"Why would you ever go to Colonia, Uruguay?" This is a question that is most often answered unanimously by ex-pats by, "to renew my 90-day tourist visa."
Yep, that's it. Then the conversation usually continues about how little there is to do in this po-dunk, nothing town. For a person who grew up in a very small town, I was actually looking forward to getting out of the huge metropolitan zoo of Buenos Aires, even if it was only for 5 hours in the afternoon/evening time. It was that time for Mike and I to renew our 90-day tourist visa. Since we don't have work visas, neither do most ex-pats working in Buenos Aires, we must comply by the 90-day rule and leave the country every three months to get a little stamp on the passport that lets authorities know we wouldn't dare overstay our welcome in Argentina.
After a quick one hour boat ride from Buenos Aires, we were welcomed to Colonia by a confused climate. For one minute it was sunny, the next it was foggy, which actually transcends a beautiful array of colors in the rapidly changing sky. We began our journey through this so-called town of nothing by walking through a big construction site which signified at least they were trying to add some buildings to this town of nothing. We finally arrived to the main highway where our choice was simple, go straight to the center of the city or go right on the main highway towards Montevideo.
Although we would have loved to take a quick detour to Montevideo, we only had five hours to discover all of the nothing there was to do in Colonia. We arrived at the main avenue that passes through the town just about 50 meters after the sign. By the time we exchanged our Argentine pesos to Uruguayan pesos, the fog had begun to set in heavily eliminating any possible return of the sun. Our rather brief exploration of the main avenue reminded me very much of little towns I had grown up going to on the eastern plains of Colorado, where life is very simple. Our appetite kicked in and we located the most cheerful looking restaurant on the main avenue where the vibes were perfect. Jazz-like music played during the foggy, cold afternoon which somewhat put us in a Christmas spirit. I can't fully explain what provided this Christmas sentiment, maybe it was the jazz music or maybe it was the small-town atmosphere in a thick fog that reminded me of the winter clouds as a child waiting for a peaceful snowfall.
Our meal was more than plentiful, the first meal that I haven't been able to finish since I moved to South America. The afternoon had escaped us and the day had turned to night without notice. Keep in mind this was in the end of June when the days are the shortest of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. We had two hours left to kill in a calm, foggy evening. So we did what anyone else would do in our situation...... we rented little motorcycle scooters to drive around and fully explore what Colonia may had been hiding from us. Total cost? A whole $7 usd for one hour to ride around our sweet new rides. It was actually a thrill cruising the streets and highways of this little town since traffic was very scarce on this foggy evening. At one point, it felt as if we were the only people in the town, driving through the foggy night. The hour of exploration via motitos (little motorcycles) reminded me somewhat of all of my bike tours through Europe, for I had forgotten how riding bikes through an unknown place provides a rare liberating feeling.
The hands and face were frozen to numbness after the short-lived, Uruguayan version of motorcycle diaries. At this point, our time was up in Colonia. I think 5 hours was perfect to explore the town of nothing. So the next time they ask, "what is there to do in Colonia, Uruguay?" I'd like to do justice to the answer and replace the whole "nothing" talk, those little motorcycles are freakin' sweet! Ok, so maybe there was nothing to do, but I'd rather be doing nothing on a scooter than on foot.
Below are some more photos from the trip. Mike took all of these pictures, so give him the credit. The first photo is of a little park we saw right when we arrived on the main avenue. The following photo is of me on my motito. The final pic is a great nighttime shot in foggy Colonia... enjoy!