Reliving My Hosteling Days!
When I arrived back in to Buenos Aires, I had to travel across the city to the boat. Yami had kindly looked up the bus I needed to take so it was fairly straight forward but with my large rucksack as well as a small rucksack (courtesy of Maggie Holmes) and my body warmer that has at least 50 pockets, I think I will be able to apply for the marines by the time I return home! I have, at least, been able to discard the Tesco carrier bag that traveled with me for the first week. I’m not know as ‘The Bag Lady’ for nothing! At the boat, all the immigration took place on the Argentinian side. I cleared Argentinian customs with my stamp on the right page but then it was like a game of charades. The official didn’t immediately return my passport but gestured to me to move to the end of the booth. Here he returned my passport and started to point behind me to what I had assumed was just another Argentinian Immigration booth. It took me a while to realise that it was actually Uruguayan Immigration. Here I got my passport stamped again (on the right page) and I was off.
The boat moved out of Buenos Aires along a narrow waterway before heading for the Rio de la Plata which is an estuary but so wide that it is more like a sea. You can’t see Uruguay from Buenos Aires. Silt from the delta further up stream makes it very brown. It was a dramatic departure from Buenos Aires, owing to its impressive array of skyscrapers. The journey was 1 hour 15 minutes and the boat sped across the estuary for a much more low key arrival in Colonial del Sacramento, a small colonial town in Uruguay that is one of the top tourist sights in the country. There was, however, a dramatic sunset over Buenos Aires.
I walked to my hostel in the old town. I am a veteran of 1980s Youth Hostelling when it was a right of passage to inter-rail around Europe. In those days you had to join The Youth Hostel Association but now they are just called hostels and can be booked on booking.com. I have rarely stayed in a hostel since the 1980s but there are a few notable exceptions. Becky Gair and I took a Woodlands School Group to Italy and stayed in a delightful hostel in Sorrento. The students had their own rooms but Becky and I stayed in a 6 bed female room. I was pleased it had an en-suite, something you never got in the 1980s. Our delightful room mates, who came from all over the world and changed on a regular basis, would normally come in during the early hours but Becky and I were working so we were up at 7am. In 2018, I stayed in a 4-bed female room for 3 nights for a short trip to Toulouse. Again, it had an en-suite and I enjoyed chatting to women from Mexico, Portugal and the U.K. I was not the oldest occupant! On this occasion, I most certainly was. It was me and the millennials. Perhaps it is the time of year! I was in a 6-bed mixed room. In the 1980s I was horrified on the one occasion that I stayed in a mixed room with a female friend but it seems to be much more common today. The other occupants of the room were two couples and a single man. It was getting quite late so the only person I could get hold of on FaceTime was Helen who was drunk in a Wetherspoon's Pub in Lancaster with her university friends. They were all incoherent! Luckily, it is only a 3 hour time difference with the U.K. so it is not normally hard to stay in touch. As I was only here for one night I went out to experience the atmosphere of this old town by night. It was elegantly light and there was a carnival parade through the streets. Uruguayan Carnival, I later learnt, goes on for over a month.
My room mates were very quiet but I did have to take the plunge and turn the light out at mid-night, and the light from their devices made it hard to sleep. In addition, the single man’s phone went off early in the morning and as he was on the top bunk, and it was at ground level, I had to crawl under the bed to get it for him. He was very appreciative, and so he should have been! The hostel cost 8 GBP and included toast, fruit, juice and filter coffee. Bargain if you ask me! I got talking a Belgian man who was part of one the couples in my room. He was keen to know what impact Brexit would have and seemed to suggest that Belgium think the U.K. is arrogant! He is travelling with his girlfriend for a year and their next stop was to be the carnival in Rio where they would meet up with his parents. It sounded as if they had spent lots of time on buses whilst in South America. I think I’ve got this to come. I also got talking to a French woman who lives in Quebec and we compared travel notes. This is the beauty of staying in a hostel if you are a single traveller, there is always someone interesting with whom to have a conversation. I gave the hostel 10/10 in my booking.com review.
I set off to explore the old town. It has the most photographed street in Uruguay which could have been straight out of a Thomas Hardy novel and many beautiful squares. I got the 4.30pm bus to the capital, Montevideo, a 2.5 hour journey through rolling countryside which was much more attractive than the flat landscape on the Argentinian side.