Bike touring in Uruguay.
After several practices in the province of Buenos Aires and the peculiar affair of Route 8, we decided to plan the trip to Uruguay by bike. Many people had told us it was a perfect place to start pedaling the first extensive kilometers, and they were right.
Uruguay is a small country, but with amazing sceneries. The routes were generally in very good condition and little busy at the time we went, March.
On March 2nd 2016 we woke up 6:00 a.m. to start the trip, which actually had started many months ago and especially on the day before when we had to pack the bicycles.
At 8:15 am we departed from the port of Buenos Aires with Seacat’s boat, which incidentally is the same as Buquebus, but cheaper. While we were departing we took awareness of the oversights, mainly responsibilities, to have a great experience, and on another plane, part of the luggage, the stove, shampoo, detergent, sponge. Finally, that feeling of all travelers have forgotten everything, was accurate. We arrived 9:30 am in Colonia del Sacramento and took the bus to Terminal Tres Cruces in Montevideo.
After traveling 3hrs we arrived 12: 30hs, we set up the bikes and in the between of the process we broke one of the rearview mirrors. As we rode the streets of the Uruguayan capital we called the attention of the citizens thanks to our flashy saddlebags. That’s right, we are baptized U.W.O. (Unidentified Wheeler Object).
Before starting our first journey, we needed to buy the stove. We rode many streets of Montevideo and we could not find the same gas fitting system, so we had to buy a new gas with the stove.
That’s how we started our first journey at 3pm. As we sped along Av. Italia, one reflective light fell from the bikes. We stopped to pick it up and we noticed that the other rearview mirror was loose, fell to the floor and third setback.
In one of the steeps we suffered, lack of communication tricked us and caused a friction between our wheels that evolved to an annoying injury. As if all this was not enough, a few minutes later, we decided to take the promenade to enjoy the view of the river and the beach, but the wind blew us and forced us to take Av Italia again.
Like many people warned us, with high motivation and cold mentality is possible to do whatever you like. This is why despite having all these setbacks, we continued to fulfill the first objective.
We arrived to our first destination, Salinas, by dawn. Located 38km from Montevideo, we set up the tent at Camping Playa Escondida.
MONTEVIDEO – SALINAS = 38km
Since we got up early, we traveled by boat, bus and we had all those setbacks, we went to sleep at 8pm with many lessons learned. This is why we decided to take a free day to reorganize the trip.
We woke up early and went to have breakfast at the desolate and beautiful beach of Salinas. We took the day to stretch, rest, shopping, bathing, calibrate our bikes and fix one of the rearview mirrors, since we only had two and were broken.
Suddenly, we thought we had lost the keys, so, we emptied the tent and the bags, explored the beach, we asked the lifeguards…and finally appeared in the pot. New lesson learned, order is necessary.
The next day we woke up early, 7am, had breakfast, picked up camp and we started to ride again through the Interbalnearia Highway. The steep hills started and we had to walk some stretches. We had lunch in Jaureguiberry (Km78), a very nice balneario where the creek joins the river. Nice place to rest.
Near 3:30pm we arrived to our second destination, Piriápolis, after suffering the latest hills of Route 37.
SALINAS – PIRIAPOLIS = 62km
The next morning we picked up camp again and when we were about to leave the rain stopped us. The day was threatening and for 15 minutes rained heavily. The rain stopped for a while, so we decided to go to Piriápolis. We were hesitating till we decided to continue, as we were close from our next stop.
With cloudy, dark sky, and odds of many steep hills, we went back to the Interbalnearia, and we crossed Punta del Este, suffering the abrupt entrance, but enjoying its landscape. We took Route 10 and arrived in La Barra, our new break.
PIRIAPOLIS – LA BARRA = 52km
Accustomed to wake up early in the tent, we opened our eyes at 6:30am. Cloudy sky with storm forecasting. We went for a walk with the mate under our arms, the Uruguayan style. Suddenly the sky started to clear and we decided to continue riding. Little by little we understood that we needed to ride. We have already had beach vacations, museums and walks, now, we wanted action.
