Shopping Malls and Golf Buggies
When the tourist office tells you that one of the sights to see is a
shopping centre that is open till 10pm, you know a capital city just isn’t
going to be all that exciting.
We had arrived in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, on a cold Saturday afternoon. On the bus ride from the airport to the city centre we passed a
hulking, filthy, hospital. It had black smoke pouring out of it’s chimneys
and the letters SOS plastered over the top three stories of the building.
“Remind me not to get sick here,” where my first words to Tim, quickly followed by, “Bugger, I forgot to take a picture.”
After checking into the youth hostel we set off to explore the town. The town
centre was utterly deserted so we decided to walk to the old part of town.
Dotted along the dull streets are old colonial buildings which serve as
Montevideo’s main tourist draw. We soon became bored and hungry. I hadn’t
eaten steak for at least 48 hours so I quickly choose the largest steak on the
menu. I was completely unprepared for the slice of cow that was placed in
front of me. It was huge. When I finally gave up eating it I vowed not to
eat steak for the next week. After the meal we walked back to the centre of
town and went to watch a movie.
It was Sunday lunchtime when we went into the tourist office and were told
about the shopping centre. Ignoring their advice to check out this modern
marvel we walked to the Sunday afternoon street market. It was full of the
usual bric-a-brac that you always find at car boot sales. Despite, or
because, of this the entire population seemed to be wandering up and down
the many streets that the market sprawled over. I was left with an uneasy
feeling that many stall holders had simply stripped their houses bare in an
attempt to sell something and make a bit of money. The only new items on
sale where the fruit and veg stalls and a roaring trade in pirated computer
In the evening we wandered into a bar and straight into a fashion show.
“What is going on?” Asked Tim in his perfect Spanish.
“It’s a fashion show,” the waitress replied.
Tim tried again, “Yes, thank you. But why is it in this pub on a Sunday night? Is there a festival or something going on?”
“No, on Fridays we have live music, Saturday is a club night and Sunday is a fashion show!”
There’s not much else you can ask after a statement like that.
After leaving the pub we flagged down a taxi and asked the driver to take us
somewhere good to eat. The driver knew his stuff and we were soon dining on
Parrillada (a mixed grill of beef cuts, sausages, black pudding, liver, kidneys and several other unidentified animal parts)
On Monday we took a bus to Colonia del Sacramento. As soon as we arrived and
had walked down the main street, we declared Colonia a much better
destination than the previous city. It was full of narrow cobbled streets,
trees, old style street lamps and low buildings. Even the weather was
better. In the evening we walked through the quiet back streets accompanied
by a couple of local dogs, and a Portuguese girl we had met that morning.
The next day I was eager to rent a golf buggy and take it for a spin around
town. Tim handed over his credit card and I provided the driver’s license.
Why you need a driver’s license to hire a golf buggy is beyond me.
Particularly as neither of us had any idea about road rules in this part of
the world. Nevertheless we hit the highway at full speed and set about
finding things to do with our new toy:
- Drive it down the highway to the next town on the map. At this point
crazy ideas about touring South America in a golf buggy kept popping into my
- Drive along the beach and get bogged down in sand.
- Overtake a Ford Cortina whilst heading down hill with the wind at our
- Find a patch of gravel and pull handbrake turns. (This one had the locals
collapsing with laughter)
- Put it in reverse and listen to the ridiculous beeping noise it made.
Luckily the guy at the Thrifty rent-a-car shop didn’t inspect the buggy too
closely when he gave Tim his credit card slip back. We wisely decided not to
tell him that it had started making a strange banging noise after we had
driven it down a particularly steep and cobbled road.
That evening we caught
the ferry back to Buenos Aires and then an overnight bus to Cordoba.
The bus we chose was the most expensive one available. The journey started
with a bible reading, then dinner. The next morning I was awoken by the
hostess thanking God for the new day. As it was my first bus journey in
Argentina I asked if all the bus companies did this. No, came the reply.
Only this one.
Cordoba is Argentina’s historic university city and therefore is swarming with
young students. Many of them wander around in the white robes of medical
students, of which the town is famous for. I arranged to meet Tim in one of
the city’s many plazas. He turned up with a feverishly hot Californian babe
(Elizabeth’s own description of herself) who we had previously met in Buenos
Aires. They had also arranged to meet up with a couple of other backpackers
for dinner later. We returned to the hostel to change for dinner and bumped
into someone else we already knew. Ross, a Scottish guy with the most
obnoxious shoes on the planet. One night in Buenos Aires the smell was so
bad that it kept me awake. I quickly dealt with the shoes but was awoken
later by Ross coming back from a club and collapsing in fits of laughter
when he saw what had been done to his trainers.
The conversation around the dinner table mostly consisted of telling Tim and
myself how sick we would get in Bolivia. We were also served by a waiter so
useless we started calling him Manuel.
Thursday, September 19th, Elizabeth, Tim and myself all spent the day
finding ways to waste time until the overnight bus left for Mendoza. We took
a city tour, walked around a bit, used the internet, sat in a cafe and
eventually gave up and went to sit in the bus station.