The town of Chui / Chuy lies in no mans land between the Brazilian customs and immigration offices to the north and the Uruguayan border controls to the south. One side of the main street is in Brazil (Chui); while the other side is in Uruguay (Chuy). You can freely cross from one side to the other, pay in shops and restaurants in Brazilian Reales or Uruguayan Pesos, although the banks are less flexible. None of the cash point machines (ATMs) were working in the Uruguayan side of town so I crossed the street to the Brazilian side where I could get cash from the bank machines but only in Brazilian currency. I then had to change the Brazilian Reales at one of the numerous money changing offices back on the Uruguayan side.
Punta del Diablo (Devil's Point) Harbour
The first destination in Uruguay was Punta del Diablo (Devil’s Point) which turned out to be an exceptionally quiet, sleepy fishing village and out of season tourist resort. Most of the businesses were closed until the summer but there was a good supermarket to cater for the eight hundred permanent residents. One restaurant was open every day and another opened at weekends when a few Uruguayan tourists would appear. In the short peak holiday season of December and January the population swells to over twenty five thousand. The village and the beaches are then crowded with holiday makers enjoying the short summer.
One Of The First Fisherman's Cottages That Established Punta del Diablo in the 1930s
The weather had been getting colder and wetter as I made my way south so I hoped to find somewhere to stay for a while and wait for the sun to ’catch me up’. It was raining and cold the day I arrived in Punta del Diablo, I never fully warmed up and ended up going to bed fully dressed. A couple of days later there was a noticeable rise in temperature and it didn’t rain again for the rest of the time I stayed in Punta del Diablo. Night time temperatures in the hostel were cosy with a large log fire burning and it was only necessary to put extra layers of clothing on for walks along the beach where; invariably there would be a cold wind blowing.
Camera Shy Seal Pup Sprints For The Sea
Punta del Diablo reminded me a lot of the Northumberland coast near where I live in England. Long deserted sandy beaches partially sheltered by a range of sand dunes. The winter weather of Uruguay was very much like Northumberland summers, warm if you can only find shelter from the cold wind. There were some differences though. I have seen seals on the beaches in Northumberland and Punta del Diablo but I have never seen a vulture (or vulture like bird) chewing on a dead seal on a Northumberland beach.
Nothing This Gruesome Happens On The Beaches Of Northumberand
One morning while having breakfast on the sheltered hostel terrace gazing out to sea a whale was sighted. Sue, a teacher working on the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) and presumably used to seeing them regularly out of her kitchen window spotted it first. We watched it for fifteen minutes, coming up to the surface to blow a spout of water in the air as it exhaled and its long dark back arching above the water as it dived again. On my daily walks along the beach or through the forest I saw dolphins, seals and giant rabbits. I never properly identified the giant rabbits but they were huge things, many times bigger than I have ever seen before.
View Of The South Atlantic From My New Home
Within walking distance north along the beach from Punta del Diablo; lies Santa Teresa National Park which includes miles of beaches and sand dunes, a forest and the historic fort that the park is named after. Santa Teresa fort was built by the Portuguese in 1762 and was modified and rebuilt several times as it changed hands between the Portuguese and Spanish. Nearby is Lugana Negra (Black Lake) which is large enough to make the far shore only just visible.
Santa Teresa Fort
Riding towards the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo I stopped for lunch beside the Monumento al Ahogado (Monument of the Drowned) in Punta del Este. The sculpture, by the Chilean artist, Mario Irarràzabal of a large hand almost buried in the sand was created in 1982. Ten years later the same artist created a similar giant hand sculpture, Mano de Desierto (Hand of the Desert) on the Pacific side of South America in the Chilean Atacama Desert. Although the sculptures are of a left and a right hand I’m not sure that they were intended to be a pair although I like the symbology of a pair of hands clasping the continent.
Monumento al Ahogado (Monument of the Drowned), Punta del Este
My hostel in Montevideo was only a kilometre from the BMW dealer so once I had booked in and changed I walked there to see if they had the spares I wanted for my F650GS. On arrival I was told they needed the vin number to check the part numbers which I didn’t have with me. Returning with the bike the following day at 9am I was told to come back in an hour while they checked for the parts. I located an optician, had an eye test and ordered new glasses so it was about 10:30am before I got back to the BMW dealership. They hadn’t started to check for the parts but once I was there I was told to take a seat and was given a coffee while the staff disappeared. At 11:45am I was finally told that they had the sprockets but not the chain. This didn’t seem to be a major problem as the chain is standard (presumably) across all similarly sized bikes but when I asked how long it would take to get a chain I was told “twenty days, it has to come from Germany”. It seemed ridiculous that a motorcycle dealership, even if most models have a shaft drive would be out of stock of chain and unable to get any quickly from a local supplier. When I mentioned that I was heading towards Argentina I was warned by the man who had said it would take twenty days to obtain a motorcycle chain that parts were difficult to get in Argentina! I took the sprockets and rode a short distance to a Ducati dealer I had noticed on my way to the opticians. They could get a chain and a new front tyre and have them and the new sprockets fitted within a day. I picked the bike up the following morning and shouldn’t need another tyre or chain in South America.
