After 6000 kilometres, we cross the border with Uruguay and we stop to the small city of Fray Bentos, where we spend one night in a sport centre. Following the strong rains, the Uruguay rive reach an impressive level.
Little bit farer, in the city of Mercedes, the floods are very impressive. The seats in the street are covered by water. Small boats are replacing cars for the people who cannot go out of their house without having a foot in the water. The actual circumstance oblige us to change our itinerary, thus we decide to go to Dolores.
If there is a very cultural thing in Uruguay, it is the Mate. By car, on foot and even driving a motorbike, the Uruguayan is always doing a mate. Here, we take the time to live and to share: At 1pm till the beginning of the night, the activity in the city is suddenly down. In the streets, groups of people are seated and speak with a cup and a thermos in the hand. The time seems to be stopped.
Uruguay is also the dreamed country for cyclist. We have the sensation to cycle on a swing set. The up and down hills never stop. The change of pace are perpetuals and make us tired.
Step by step, we are approaching of our goal in Uruguay: To interview a president no like the others, Pepe Mujica.
It is in Gaby house, at 13 kilometres from Montevideo city centre, that we set our tent. Her house is called “deep inside” and it is opened to all cyclists and bike travellers. On the entrance door, we can read “the private property is a lie”. Gabi, active representative of the “masa critica” (explanation down) in Montevideo, is a mother with a lot of energy, who has decided to live without money. Result that she does it very well! On Saturday, she goes to the market and comes back with a lot of vegetables “invalids” for consumers.
The day after our arrival, we wake up early, hoping to reach the Pepe Mujica house before he starts his day. When we arrive at the entrance, he escapes us into his old blue car. At first glance, he did not look on a very good mood. The two body guards confirm us our first impression and invite us to wait a little bit more. Ten minutes later, he is back. At the beginning, he welcome us on a very rude way and offer us to take a picture and to go away. Julien tell him “I do not care about taking a picture, we are not here for this reason”. Hearing this, he suddenly change his behaviour. He goes inside the body guard office and invite us to follow him. We go inside and he accepts to speak little bit more. Finally, we speak during more than one hour and it is a very friendly person who give us a part of his life, of his thinking and of his 5 years as Uruguay president. This man, we did not want to meet him for his fame but rather for the heart of his mind. A president as Pepe Mujica, there is just one: To live with simplicity, to no accept a high salary, to govern without dominate and to conserve what allow us to thrive, the environment.
After this very interesting interview, we participate to the Masa Critica
What is the Masa Crítica? This is a cyclist meeting which consists in cycling in the city, shouting with happiness “Long life to bike” or “I love the bike”. The objective: to promote the use of the bike in the city. The sensation to have the street for yourself in a big metropolis is something amazing. 60 kilometres around the city, cycling in front of historical monuments and best view points. Very nice for a first time in Montevideo.
Before leaving the city, we go to Pablo workshop (Sapo bike) to change some bike parts. Pablo offers us the labour and give us numerous advice for the bike maintenance. Thanks a lot !
After all these stories, we go back on the road towards Punta Del Este. This city has a bourgeois style that we could compare with Saint-Tropez in France: Everything is clean, the harbour is full of luxurious boat and there are many cosy restaurants. As our budget does not allow us so much luxury, we decide to go directly to the fishing port, where various fisherman are preparing their net for the night. One of them start to speak with us and give us the opportunity to go to fish with him. It is without any doubt that we accept the adventure. The sunset is followed by the cold night of the Uruguayan spring. Dressed with our winter jacket, we are waiting the departure.
7pm, it is time. The fishermen load our bikes in the hold of the ship. When suddenly … the radio sounds “there are strange loads at the bottom of the dock. The fishermen in alert, take directly the bikes out. One of them explain us that it is forbidden to bring some people on the boat and the guards have seen us. We are now waiting for a solution, but the situation does not become better. After a half hour, the fishing mission is cancelled. Forced to cycle on night, we try to find a place to spend the night. As a result, we set our stuff on a wood dock facing the sea and the new hotel of Donald trump (what a chance ^^)
The cement disappears and give space to the mud. The nature take its right again and we are very happy to touch it again. After having faced our first sand paths since the start of our journey, the Laguna Rocha front us.
Some kilometres before the Brazilian border, we decide to have a break to Cabo Polonio, where we get the luck to cross the way of the Zapito of Darwin, a species in danger.
Last pedal strokes in Uruguay, it is with winter clothes that we cross the border.
Bem-vindo ao Brasil