When I ask people where it is beautiful in natural surroundings, they slowly shrug up their shoulders, their eyes start looking into their minds cabinet, and they come up with no real answer. When I trow ‘Tucuarembo’ in, they reply with a lukewarm ‘yeah, it’s hilly there’ or ‘that is the real Uruguay still, with gaucho’s’ or ‘the road to there is 200 kilometer with nothing’.
Tucuarembo is where I want to go to. Because I like the name, and it is in the heartland of Uruguay, and one has to set a goal. This is my goal.
Being in Uruguay, avoiding the main roads and being on secondary roads means still too much traffic, and nature is only about agriculture. Fences are fortified. Forests man-made. Coffee at the gas station awfully bad. Welcome in a new country, Cindy…
My first proper day of cycling in Uruguay is anything but cycling. Smeared in glue, black mud up to my elbows and a sole greasy curly strand of hair I trot to the supermercado, my bicycle left at a bicycle shop. I only now notice how Uruguayans are, and I feel it’s my birthday! Much younger guys flirt, I am waved and greeted by almost every single men, and people (men that is) seem all so helpful and forthcoming.
With two new Brazilian tires, an inner tube, brake cable and pads I leave Mercedes. Exhausted from a day of repairing: a puncture in the back (the third in 2 weeks). Literally two minutes later a rip in the back tire, I fix it with an emergency repair patch. To release pressure on the weak back tire I exchange it to the front wheel. But by taking off the front wheel two, apparently already existing, punctures in the inner tube get a free current of air. I ignore this by cycling on and pumping air every 3 kilometer, until this start to annoy me. I repair the two punctures in the front, and am able to cycle problem-free to Mercedes, straight to a bicycle shop.
The fact that everywhere I am exist of fenced agricultural land start to work on my nerves. The only place where very little was fenced was Atacama, and I start to long for this desert again. To think of the Earth as one big grazing pasture for cows is insane, but that is what most of it is. I long for a natural nature without fences! And no, that is definitely not in Patagonia!
Speaking of Patagonia, it feels I am launched back in the midst of its rainy season.
The clouds are of a gray yellow color, as if an old wound filled with puss is going to burst. And when ruptures it does so with thick crystal drops, hard wind in an open most boring landscape, void of trees. The locals speak of horrible weather and the rivers carry more than they are able to. This isn’t normal weather for the time of year, end of winter. And again I need to seek shelter in an abandoned house, as outside the ground’s saturated with water.
The night has a storm brewing. Unswerving thunder and bullet-hard drops of water hit the corrugated roof hard. The ground I am sleeping on may be even and dry, the fact that it is made from stone, means painfully positions throughout the night. My 3 layers of mattress are simply not sufficient, and the tent zipper derails again.
In avoiding the main routes throughout Uruguay, I cycle on the provincial route. It has less traffic, mainly trucks with eucalyptus transport, which has me wonder towards which ‘natural abundance’ I am heading.
A week into Uruguay, with a lot of clouds, rain and smaller agricultural land means difficulty in finding camp spots. The spots I find are boring. Waking up makes me wonder how I am able to lighten my day, as there is not much which is appealing to me.
I start to realize that I have looked forward to Uruguay too much, having it idealized into something it could not be, and now I need to focus on the very small things. In doing so, the bigger boring picture vanishes somewhat.
The traffic becomes less and less.
The road carries more and more potholes.
Nature start to become familiar, or less boring indeed.
I pass Porvenir, a nondescript village which far-off stall-like church I will visit a few weeks later. I will do this with the mom of a new friend, and it then occurs to me how incredible the world is, especially, in boring Uruguay. I seem to get what I wish for.
A reason might be because I start to socialize more. I meet with Washington, who’s celebrating the morning at an antique cafe, where I fill up my water bottles.
I meet policeman Daniel and his colleague Christian, when I just finished, with great difficulty, squeezing the bicycle through the non-bendable 7 wired fence. They think I am brave, asking me whether I am not afraid. Asking, too, whether I carry a gun. If I did I would not tell them.
Often, people who work for the government and show authority while there’s no immediate reason to, evoke slight convulsion, resistance. Not this time as these two guys are just curious.
While Christian notes down the particulars as printed in my passport, I notice how tranquil Daniel’s presence feels, also that he has some left-over’s stuck between his teeth. They invite me to their station for a shower, but I don’t feel the need, though I go by for a Nescafe. They serve in Piedras Coloradas, a tiny town along the pothole, heavily patched up route 90, in the middle of the eucalyptus forests. I nearly want to stop the search to their station until I remember how much I need social contact. Once there, Christian asks me why I am not married nor having a boyfriend? I explain I dislike the grip which often comes with a relationship. ‘Oh, not here in Uruguay, our women leave us totally free’, he explains. I don’t believe him a bit.
I could stay all day, talk with Daniel who doesn’t seem to talk much, instead he seem to focuses on his own calm, Buddha-alike appearance which strikes me as the sort of expected lightning on a humid, heavy overcast sky does. But since no one offers me more Nescafe nor yerba mate, I set off again.
Ten minutes later I meet with a second Daniel, from Argentina, he is pushing his bicycle up the hill while carrying a big backpack. Daniel’s seeking work all over South America and now with a run-down bicycle among his few treasures. ‘It’s easy for me, I have no restrictions’ when I ask whether his life-style is difficult. I suppose he has grown into being a homeless, the collar of his white shirt colored with a greasy brown shade. I guess his life-style focuses on finding work, keeping the tummy filled while his shoes fall apart, the hairs of his eyebrows grow long, a bewildered look in his eyes, a skin with patches of a scaly nature.
As is my case, he seems to be in need for social contact too. After an hour talking I speed ahead of him, if I want to make a few kilometers this day.
Follow up is a continuing of the boredom in Uruguay, yet I had to split this post in two as it had become too lengthy.