Crossing the Chocolate-Coloured Río de la Plata to Uruguay

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The boat was at 9:40 a.m. and the terminal wasn’t too far from the hotel. In theory, we had plenty of time.

In practice, at 9:15 a.m., we told the taxi driver we had to get off and walk because there was no way we would make it otherwise. He dumped us in the middle of the jammed avenue. Between construction work, blocked streets and rush-hour traffic, we had lost precious time and we were late.

We checked in our two backpacks and ran upstairs to go through the migración—fingerprints and a picture to exit Argentina, a stamp to enter Uruguay even though we were still technically in Buenos Aires.

We boarded the boat at 9:45 a.m. Phew. We had a long travel day ahead of us—first, a three-hour boat across the Río de la Plata, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, then a two-hour bus ride from Colonia to Montevideo, the capital. We were still sleepy and very sweaty after the walk with the backpacks.

It had been a while since we last crossed the chocolate-coloured river and I was looking forward to it. After all, we rarely have the chance to travel by boat.

But first, I had to wake up. “I didn’t even have the time to buy a drink and have a smoke,” I complained, “and… Oh, it’s one of these boats! Okay, never mind.”

The upper deck was the mate-drinking cigarette-smoking section. Argentinians and Uruguayans are addicted to mate de coca—an herbal tea made using coca leaves—and they never go out without a thermos of hot water, gourds and bombillas (straws).

Right. I’d be just fine.

I watched Buenos Aires fading into the distance, the tall buildings in the skyline becoming smaller and smaller. Then, all I could see was the blue sky and the brown river. Due to sediments, Río de la Plata River has a unique colour—it feels like you’re floating on a giant cup of cappuccino or hot chocolate. Brown river, blue sky, yellow, blue and white boat… I was hypnotized.

“Gonna go back to sleep, now.”

I found three seats and I lie down, my head on my bag. I sleep for over two hours—Mark doesn’t need a mother anymore, he has a tablet, it’s much more entertaining, right?

I woke up just before arriving in Colonia. This is a small town, the view wasn’t very impressive.

We picked up the backpacks, went through customs and jumped on the bus to Montevideo. I looked out of the window. Fields, cows, horses, palm trees, vivid tones of green—it felt so tropical! Suddenly, I realized that it was the first time we were seeing this kind of landscape since we landed in South America three weeks ago. Santiago and Buenos Aires are both urban areas with domesticated palm trees and your usual city parks, Antofagasta was in the desert and Valparaíso is a seaport.

When the road became to bumpy for me to write and for Mar to play with the tablet—somehow, there was battery left—I pulled out earbuds. “Wanna listen to some music?”

I let him pick and he chose the songs based on the album cover. So we listened to Nevermind because naked baby swimming, chasing a dollar bill.

“This one! What’s that?”

“Huh… Eminem.”

“This song! What’s the name of this song?”

“… Just don’t give a fuck. Like, that’s the name of the song.”

“Funny! Wow! He just said ‘funky’! Eh, I understand everything this guy sings about!”

“…I… hope not?”

After rap music, Mark discovered Aqua.

I’ve had “Barbie Girl” stuck in my head since we arrived in Montevideo.

Note to self: clean up playlist.

Not quite awake on the Eladia Isabel boat in Buenos Aires

On the Eladia Isabel boat in Buenos Aires

On the Eladia Isabel boat in Buenos Aires

Leaving the Dársena Norte and Buenos Aires

Leaving the Dársena Norte and Buenos Aires

Mate-drinking Argentinians on the boat

Mate-drinking Argentinians on the boat

Mate-drinking Argentinians on the boat

Mate-drinking Argentinians on the boat

Even in the bathroom, a sign reminds people not to put mate down the sink!

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Crossing Río de la Plata

Coffee after sleeping a couple of hours in the boat on these three seats

Thanks, Mark

Arriving in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Bus from Colonia del Sacramento to Montevideo

Bus from Colonia del Sacramento to Montevideo

Mark discovering Eminem

Mark discovering Aqua (“I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world Life in plastic, it’s fantastic…”)

OMG, AQUA!

Mark singing along…

Mark singing along…

Bus station in Montevideo

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

10 Comments

      • Yerba mate is made from the leaves of the Yerba Mate tree, which is in the Holly family of shrubs. It is native to northern Argentina, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil. Cheers!

        • Ah, I’ve never heard that! Not that I’m claiming you’re wrong, I have no idea. But I remember that importing mate was a no no in North America because coca leaves… Is that the same mate drank in Peru and Bolivia?

  1. while reading this post, I was wondering, have I crossed the my country by boat! I’m glad I’ve done it twice! from batam island to Singapore! hahahahha

  2. Martin Penwald on

    Ok, I see, you crossed the delta. It’s weird, it doesn’t look that there is any bridge on the river further north.

    And Barbie Girl is still on my playlist from my young time.

  3. I love the picture with your boat and the sea (half/half). Mais il y a une partie des photos qui ne s’affichent pas pour moi, va savoir pourquoi…

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