URUGUAY - San Marcos, Maldonado
Mar 7, 2006
|San Marcos, it turned out, was a fairly small town but well connected for Maldonado and Playa Del Este - popular locations for Brazilian and Argentinian tourists in Uruguay.
We arrived around 1.5 hours late, after about 18 more hours on buses. The service was much better on this EGA double decker semi Leito bus, than any of the Brazilian buses. We were given food and alcohol. Need I say more?! Also, Elese and I shared the downstairs portion of the bus which has only 12 seats as opposed to the 40 or so upstairs, so it was much quieter.
The late arrival served us well as we were due to arrive at 6am which would have been pretty rubbish! We got off the bus and looked around, it seemed that Uruguay, or this town at least, was stuck in some 1980`s timewarp. The clothes, the haircuts and the cars. Here and all the other areas we visited really had the feel of an ex-comunist country, such as that of Hungary. The other thing we noted was the Mate tea drinking frenzy that was going on with every man, woman and child! I knew of it in Argenitina, and had tried an Argentinians Mate in Guatemala, but had not prepared myself for the scale of Mate drinking in Uruguay!!
Slung over pretty much everyones shoulder is a leather carrier that holds 2 large thermos flasks. The person carries what looks like a pestle (for crushing herbs and stuff in the kitchen). A silver straw is inserted into the pestle thing, and into a thick green mass of Mate (a kind of tea) and the drinker sips on the end of the straw drawing out the infused water that has passed through the leaves (Elese thinks it looks like a bong). It was pretty surreal, but we soon got used to the entire population drinking it on buses, in the street, at work etc. etc. We don`t have any pics of this from Uruguay, but will get some in Argentina.
We decided to head on another bus for a short journey to the city of Maldonado which should be more bustling.
We quickly found out that the Lonelyplanet guides view on prices and the reality were completely different. Starting with the hotels everything seemed to have had a price increase of around 80% - 100% since the book was published in 2004. We checked into a hotel, which was the cheapest available at around $US18, and explored the town.
Uruguay is most famous for its laid back nature, kind people, it`s excellent steaks and it`s beaches. We agree on everything but the beaches, as the area around Punta Del Este and South Maldonado is in the Rio De La Plata estuary, and the sea is brown!!
Another thing we noticed was the absurdly ridiculous school uniforms that the poor children of this country are forced to wear. We didn`t manage to get a photo in Maldonado, but there is one we got in Colonia Del Sacremento (see that section)....prepare to feel really sorry for those kids!
We checked out Punta Del Este (another Varadero / Mallorca / any other purpose built place to attract tourists and exploit there vast resources of money) and ate an ok fish dish - which had also had its price inflated loads since Lonelyplanet wrote its South America guide. Notice a hint of anger here?!
We decided the next day that we`d not spend any time at these beaches and topping the tans up, and so headed off to the capital, Montevideo....by bus of course!