COLONIA: By the time I woke up today, half of the day was gone. I had made the mistake of closing the wooden shutters on my doors. They were so effective that I needed to turn on my bedside light to discover it was almost 11am. Not that I really minded. I am on an easy holiday this time, no time constraints and no limits to my stays. Even so, the free bicycle from my hostel seemed like a great idea to get me around the place a little faster. (See photos below…)
Museums and Boats
First stop was the fruit shop for a banana breakfast. Then it was off to look through some of the museums that I missed yesterday. These were great old places that were more like an old house with everything on display than a museum. One place had documents and books dating back as far as the 1700’s simply sitting on open bookshelves. There were plans to record everything on microfiche and in computers in the coming months which will be their first secure records.
From here I stopped by the beach to enjoy my bananas as I sat staring out at the sea. Then it was off to the other side of town. On my way there I saw a couple of guys trying to pull a sailing boat over onto its side. It seemed somewhat strange to me at the time, but I wandered up to them on the jetty and asked if they need help. Before long I was hauling the rope along with them. Our objective was to free the yacht from the bottom of the harbour. It didn’t work while I was there. I moved on once we could not pull the boat over any further.
The Old Bull Ring
Using my trusty bike with no brakes and twisted pedals, I was able to ride the five kilometres to the other side of town and back. On this side there was not very much to see with one notable exception. There was an old Bull Ring where the matadors fought the bulls. The emphasis here is on old, as the whole place was crumbling into pieces.
Large concrete chunks that had formed part of the seating were now lying in piles underneath. The sun streamed in through the newly created gaps and illuminated the massive rusting iron structure that was supporting everything. Great cracks in the masonry were threatening to bring down whole walls, and the whole place felt completely deserted.
A sign by the trampled down fence surrounding the place indicated “no entry”. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to it, but once I had entered I discovered that I was not the only one here. A couple of tourists were just leaving, sporting their cameras on their shoulders. Some locals were also here, on the other side with their young children. Unrestrained, these children were climbing up and down the unstable seating structures and in and out of the crumbling entrances. Their parents were blissfully unaware of the dangers too as they played with a football down on the centre grass area.
The Return Home
Moving on from here, I used my vague tourist map to negotiate my way through the roads to return home. It was actually a long way, but fortunately there were a couple of stops on the way back. My first stop was at a very busy roadside shop selling Tortas Fritas. Having tasted these delights when working in the slums, I was compelled to stop and wait in line for one. It was worth the wait too. The second stop was at an old church where I sat outside and devoured my torta frita.
Almost back to my side of town, I stopped also at a motorbike shop to check the prices of a motor scooter. These useful little bikes totally inundate this place. Friends ride with friends, whole families crowd onto them, and even children are seen to be riding them too. With just enough power to get up a reasonable slope, they are often struggling under the weight as three or more persons journey together. Ranging in age from antique to modern, they also range equally in price, noise, and the smoke they emit. It seems the perfect form of transport for a small town with little traffic.
Dinner at the Drugstore
Once I returned home, it seemed that the day was done, but I still had one more thing to do. In the morning a local restaurant was recommended to me as being the best place in town. Since I had not eaten lunch, I decided to stop there for dinner. I was the only person for the entire time I was there. When I finally left, after really enjoying my dining experience, I met a guy outside who then became the only person dining in the place. Business is slow here during the winter.
The restaurant, El Drugstore, is very arty in its presentation with sections of each wall painted in bright colours of blue, yellow and red. The seats, napkins, tablecloths and decorations all reflect this same emphasis on bright colours with nothing really matching. Surprisingly, it all works very well together. The walls are covered in 70’s art pieces and outside looks the same as inside, except there are cars there with tables inside them. It is all very funky.
The meal I ordered, Tepan-yaki was a very tasty and enjoyable Japanese dish. This, with its foray of vegetables, seemed healthier than most of the local dishes which usually have no more than two vegetables. Some Dulce-De-Leche biscuits rounded off my meal for desert. Dulce De Leche is a local sweet that is something of a cross between carob and soft caramel without the stickiness. It is a national favourite in Uruguay and Argentina and highly prized as being local only to these countries, although I doubt that this is completely true.
Third World Mechanics
Leaving the Drugstore, I wandered up to two men who were trying to get an old car going. The car seemed to be from the 1920’s and was resisting their attempts. As I reached them, one of the men exclaimed in exasperation, “El tercer mundo!” Meaning, “the third world”. Perhaps he was right. It reminded me of farm mechanics, where you never have what you need but managed to make do with what you have.
A motorbike provided the light for them to work with, its fuel tank sat on the roof of the car and provided the fuel. Fencing wire was the connection between the sparking plugs and the distributor that provided the sparks. Try as they might there was no life in the old beast. Eventually the battery ran out, exhausting the mens’ hope at the same time. I wished them luck and moved on.
It took a while to get home with my limp still in action, but it was a nice feeling to be there at last. This time I will remember to leave at least one of my shutters open.