Sunday, July 29, 2007


Iguazu Falls

When I posted earlier on Cataratas de Iguazú, I didn't have time for the video but it's ready now.

Watch the video here:

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Sunday, July 22, 2007


Back in the USA

I've spent a few days traveling in Florida and noticing how different things are. Everything seems bright, glossy, and new: houses, restaurants, streets, sidewalks. Cars-- besides being bright, glossy, and new-- are big. The people are big, too.

Perhaps it's a bit of reverse culture shock.

The resort towns in Florida are much wealthier than any of the balnearios I saw in Uruguay. I'm in Naples right now and it seems extremely rich. Some of the private homes along the ocean are as big as hotels.

I still hear lots of Spanish: in the stores, in restaurants, on the radio. I drove through a Hispanic neighborhood outside Naples yesterday. The houses were small and every driveway held 3, 4, or 5 vehicles, with pick-up trucks and contractor's vans outnumbering sedans. Strikingly different from Montevideo. My surface analysis: it's hard to live in the US without a car; cars are cheap relative to housing in South Florida; and jobs are so abundant here that anti-immigrant politics are being driven by culture, not economics.

Not surprisingly, it's really hot and humid here. (Although, unlike Uruguay, everything is air conditioned.) I'm finally comfortable with idea that it's both winter and summer at the same time, in different places. Intellectually, I'd known that since grade school, but emotionally it's starting to feel okay.

Restaurant food is different as well. To start, it's expensive relative to Montevideo. The service is different: you don't need to close your menu to indicate that you're ready to order and the waiters always visit you mid-meal to see if you need anything, which felt a little odd at first. There are many more dining options; I've had Cuban, Peruvian, and Thai food as well as Southern-style barbecue.


Monday, July 16, 2007



My year in Uruguay is nearly over; tomorrow I fly back to the US. I'm going to miss the many friends I've made in Montevideo-- Uruguayans, ex-pats, and travelers. It's been a great time! Thank you all for being so hospitable.

Thanks also to my blog readers. I've enjoyed your emails and comments. I don't plan to end this blog yet since I still have photos and videos of Uruguay that I'd like to share. I'm going to travel for a couple of weeks before returning to Kalamazoo so my posts are likely to be sporadic for a while.

hasta luego.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007



Since we didn't have a visa for Brazil, we had a free day in Iguazu so we went to the tourist office and said we'd like to see more of the selva. We were in luck, they told us, since a 4x4 tour was leaving in an hour. We grabbed some sandwiches and climbed into a rugged truck and headed out of town. Minutes after turning onto the red dirt road we were at the edge of the jungle and we passed little farms cut from the surrounding forest. As we drove, the guide explained the afternoon's events and my wife expressed her surprise. We thought we'd be taking a drive through the woods looking for toucans, coatis, or monkeys but the plan was somewhat more adventuresome.

We started by strapping on climbing harnesses, followed by a short walk through the jungle to a cliff. There, we hooked onto a climbing rope and rappelled down the cliff.

This was a new experience for all of us, and the prospect was a little scary. The actual rappel was pretty easy & we all enjoyed it afterwards. Next was a walk through the woods, crossing above a small waterfall, and eventually reaching a panoramic view across the Rió Paraná to Paraguay.

Then we climbed several storeys into a huge old tree using a rustic staircase. There we clipped our harnesses to a zip-line, grabbed its handles and took off through the canopy. We accelerated over the treetops, using the brakes only when we reached the landing-- halfway down another forest giant. Then up more stairs to another cable, another "flight" and then a third. Very cool!

See a short video:

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Saturday, July 14, 2007



Coatís, along with toucans, are the symbol of Iguazú. While we didn't see any toucans, we did see over a dozen coatís. Most of the other animals in the selva avoid people, but coatís have learned to associate tourists with food. Since they're active during the day and unafraid of people, they're easy to see. We enjoyed watching a family cross a little waterfall on a vine.

Coatís are relatives of the raccoon.

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Friday, July 13, 2007


Cataratas de Iguazu

The Cataratas de Iguazú competes with Niagara Falls and Victoria Falls for the title of "world's largest waterfall". Actually all three have legitimate claims: Niagara has the most water, Victoria is the highest, and Iguazú is the widest.

Iguazú is in Northern Argentina bordering Brasil and very close to Paraguay. It's a 2 hour flight from Buenos Aires or a 20-some hour bus ride.

The falls are impressive! They're much harder to photograph than Niagara because there are so many individual falls that it's impossible to get them all in the same frame. Brasil and Argentina each have national parks around the falls, creating a large natural area. The selva is sub-tropical forest full of palm trees, philodendrons, vines-- very different from Uruguay's rangeland. Walking through the jungle to see the falls is much more interesting than crossing Niagara's asphalt.

