Thursday, March 30, 2006

Treinta y Tres

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Treinta y Tres (meaning 33) is yet another departamento located at the east of Uruguay. The Laguna Merín (a small lake) separates it from Brazil. The capital, also called Treinta y Tres is a small city with 28,000 people. This city is located 283 km away from Montevideo, and you can get there by driving north on Route 8. This is the same panoramic road that leads to Lavalleja and you get to see the sierras as well as many different kinds of interesting scenes and animals.

Treinta y Tres is the second least populated departamento (the first is Flores). However it is quite well known as "Los Olimareños", two very famous Uruguayan singers were born there. The people from this departamento like to be called olimareños. The word comes from the name of a river called "El Olimar" that is in the departamento. The name Treinta y Tres was given because of the "Treinta y Tres Orientales". These were 33 men that fought for the independence of Uruguay from the Spaniards at the beginning of the 19th century.

The city is pretty small and doesn't have many attractions. There is an obelisk and a monument that reads "Libertad o Muerte" (Freedom or Death), the inscription that could be read in the flag that they carried. The last of the following images shows the view of the city from my hotel. It all looks pretty much like that.

The interesting attraction there is "La Quebrada de los Cuervos" or the Crows quebrada. You can see the quebrada in the picture below. Crows are flying over it all the time and the place is secluded and beautiful. You are supposed to go down a really steep cliff and see a couple of different attractions which unfortunately I didn't see (didn't feel like coming up afterwards). But hey, you have a reason to come down here and then tell me all about it!

The Quebrada de los Cuervos is not far away from the city of Treinta y Tres and on the road you can see lots of differnt birds (cows, horses and sheep will always be there as well). I only could take pictures of a couple, but there are many different kinds and it's a lot of fun to see them. If you happen to know the name of the last bird below, do leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

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Thursday, March 16, 2006


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Lavalleja is another departamento located in the southeast of Uruguay. It is well known for its beautiful landscapes and rich animal and vegetal life. There are many interesting things to see here but the car ride to the different places is a very enjoyable experience itself. The landscape is really beautiful, full of green mountains (or I should probably say hills because they are quite short) and crowded with all sorts of animals and birds.

Probably the most visited cities are Minas and Villa Serrana. Minas is the capital, a small city of about 40 thousand people. It is about an hour and a half away from Montevideo and you can either drive or take a bus there. The most popular attractions are not far away from Minas. You can visit Salus, which is the main water company here and they have good beer too (Patricia is the name of the brand). About 10 km away from Minas there are two cerros that you can visit: Cerro del Verdún and Cerro Arequita and right by Cerro Arequita is Monte de Ombúes (a Mount of some kind of tree that I don’t know how it’s called in English).

About 17 km away from Minas is a small waterfall called El Salto del Penitente that is very pretty when it is powerful. When it doesn't rain for a while you don't get to see something very impressive, as shown by the picture below. In any case, the road that takes you to the cascade is again really pretty and makes the trip worth it.

Finally the other city to visit here is Villa Serrana, which is located between the Penitente and Marmarajá rivers. It is a really wonderful place with very few houses located sparsely around the gorgeous landscape. You can walk, fish, ride a horse, hike or just chill out in the middle of nowhere. If you want to stay there for the night there is a hostelling international and there are a couple of inexpensive hotels run by their owners that serve really good regional food.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Where to go in the summer (Maldonado)

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Maldonado is another departamento that you can visit in the summer. It is really pretty in the winter as well but you can’t enjoy the beach too much when it is so cold. Punta del Este is a good place to visit in the winter as you can sometimes see whales swimming in the ocean but we are concentrating in the summer here. If you like sailing or water sports this is probably the way to go because in Rocha there is not much more than surf to do. Here you can do parasailing, jetski and some other things. You can also use parapentes if you know how. There are many people doing that at Punta Ballena, near Casapueblo Hotel (the white building in the picture) all the time.

Punta del Este is probably our best known seaside resort, an hour and a half drive from Montevideo. You can also get there by plane or boat but usually only people coming from Argentina will do this, Uruguayans just drive. It gets really fancy and expensive in the summer, with lots of celebrities visiting from all over the world. The beaches are beautiful and the city itself is really pretty. The main reason why so many people visit, besides beauty, is probably safety. Downtown Punta del Este, also known as Gorlero, is full of really young kids playing video games until their parents come to get them at around 3 in the morning. At that time hundreds of teenagers will be hitchhiking to La Barra, where most of the dance clubs for youngsters are. La Barra is separated from Punta del Este by these two very particular bridges.

There are many things to see and do here, but some of them are a must-see. The sculpture with the fingers on the Brava beach, Casapueblo Hotel and the bridges of La Barra are the most typical attractions. Punta del Este is in Uruguay but sometimes people think it is in Argentina because most of the tourists that can afford it in the summer are from Buenos Aires.

Another option, and a cheaper one is Piriápolis. This is a smaller city and it has our tallest hills: Cerro Pan de Azúcar and Cerro San Antonio (I don’t think you can call them mountains they are about 500 meters tall max). You can hike Cerro Pan de Azúcar and get inside the cross that stands on the top.

To Cerro San Antonio you can go up by car or by using the chair lifts that you can see in the following picture.

This is the view of Piriápolis from up there.

There are many other seaside resorts with beautiful beaches in Maldonado, such as Cuchilla Alta, Playa Hermosa, Punta Colorada, etc but I can’t cover them all so I went for these two. In most places with water here you can see people fishing, if you like fishing Uruguay is a good place for that year round.

You can ask questions about the other ones if you have any.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Uruguay: the first smoke-free country in South America

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Starting March 1st Uruguay has become the first smoke-free country in South America. From now on smoking is prohibited in public places and smokers can't speak about anything else. They are all really mad because the ban came so abruptly. It just suddenly happened one day with almost no campaigns or psychological treatment.

I don't smoke and I personally like the idea of not having to tolerate the smoke at restaurants and certain other places but I think this should have been done gradually and not like the way it was carried out. Starting yesterday inspectors ran to the streets to make sure that the law is being respected everywhere. When it is not, violators will have to pay a fine of about 1000 American Dollars (that's a lot here in Uruguay).

The campaign started the same day of the banning with "no smoking" signs being posted everywhere. I am showing a couple of signs here, because I think that some of the ideas in the pictures are really good, it would have been better if they were up a couple of months earlier though. I could only find these around my place but I may post more in the future so come back if you are interested. I don't think the translation is necessary because the images speak by themselves. The main sign in the one with the baby says (don't make me smoke, smoke noun).

I should also mention in case you don't know, that our president Tabaré Vázquez is an oncologist and he is really worried about us Uruguayans dying of lung cancer. This is most likely the reason why we are the first country in Latin America to adopt the non-smoking status. There are around one million smokers in Uruguay (the total population is about 3 and a half millions). This is going to be really tough.

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