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Vacation Day 18
Monday, February 9th
Montevideo, Uruguay

The ship covered the 142 nautical miles from Buenos Aires to here in 10 hours and 57 minutes. They claim the average speed was 16.7 knots (nautical miles per hour). When you see it on the map below it does not look too long but due the the shallowness on Rio de la Plata the route is is rather indirect, especially for a large ship like this one.

Rio de la Plata Map

Now that the ship has arrived, here is some basic information, first about Uruguay and then about Montevideo.

Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America with an area of 176,215 square kilometres (approximately 68,000 square miles). The smallest is Suriname with 163,820 square kilometres. Just in case you want to know, it is located on the north shore of South America with Guyana to the west and French Guyana to the east and is dutch speaking. The southern border is with Brazil.

Uruguay's population is approximately 3.4 million of which 1.3 million (roughly half) live in Montevideo. The language is Spanish. The people are mostly of Spanish and Italian descent.

It was first settled in 1624 and for the next 200 years was a battle ground between the Spanish and Portuguese and later between Brazil and Argentina. The reason for Uruguay coming into existence was to act as a buffer between Portuguese Brazil and Spanish Argentina. As I am sure you are aware, the Spanish and Portuguese (and their offshoots Argentina and Brazil) were no fans of each other. One of the Spanish governors of Buenos Aires set this up in the 1828 and it has stayed this way ever since.

They have had their share of war, corruption, military takeovers (in 1973) and the like. Elections were held in 1984 and things have been better ever since. Uruguay is unique in South America as most of the people are considered middle class. Most, if not all, of the other countries have wide differences between the wealthy and the poor with almost no middle class. They have a better standard of living than most of the rest of the continent.

The current claim to fame for Uruguay and the Montevideo area is their many sandy beaches. Many rich and famous people come here each year just for this reason. Montevideo, in Spanish, stands for either "I see a mountain" or "scenic mountain" depending on which information you read.

Today's shore excursion was called Highlights of Montevideo by Steam Train and Bus. The steam train part came at the end of the tour so we will begin with a few pictures taken from the ship before the tour departed and then on to the bus part of the trip.

Port 1
Port 2
The buses waiting for the shore excursions. The ship was restocked here was well. The containers and trucks in the foreground were for that.
There is that ship that has been following us around again.
Plaza 1
Natural History Museum
This is either Plaza Constitucion or Plaza Zabala. I suspect the former.
Even though it says Teatro Solis on it this is apparently part of the Museo Histórico Natural. I think it is a theatre managed by the museum.
Pedestrian Street
Horse Cart
A pedestrian only street off the Plaza Independencia
One of the many forms of transport in Montevideo

The first stop on this tour was the Plaza Independencia (Independence Square, as if you could not tell).It was fairly difficult to get pictures of the important things in this square because of the sun angles and funny reflections in the buildings around the square. It would have been a lot better of we had come here later, at least from a photographic point of view. A little more time would have been useful too. Here are some pictures of this area.

Independencia Square 6
Independencia Square 1
This is the black marble mausoleum of José Gervasio Artigas. Apparently this fellow is revered for calling for an armed insurgency in 1811 when Brazil invaded three years after Uruguayan independence. Just to the right of the mausoleum is that large office building with a Radisson hotel on the right.
Independencia Square 3
Independencia Square 2
This is part of the city wall. The old one is on the far side and a more recent one is on this side. You can see part of the old one through the opening at the top. If I have my facts right this is the Palacio Salvo. It was South America's tallest structure when it was built in the 1920s.
Avda 10 de Julio 2
Independencia Square 4
This is a look down Avda 18 de Julio (18th of July Avenue). It is located just to the left of the Palacio Salvo shown in the right picture above. Palacio Salvo is the first building you can see on the right in this picture. This is the city's main shopping street.
The first group of tour busses for the day is here. Many more to come.

From here the tour headed down Avda 18 de Julio. . There are one or two picture of things along here that I do not remember for sure what they are. I will do my best. Here are a few along here.

Hush Puppies
Square 2
Anybody need some shoes?
An outdoor market in one of the smaller squares.
University 1?
Store
This is on the the ones I do not remember what it is for sure. I think it is a university or school of some sort.
It looks like they sell a bit of everything electrical here.
And motorbikes to boot!

The next stop was at Pargue J Batlle Y Ordóñez. The stop here was mainly to see a sculpture called Le Carreta. The sculpture is being cleaned and restored. The tour guide said it was just another one of those things that governments do, that being, doing the work during the high season for tourists. Here are the best of what pictures I could get. The sculpture apparently symbolizes the hard life of the Uruguayan Gaucho during the early years of Uruguay.

