Colonia de Sacramento

Thursday 15 to Saturday 17 February

We chilled out and took the 12.30 ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia de Sacramento. It was a little more than an hour to cover the 47 kilometres across the Rio de la Plata

Rio de la Plata is the second widest river at 220km, further downstream. At Colonia it is fresh water but at Montevideo, 173km downstream, it becomes brackish. 

By the time we found our way out of the ferry and collected our luggage we were in the queue for assistance. The hostess suggested we check into our hotel and explore the city, then join the hop on hop off bus and walking tour the following day. 

We had booked a package, giving us a rest from constantly searching for accommodation and transport. The ferry to Colonia, Hotel Italia and a tour, bus to Montevideo, Aloft Hotel and a tour with a return ferry to Buenos Aires.

Some tour groups are just that – a group of tourists. Other tour groups are far better, with information, humour and some life stories. Our group tour of Colonia was of the latter, and we came away with a deeper understanding of life in the South Americas.

Colonia is a small town just 26,000 inhabitants in this relatively small South American country. It was occupied alternately by Portuguese and Spaniards from the 17th century and so the old architecture is a mix of construction. The Portuguese roads are concave with a gutter down the centre and no sewerage. Houses were mostly constructed with stone and adobe materials as the indigenous trees were too small both for framework and for the furnaces to make bricks. They did however plant European trees that would grow taller. 

By the time the Spanish took control the trees had grown and could be used in the construction process. The Spaniards also constructed convex roads with gutters to the side, and sewerage channels. 

As with many other South American cities there are dogs roaming. Our guide explained that these street dogs are actually precious to the inhabitants, who give them names and feed them. They are provided with veterinary checks and vaccinations. The local dogs are growing old and the guide was particularly concerned for one. She told the story of one being adopted, had a glistening coat and a new collar. But he kept escaping. On the fourth escape the adoptive owners let him return to the street where he is very much happier. 

We finished our day returning to the tour bus to visit the bull ring. It was built in the early 20th century in Moorish style, along with a casino and race track, as an initiative to bring more people in. When the bull came into the ring for the first bull fight in 1910, the crowd were so excited they jumped into the ring. Crowds of people and a bull was a dangerous combination so the event was cancelled and the attendees sent home. There would be a further 9 events in the bull ring before bull fighting was banned in Uruguay in 1912. 

The internal steel structure was made in England, and assembled here with a brick facade. It appears that the steel and bricks didn’t move together which resulted in brick walls crumbling. There are plans to renovate the structure as it has excellent acoustics, but the cost is estimated to be four time that of rebuilding it. We just thought this was a funny story. 

Bruce found a brew pub, where he enjoyed a decent beer and I had a small bottle of the local Chandon. The music was heavy & metallic when we arrived, but it softened and when the band set up they played local Spanish music.