We were worried about crossing Laguna Garzón and Laguna Rocha, because there was no bridge in the maps. Finally, thanks to some advice from the locals, we noticed that the maps were old and that there was a bridge to cross the first lagoon, Laguna Garzón.
To cross Laguna Rocha there is no bridge. A local told us his experience. He crossed the lagoon walking as the depth of it was low and he told us that the crossing is short and in general there is a bar of sand that divides the sea from the lagoon.
We were about to face a new challenge. We needed to decide if we were going through Rout 9 doing 40 kilometers more, or if we were going till the lagoon to see if we could cross. The latter was our decision.
After crossing Laguna Garzón the gravel route started. The length of this gravel route was 30km. 10km before Laguna Rocha there is a country club called Garzón and the people were nice. We refilled water and they told us that there were two cyclist that had already passed before and for them, they had already crossed.
Getting closer to the lagoon we saw a park ranger’s car. We thought that the worst thing was coming, but he told us that we were able to cross the lagoon as the bar of sand was formed.
We crossed Laguna Rocha, the heaviest and best part of the trip. Full solitude and a natural paradise. On one side of the bar of sand the waves crashing the beach, on the other side mild currents formed due to walking crabs.
After the lagoon we started riding again the bicycles and we realized that Vir’s wheel was low. I inflate it and we arrived to La Paloma after a couple of steep hills.
While we were entering the city started to rain and we went to a gas station to get some wi-fii and look for accommodation. That’s where we witnessed a nice rainbow. We stayed for two nights in La Cabaña Azul, owned by Selva. A lovely local. We talked a lot about politics, society, travels and business. We felt the Uruguayan culture really close for the first time. We share culture, pain, sacrifice and MATE!
LA BARRA – LA PALOMA = 75km
The next day we woke up early with a fresh and shiny morning and we started another cycling day. The wind made the trip hard. We continued through the Route 10, at first with new pavement. Traffic was low so we were relaxed.
We arrived to Aguas Dulces and we took Route 15 with a few hills. That was the moment to walk a little bit. In Castillos we took Route 9 and we went to a camp ground near Esmeralda, but it was closed. We enjoyed the empty beach and we spent the night without water and electricity, but a sky full of stars.
LA PALOMA – ESMERALDA = 82km
Little by little we were progressing our riding and physic resistance, enlarging our cycling days, but the weather is a great factor. The heat, wind, rain, and humidity are special protagonist in this story. The following day we suffered the humidity and anxiety of our minds. We did only 35km but felt like 200km, and we arrived to Punta del Diablo.
ESMERALDA – PUNTA DEL DIABLO = 35km
The following day was rainy and we stayed in Punta del Diablo reading, resting and planning the rest of the trip. Afterwards we went to the Santa Teresa National Park, 5km from Punta del Diablo. Very nice park, cheap and full of services to spend the night, restrooms and markets next to the camp grounds. We enjoyed the beach, the trails and the fort of Santa Teresa.
From Santa Teresa we went to La Pedrera with the opposite line, route 9, 15 and 10. It was the longest cycling day with 103km, but we really enjoyed it. The weather was a good companion, so we arrived in good shape to our new destination.
SANTA TERESA – LA PEDRERA = 103km
In La Pedrera we stayed for two nights, one day to rest. We went to the beach, we cooked very tasty meals and the next day we continued the trip. Our next destination was La Barra again. We took Route 10 with pavement and after La Paloma you have gravel till the lagoon. We crossed again Laguna Rocha walking. It was harder this time because we were more tired.
LA PEDRERA – LA BARRA = 79km
We continued through different streets to avoid Punta del Este again and we took the highway with their generous shoulders. In Punta Negra we took Route 10, that borders Punta Negra and Punta Colorada, entering Piriapolis. Very nice route. There are no shoulders, but is like an avenue, cars slow down the speed.
The following day we took the bus to Montevideo and from there to Colonia to take the ferry. Once in Buenos Aires we set up the bicycles and we rode till home. We fought with a taxi driver and we were home again, waiting to leave again.
Una vez en Buenos Aires armamos las bicis y fuimos hasta nuestras casas pedaleando. Volviendo a hora pico, peleamos con un taxista que se nos subió a la bicisenda y con esa paz alterada volvimos a casa, esperando irnos pronto.