear the incessant chatter of parrots as they flew between the Eucalypt gums.
I awoke the next day feeling rested and ready to take the bull by the horns....well the cow by the udder actually. As it turns out you don´t need to speak the same language to find the comedy in milking a cow, our first activity of the day!
The second and equally glorious day I spent in the life of a gaucho was squandered riverside; horse-riding, fishing with homemade bamboo rods, an asado lunch, exploring the property and canoeing on the calm sparkling water. As sundown approached I shared Mate with new friends and watched fish jump out of the water creating rippling circles in the calm reflective surface as birds with bright yellow bellies soared from one side of the river to another.
We walked back to the house as the sun dropped off the edge of the earth like a balloon floating off a table and the sky remained brilliant shades of orange and pink. Dusk lingered, slowly the first few of a galaxy of stars began to appear and after much anticipation the gigantic orange moon rose from the horizon.
The next morning brought a perfect ending to my estancia experience, a magnificant sunrise. The morning rays pushed boldly through the dark storm clouds that filled the sky, by breakfast the rain had set in and I was ready to board my bus back to Montevideo.
On my last day in Uruguay I was greeted with a thick slate sky and drizzle, nethertheless I trundled off to check out Old Town and the bayside area. The city itself was unimpressive but not without some interesting architecture and to my delight a decent bookshop. As the day came to an end it was reminicent of the quintessential Melbourne weather of four seasons in one day as the sky had cleared and the sun again shone brightly.
Whilst my visit was brief, Uruguay is a beautiful country and with its Eucalypt gums and Melbournian climate it reminded me very much of Australia and stirred within me the slight pang of homesickness.
Totes pumped for my next destination though, an addition to the originial itinerary, Columbia, where I will meet up again with Trudy and Alex to take on Ciudad Perdida - The Lost City.