The Uruguay bunny catchers - doing quite well.
El Viejo Gaucho
El Viejo Traino
Before leaving Salto, we find an internet cafe with high speed connections and post our first web update. To me it seems strange to see it all work. Some clever bunnies were involved in producing FrontPage and all the other software we use.
Our next surprise was filling the car with petrol - a lot more expensive than we'd expected. We'd initially planned to visit the dam near Salto, but time is marching (it's almost noon before we leave town) and there are other dams on our plans so we decide to push on to our next destination, Tacuarembó.
Initially it is the same landscape we've seen so far but gradually we start to climb and the views change. We see rocks on the ground for the first time and hills appear. We pass an open-backed van with dead rabbits hanging from the metal frame. Further on another truck has stopped on the other side of the road. This too is full of rabbits with more hanging over the sides. As we turn around to take photos the first van also pulls in. They must be a link in the chain to market for all the local farmers and rabbit catchers.
Stef stops an old gaucho and asks permission to take his photo (he has been after this one for ages). The gaucho loves it and tells Stef to wait until he has turned round for the camera and pushed his hat back on his head. I'm not sure which one got the most pleasure from that little experience!
Just outside Tacuarembó we pull in to the Valle del Edén. There is a small campsite (closed for the winter) and round the corner and over a ford there is a small museum about Carlos Gardel, a famous tango singer and film star of the 1930's. Both Argentina and Uruguay claim that he was born in their country and the museum is more Uruguay's collection of facts to prove their case than a source of information about the singer himself.
That said it was still interesting, with photos, newspaper cuttings, a video (in Spanish and a very dodgy production so it was quite a laugh). I'm not sure how old he was when he died but he died an unpleasant death. The plane he and some friends were in crashed and they were all burnt to death. The museum includes a rather grim photo of their burnt bodies laid out mortuary style on the ground.
We ambled through the small gardens and down to the old Valle del Edén railway track and station. There are two old, empty, rusty carriages. As with Chile and Argentina, trains no longer run in Uruguay.
Heading into Tacuarembó without a map was an experience. It was yet another town with no directions and I could sense sharing my thoughts of "oh bugger" as we got to a grim part of town without hitting the main square. We then realised we'd gone in the wrong direction, doubled back and found the centre. We followed a Lonely Planet recommendation for a hotel, Hotel Central, which from the outside looked the better bet. Our room was at the end of a dark corridor with a shared bathroom ("but there's no one in the other room" they assured us). My heart sank when I saw the room - very dark with dark patches on the wall that could be damp - but we both knew it was either this or a very uncomfortable night in the car! It was too late to carry on anywhere else and even if we did there was no guarantee it would be any better. I'm open with Stef and admit that if this is the standard we've got to put up with I will struggle.
We head off in search of dinero as our cash is running low. Being in the middle of nowhere with few (no!) international tourists the ATMs don't recognise international cards and we couldn't get any local currency. A minor panic set in that something had happened to our cards but we have had this in other places so it should be OK. The local pharmacy points us in the direction of a cambio - no sign, just a man sat behind a desk in a little office off the street. Its probably dodgy but it did the trick as we changed dollars into pesos.
Apart from being cold, our room looks quite cosy at second viewing. This part of the hotel feels as if its from the same era as the hotel in Salto and has similar parquet floors. We spent the evening revisiting our plans for the rest of our stay in Uruguay (they change daily) and decide that tomorrow's destination is Treinta y Tres (33).