The weather wasn't the greatest this week-- cloudy and cool-- but it beats their summer heat of 45 degrees C. We got soaking wet on the "grand adventure" boatride under the falls & that was really cold. But, the rain held off until we were on our way to the airport for the trip back to Montevideo. (And we missed Buenos Aires' first snow in 89 years by a couple of hours.)

We didn't visit the Brazilian side because the visa cost was $144 per person. I heard the views were great, but the price seemed awfully steep for one afternoon. I later heard that it's easy to cross illegally into Brazil by taxi or city bus. (But not with a tour company since they face a penalty of 4000 reales if you're caught.) In any case, we didn't have time to try being illegal aliens and we found plenty to entertain us on the Argentinian side.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007


More travel

I'm off on one last trip before returning to Kalamazoo, so I won't be blogging for a few days. Details later this week

Saturday, July 07, 2007



Alfajores are a very popular snack in Montevideo. Basically they are a layer of dulce de leche sandwiched between two cookies and then covered with either chocolate, merengue, or grated coconut. A friend swears by the bakery version but my daughter is perfectly happy with the packaged ones from the supermarket. Another friend's daughter thinks importing alfajores to the United States would be a great business opportunity.

Here's a recipe for alfajores.

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Friday, July 06, 2007


Parque Lecocq

Parque Lecocq is Montevideo's other zoo. It's much bigger than Zoologico Villa Dolores and has fewer types of animals, so the enclosures are very spacious and there's a lot of open space between exhibits.

They have a good collection of native Uruguayan species, including a large number of ñandues and carpinchos. The Paseo del Monte is a worthwhile guided tour through natural forest with cages for wildcats, coatis, mao pelado (a kind of raccoon), and coendú (a porcupine).

Animals from other continents include lions, zebras, and monkeys. The park also has large areas for picnicking and a snack stand selling churros and popcorn.

It's about 20 kilometers west of Montevideo just before Ruta 1 crosses the Rio Santa Lucia into the Departamento de San Jose. There's no sign from the highway but if you exit Ruta 1 at Santiago Vazquez there are signs directing you to turn right, then take the 1st left to the zoo.

Admission: 40 pesos per car (although no one was collecting it this afternoon).

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Thursday, July 05, 2007



We last visited Colonia in January and it was so hot we could hardly move. Today, the weather was much more pleasant. We went to five of the small museums (25 pesos buys a ticket good for all the museums; no photos allowed) and enjoyed lunch at a small restaurant called the Viejo Barrio with a charismatic waiter who wore 6 different wacky hats during our meal.

I liked the adaptive re-use of this 1930 Ford.

It's been converted into a tiny dining room.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


For Sale

Our sabbatical year in Montevideo is coming to an end and it's time for us to look for a buyer for our car. It's a 1992 Nissan Sunny with about 60,000 miles on it. (Odometer is currently just over 100,000 kilometers). Four door, gasoline engine, light blue (or celeste, as they say here). Manual transmission. We never got around to installing a radio.

We've driven it throughout the country without any problems except when we bought bad gasoline (which caused it to sputter and stall alarmingly, but had no lasting effects.)

update: Sold it.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Salto de Penitente

Salto de Penitente is a 60 meter cascade in the rocky hills east of Minas. The falls are about 20 kilometers off of Ruta 8 on a good dirt road. The drive is quite scenic and the falls are nice. There's a restaurant overlooking the falls and a short trail down to the base. They offer horseback riding and camping (although perhaps not in the winter). There's a "panoramic" short-cut returning to the highway with great views on a rougher, but still passable dirt road. It made a very pleasant afternoon.

Admission: 10 pesos.

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Monday, July 02, 2007


Ciudad Vieja

The Ciudad Vieja [Old City] is the site of the original Spanish fort, port, and colony of Montevideo. Surrounded by the Rio on three sides, it's full of interesting old buildings, mostly unrestored. The Mercado del Puerto and the Peatonal Sarandi are probably its best-known tourist areas. The Ciudad Vieja contains a mix of government offices, major banks, bars and restaurants, vacant buildings, art galleries, and cheap housing for immigrants.

Some earlier posts about the Ciudad Vieja:
Plaza Matriz
Plaza Zabala
Palacio Taranco
Almacén del Hacha
Museo Torres Garcia
Casa de Rivera
Gift giving
Port of Montevideo

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Sunday, July 01, 2007


Universidad de Montevideo

The Universidad de Montevideo is a highly-respected private university located on a quiet street in the Parque Batlle neighborhood. It's been my wife's academic home in Uruguay and she's been very happy there. Like the other private universities in Uruguay it's relatively new, since for decades only the Universidad de la Republica could grant degrees.

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