Constitution Plaza, Montevideo
I was interested in looking up some of the history of the Graf Spee, a German WWII ‘pocket battleship’ while in Montevideo. Most naval battles take place well out to sea where no one can see what is going on but the second phase of the Battle Of The River Plate which resulted in the sinking of the Graf Spee took place in Montevideo harbour in front of 20,000 spectators. The Graf Spee had sunk nine allied ships without any loss of life on either side. The allied navies were patrolling the South Atlantic looking for the Graf Spee and she was eventually sighted and attacked by two British and one New Zealand ship.
Graf Spee Anchor
The Graf Spee had bigger guns with a longer range and damage was inflicted on both sides. One of the allied ships had to withdraw; too badly damaged to continue the battle. Eventually the Graf Spee broke off with damage to the bow and the fuel supply system and headed for Uruguay’s Montevideo harbour. The Graf Spee couldn’t be attacked in neutral Uruguayan territorial waters but she was only allowed to remain in a neutral port for a limited time to carry out essential repairs to make her sea worthy again. The fuel supply system couldn’t be repaired so it was impossible for the Graf Spee to return to Germany. Meanwhile the remaining allied ships were patrolling the 120 mile (192 kilometres) wide estuary of the river Plate ready to resume the battle when the Graf Spee left port. Radio messages were broadcast by the British knowing that they would be picked up by the Germans untruthfully saying that additional allied warships had arrived to await the departure of the Graf Spee. Hans Langsdorff, the Graf Spee captain didn’t want to endanger his crew in what he believed would be a battle he couldn’t win if he sailed out of the river Plate and only he knew he was unable to carry enough fuel to return to Germany. He had received orders from Berlin not to allow the ship to be interned for the duration of the war by Uruguay which was the penalty for overstaying in the port. A skeleton crew took the Graf Spee away from the harbour, once it was three miles from the port a launch came alongside and took the remaining crew and the captain off. A series of explosions sank the Graf Spee and destroyed much of the equipment. Langsdorff had scuttled the ship.
Many of the Graf Spee crew never returned to Germany and settled in Uruguay and Argentina, 130 of them in the village of Villa General Belgrano, Argentina. Crewmembers who had been killed in the battle were buried with full military honours and controversially Captain Langsdorff gave a naval salute at the funeral while everyone else gave a Nazi salute. A few days later Captain Lansdorff committed suicide in Buenos Aires. He had wanted to ‘go down with his ship’ but had been persuaded that he was needed to negotiate the crews fate in the hands of Uruguayan government.
I visited the Graf Spee graves and discovered that Otto Bethge, the youngest sailor killed was only eighteen years old; and when he died, he was six weeks younger than my nephew Reuben is now. Reuben is about to head off on his gap year adventures which, if he chooses his destinations wisely; won’t include being shot at. If Reuben had been born eighty years earlier he could have been on board one of the British navy ships with him and Otto firing at each other. If Otto had been born eighty years later he might have met Reuben during their gap year travels and spent a happy evening taking about whatever eighteen year olds talk about.
Otto, Eighteen Years Old When He Died
I then went to the Naval Museum which has a gun salvaged from the Graf Spee mounted outside and a number of artefacts inside including Langsdorff’s ceremonial sword. While I was inside the museum a staff member asked if I wanted to see a documentary about the Graf Spee. This turned out to be a film about divers exploring the wreck and salvaging the gun now mounted outside the museum. The film included historic footage of the Graf Spee being launched and the burial ceremony of the crew who died in the battle of the River Plate which was particularly poignant as I had just come from the graveside.
Salvaged Graf Spee Gun At The Naval Museum In Montevideo
Colonia del Sacramento was quiet through the week and got busier at the weekend with most of the visitors coming across the river from Buenos Aires. I picked a warm dry day to travel from Montevideo but for most of my stay in Colonia it was cold and windy with some heavy rain causing local flooding. My main achievement; was to finally be able to buy compulsory third party SOAT insurance. Previous insurance offices in Chile and Argentina were unable to sell me insurance because of my foreign registered motorbike. In Colonia, following four visits over three days to the insurance office I am finally legal on the roads of Uruguay and Argentina. I asked for Chile to be included but it isn’t mentioned on the certificate so I’m unsure of my legal status there. I’m also legal in Paraguay and Brazil but I have already been and won’t be returning to those countries.
The historic quarter of Colonia was laid out by the Portuguese, the first settlers to the area in 1680. The town changed hands between Portugal and Spain numerous times and was occupied by Brazil twice but fortunately; through all the changes the old town survived. In the historic quarter, the original cobbled streets are now decorated with old cars, the area has numerous gift shops and restaurants to cater for the tourists. By contrast the new Spanish part of town is laid out in the usual regular grid pattern of streets.
Colonia del Sacramento Flowerpot
Colonia del Sacramento Street Decoration
The River Plate (Rio de Plata) is 31 miles (Fifty kilometres) wide between Colonia and Buenos Aires so you can’t see the far shore. When the wind was blowing it would whip up like the sea with waves crashing over the riverbanks.
The River Plate On A Peaceful Day
The Same Benches In A Storm But I Was Unable To Get Into The Position Used For The First Photo Without Drowning
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