La Careta 1
La Carreta 2
The best place for a picture. What a great place for the sign saying it is being restored.
Here is a picture of the part covered by the sign in the previous picture.
La Carreta 3
Buses at La Carreta
From the back, looking towards the front of the statue.
More busses and people here

Soccer Stadium

A mandatory place to see on all South American tours, the football (soccer) stadium.

From here the tour continued out into the more well off suburbs of Montevideo. Apparently many important visitors either have houses here or stay in one of a number of suite hotels that are located here. Here are a couple of examples.

Home 1
Home 2
I think this is one of the suite hotels I mentioned above.
There was more to this house than you can see here. It is pretty.

There were other more impressive examples but they were either on the other side of the bus or the sun was in a bad spot to get a reasonable picture.

Our next stop was at what was at a park dedicated to either the army or the navy. This park had a very nice view of Montevideo as you will see.

Park 1
Park 2
Those of you who can read spanish and have good eyes should be able to read that sign in the centre and it will tell you the name of the park. Here is the view. The main part of Montevideo is in the centre of the picture. The port where the ship is located is on the far side of the city from here.
Park 3
Park 4
If you look closely to the centre left you can see a large container ship approaching the harbour. Later today we will be leaving via the same route. The tour people were very apologetic that the grass and other vegetation was not greener than you see it here. Apparently an 8 month drought had recently ended and things were just starting to recover. The picture shows the area nearer to where we are with the main city to the far left.

From here we headed to the train station. Along the way we made a stop at the Palacio Legislativo which was not open because they were just coming to the end of the summer recess. Most of the people who work there were starting back to work the following week. Here are a couple of pictures taken there.

Palacio Legislativo
Bus at the Palace
The Palacio Legislativo. Apparently it is quite nice inside but we could not go in to see it.
The bus at the Palacio.

 

This tour did not include lunch and the tour people thought it should because of its length. We stopped at what the tour guide said she had been told was a reasonable restaurant. Things did not go so well. I think it was more of a language problem than anything else. After we left she apologized over and over again about it.

Street by Restaurant

This was the street outside of the restaurant.

From the restaurant we went to the train. The train is a restored steam train from Uruguay's history. I do not remember all the details. The train works its way back to the harbour in a trip from this location that takes approximately an hour. I was not able to get a good picture of the train at either end of the trip. I did get a good picture of the steam engine once we got back to the ship. We were scheduled to leave at 1:30 PM but due to some kind on problem on the railway we were delayed almost 45 minutes.

A note here about the Tango, that you can see being danced in the first picture below. The tour guide said that the Tango had first been danced in Buenos Aires as we had been told when we were there yesterday. However, the person who first performed it was from Montevideo. She claimed that he invented it here but first performed it in Buenos Aires. I took a quick look on the internet to see if there is any indication of this but I cannot find anything that either proves or disproves this information. I wonder if she was just "pulling the wool over our eyes".

Once we finally started out, here is some of what we saw.

Train Tango
Train Scene 1
It cannot be easy trying to do the Tango up and down the aisle of a train. Mind you the train was not moving yet so it may not have been too bad. These two did a pretty good job. They must have a lot of experience doing it on this tourist train. I think they did it again later when it was moving. There is not much to say about most of these pictures. This is what we saw as the train progressed. There was no commentary to explain what we were seeing. Most of the rest of the pictures are not captioned.
Train Scene 2
Train Scene 3
Train Scene 4
Train Scene 5
Train Scene 6
Train Scene 7
Train Scene 8
Train Scene 9
Not sure what type of flower or tree this was but it was pretty.
The train system in Uruguay is not well used or maintained.
Train Scene 10
Train Scene 11
The mountain that apparently gave the city its name.
Anyone need an original VW bug?
Train Scene 12
Train Engine
The train pulled up just about beside the ship. They would not let us walk to the ship. We had to get off the train, on to a bus, and were driven to the ship from here. Security and safety issues do sometimes cause strange events . Here is the steam engine that pulled the train. It pulled the train backwards all the way here. What I mean is, the train cars were connected to this end of the engine and it backed up all the way here.

After returning to the ship, I did as I normally seem to do, which is to go and take some pictures of the area the ship is docked at. You will see that you can see much more of Montevideo from the ship than you could see of Buenos Aires from the ship. Here are some of those.

