There’s a really unglamorous side to travelling sometimes, particularly on these longer jaunts. Shorter term travel is so often full of excitement, sights and jam packed full of everything and anything; longer term travel too for the most part but there’s one tiny little massive difference. We can’t just ‘leave it till we get home’. As much as this trip for us is a kind of evacuation from our every day lives there remains lives that annoyingly need to keep on going, ours. In nearly three days we have done little other than sit in bus seats and dive into a heavy soup of admin Latin America style. Paying bills, buying tickets, dealing with banks and government agencies that all can’t wait till we get home. And by Latin America style I mean taking simple tasks and somehow injecting copious amounts of time and pain into the picture that wasn’t as they say in the travel business, ‘in the brochure’. These lives do continue but who’s lives are they?
The sobering thought goes something like this: shut up you whingeing first world tit, find a mirror and punch yourself in the face a few times, starving kids in Africa and all that. But I’ll tempt the scorn, poke the bear and run the risk of sounding a wee bit British, there are some days that this gig can get just a wee bit tedious. It’s in this respect that we thank our privilege, the worst circumstance we often find ourselves in is slight tedium, not bad after all I guess; where’s that mirror? Is it that we sometimes undervalue rest, routine and familiarity? Are the old adages of family, friends and food more than even we give credit to? Maybe it’s just that we haven’t had alcohol in nearly 100 hours. I know, the itching will stop soon I’m sure.
Yet all good things come to an end, as do the mildly tedious. We’ll be back in Buenos Aires shortly but for now nothing quashes tedium like donning secret agent garb again and making another international cash mule run to trade on the black market, this time to Uruguay. We’re racking up Argentinian passport stamps like Nigella Lawson racks up cocaine; first time bank balances are thankful for ‘racking up’. Third time in and out of Argentina; that’s normal right?
Uruguay for us now is sadly little more than a stop off point to load up our ‘boogie-board bags’ however we have a night in Colonia de Sacramento to enjoy. Uruguay is touted as the most liberal and progressive of all Latin American countries with president Tabare Vasquez leading the way. This dude is hilarious and awesome at the same time, he drives an old banged up car, moved out of his palace to donate it as a homeless shelter and insists on taking public transport; we need one of these. Throw in beautiful landscapes and beaches that actually have sand, golden sand and waves, who’d have thought. Uruguay; not only a cool country with the most popular President ever but what a way to break a bit of a travellers tedium.
Colonia is the mission point for our smugglers run, fittingly founded as a Portuguese smugglers port to move goods to Buenos Aires with much of the original ruins retained in the historical centre of town. So what to say about Colonia: gorgeous comes to mind. Focusing on the relatively small historical centre that fronts the shore are a range of cool bars and delicious food sympathetically nestles out of the way of historical walls, plazas and streets offering a trip back in time. The atmosphere is so relaxed it’s basically in a coma and at every turn we’re reminded of the quaint beauty that only history and age can provide. Crumbling walls laden with bougainvillea and wisteria line narrow cobbled streets, tight and uneven in their cries to be taken back a few centuries where they belong.
It’s only a day and despite having just one ATM in town that takes our cards we brush off the frustration that we’re becoming used to and drown in history, charm and beer; to hours of a slowly setting sun. I jest of travellers tedium however an unsettled life does demand constant fuel. Where commonly we might have friends, a comfortable home, the sanity of cooking or gardening we have a restless void of hostels, and bad food into which we dig up and throw a never ending stream of excitement and amazement to sate the beast. It’s travelling, it’s fun but it can sometimes be quite contra to a happy mind strangely enough. But the void does take a pause every now and then, sometimes you get some needed rest and other times you find a place like Colonia, a place that removes this sense of emptiness that needs ever more fuel to consume. Yes it’s travellers tedium but sometimes a place can feel a little like home.
I wonder now: have we found a piece of the world with a restorative vibe comparable to the nourishing good life of the Blue Mountains (where we have a house near Sydney) to sate the beast for a time? Or are we officially alcoholics and we just had beer? The itching has stopped but we’re going strongly with the former, Colonia scratches more itches than we knew we had.