April 18, 2006
The day of going to Uruguay had finally come. I had to get up really early this morning to start out my trip with a bus ride to Tigre. I know, you're thinking, "Not there again!" but that's just where the ferry left from. The bus dropped me off, I went through a laughable backpack search at the Customs office where the officer put his hand in one of the pockets for five seconds before declaring my backpack "fully searched."
The ride across the channel to Uruguay was on a catamaran that seated about 100 passengers. It probably wasn't even half full, so I guess it was just a fluke that yesterday's ferry was sold out. The ride was uneventful for me because I slept the whole way.
After getting off the ferry, I had to go through Customs again in Uruguay. My backpack got "searched" again. This time, the guy unzipped my sleeping bag compartment, saw that I had some clothes stuffed in front of my sleeping bag, and closed it. Wow, that was tough. I got a 90-day tourist visa in my passport and wondered if, in the history of Uruguay, any tourists had actually used more than 14 of those 90 alloted days to visit the country.
I was in Uruguay, but I still had to get to Montevideo. The last leg of the trip was done on a bus. It was really hot on the bus, so I passed out as soon as I sat down. Between bouts of unconsciousness, I saw that there wasn't anything to see except a bunch of fields and a random house here and there. At one point when I looked around, I seriously couldn't see one person who was awake on the entire bus. In case you're wondering, the driver was partitioned from the rest of the bus, so I assume he was awake.
When I got to Montevideo, the first thing that I noticed was that seven hours had passed since I left Buenos Aires this morning. I wasn't expecting it to take nearly that long. I guess that's what made the company I went with the cheaper one. I opted to stay in a hotel as it would cost half as much as a hostel here. Apparently, there aren't a lot of hostels to choose from, so capitalism has driven the prices up. I walked around town a bit but didn't get to see much before the day ended.
The one thing I did notice was that people here take mate consumption to a whole new level. Mate is popular in Argentina, but it's mainly a social thing done in parks and peoples' homes. However, in Uruguay, almost everyone seems to carry their own thermos and mate container with them wherever they go. They even sip it while walking down the street by themselves! It must be the official national addiction of Uruguay.