Urugray Telcom Building
Off the back of the ship
This building is the Uruguayan telephone companies head office. If this looks a bit familiar to anyone, it is likely because it is a smaller copy of the well known and very expensive Berge Dubai hotel in Dubai. The architect for the hotel is Uruguayan and this copy was designed by him as a gift to his home country. Simi liar to the one yesterday in Buenos Aires, here is a picture off the stern of the ship. The building in the previous picture is just to the right and slightly above centre.
From Ship 3
From Ship 4
You can see a lot more of the city here than in Buenos Aires.
The area around Plaza Independencia with the Palacio Salvo on the right. The square is about fourteen blocks from the ship.
From Ship 5
From Ship 6
The large building in the centre is the Navel Customs Building.
This is a collection of naval history. Most of this is material recovered from the German Cruiser Graf Spee. See below for some detail about this ship.
From Ship 7
From Ship 8
The mountain that gave the city its name.
On the mountain was (and apparently still is) the fort that Spanish built here. There is a lighthouse up there too we were told. The area is being restored so tourists can visit it, but it is not ready yet.
From Ship 9
From Ship 10
I have no idea of the significance of this. It seems rather strange to see an old tug boat sitting up on cradles on a breakwater. I thought a picture was required but I cannot explain why it is there.
Make sure you get all that Coke on the ship!!!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the wonderful weather here. At 6:18PM the ship sailed from Montevideo starting final segment of the cruise, the two and a half day sail to Rio de Janeiro.

Just before the pictures a brief piece of history. In 1939 the German Cruiser Graf Spee was scuttled just outside Montevideo harbour. The ship had sailed here after a battle a couple of hundred miles off shore. At that time Montevideo was considered neutral in the war. There was some damage and medical issues. After some political manoeuvres, mainly by the British, the Graf Spee was forced to leave by the Uruguayan government . There are three channels out of the harbour and the British had them all blockaded. So, based on orders from Hitler himself, the ships captain felt the only thing he could do was to scuttle the ship which he did on December 17, 1939 at 7:52 PM. There is much more to this story but it is not important here.
The reasons for providing this piece of history is that in the next group of pictures there are some references to the Graf Spee and having this little bit of the history will help you understand the pictures better.

Here are the pictures as the ship departed Montevideo.

Departure 1
Departure 2
The main harbour break wall.
The locals enjoying the nice weather.
Departure 3
Departure 4
You can go a long way into town if you wanted to keep going.
Montevideo as the ship sails out into the Rio de la Plata.
Departure 5
Departure 6
Somewhere near the centre of this picture is the spot where the pictures of the container ship sailing into the harbour were taken. A long way out. You can make out the Uruguayan telephone companies head office near the centre and the Palacio Salvo on the far right.
Departure 7 Baffin island
Departure 8 Graf Spee
This fishing boat was sailing into the harbour as we were sailing out of the harbour. If you look closely on the bow, the name of the ship is Baffin Bay, which I thought was interesting name for a ship here. Although I cannot definitively confirm this, I think this is where the Graf Spee is located. Near the centre of the picture is a black mast sticking up out of the water. Apparently this is all that can be seen of it now. There was definitely something big below it. Nothing was mentioned on the ship about it so it is just a guess on my part. It is in about the right place, I think.
Departure 9 Ferry
Departure 10
Here is one of the high speed ferries from Buenos Aires arriving in Montevideo with Mt. Montevideo in the background. What I think may be the mast of the Graf Spee is in the picture (closer to us and just ahead of the ferry) as well. Here is a similar view to the picture two above this one, showing the same two buildings (and others) from a different angle.

After supper I went back to my cabin and found this.....

Towel Crab

I think this is a crab. I better be careful I think he (it?) might attack me!!!

The very early part of the route to Rio follows the Uruguay coast. Occasionally I would look out my cabin window. One time I saw what I thought would be an interesting picture. So after a number of tries here is what I came up with. These were taken between 10:28 and 10:41PM through my cabin window. I should note that the window had been cleaned either in Buenos Aires or Montevideo. I think it was the latter.

Cabin Moon 3
Uruguayan coast in the distance, full moon above, and sailing at around 17 knots to the right. Same as left, only the moon is behind a thin cloud and I changed the exposure on the camera.
Cabin Moon 1 Cabin Moon 4
This was actually the first one taken.
I tried a close up of the moon. Along with a bit of cropping this is what I got. It seem rather good considering it was taken handheld through a window.

As you can see the moon was full (or mostly full). My cabin was on deck 1 roughly two decks above the water line. It think it is the lowest deck with windows. Being so close to the water created an interesting effect. The ship was probably sailing at about 17 knots at the time. It should also be noted that all of these were taken handheld but braced against the window frame.

So, this concludes the final stop before the end of the cruise in Rio de Janeiro about 56 hours and just under 1000 nautical miles from here. The next two days are at sea with the arrival in Rio early Thursday morning.

So, on to Day 19 of the vacation.

Started Creation: March 4, 2009 at home.
Completed Creation: March 5, 2009 at home.

Last updated: March 17, 2009 8:33 PM