Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Since our trip was short and the places we wanted to go were not near each other, we had to drive longer distances than what we are used to. We generally like a max of 3 hours of driving per day and a minimum 3 day stay at each location and knowing that was not possible, opted for somewhat longer drives, Without stopping it is approximately 5 hours to Lake Merin from Nueva Carrara. We stopped at a Zoo/Animal Rehabilitation Sanctuary for an hour or so, in Minas for about 30 minutes or so and again for gas and a snack so the ride took about 7 hours.
We drove from the Southern part of Uruguay to the Northern Part.
On the road, I saw a larger than life sized statue of a man on a horse and so we stopped briefly in Minas-Lavalleja. Actually we stopped because Waze brought us to a road that was closed and kept us driving in a circle back to this horse. Finally we gave up and drove in a different direction to find a main road and it recalculated.
After a short walk in the park off in the car we went and back on the road towards Lago Marin located on Lake or Laguna Marin
Laguna Marin is an enormous lake , the second largest in South America, and is located in the Northeastern part of Uruguay and north of the southern tip of Brazil. Most of the lake belongs to Brazil and the borders between the two countries are interesting as we had to pass through border control to go from one part of Uruguay to another. Water from this lake is treated and used in the homes of the residents. .
Here we saw a great many painted birds
Shortly after we arrived and were greeted by a Vermilion Flycatcher. Remembering how difficult it was to see and photograph one in Florida and how rare they were we were very excited to see this bird, out in the open
We walked around the lake (not literally around the lake but on the beach block, ok fine, “along the lake”) and saw Monk Parakeet on a wire.
We saw a person wading in the shallow waters over sandbars,
There were Hooded Siskin on pine trees.
In 2017 I saw a Guira Cuckoo for the first time and watched this gregarious bird for quite some time. It was my only sighting until Lago Marin where I saw families of them, even flocks.
Talk about painted birds, I saw the most colorful heron ever and, not surprisingly, it was called the “Painted Heron”
I was hoping to see a White Monjita - not to be confused with Mojito, again and was not disappointed
Lots of flycatchers and it was a good thing, they kept the biting bugs at bay, at least lessened their numbers.
Of course where there are birds there are often cats
In case you are looking for firewood perhaps the little bird below can help you.
Even though this part of the lake is in Uruguay, not Brazil, there are still plenty of Brazilian Teal around.
There are three types of Ibis in Uruguay. I saw several White-faced Ibis in the wetlands near the lake.
Graffiti, Street-Art, Public-Art, Murals, whatever term you want to use, can be found decorating walls near one of the beach entrances. I love this gorilla.
My first full day in Lago Marin started with a morning walt to try to catch the sunrise. While I missed the sun at the horizon by minutes I saw evidence of the sunrise in the clouds along with rain in the distance and a very colorful rainbow.
Later that day, back in the area of the wetlands I saw Maguari Stork.
Where cattle can be found so can cattle dung. Herbivores such as cattle do not digest their food well and the dung beetles, perhaps the world's strongest insect, makes it into balls, some very large and buries its eggs in there. As a result, beetle loving birds are quite prevalent in this area. Below is a Campo Flicker sitting on a dung-beetle hill made out of these balls.
For some reason cats rival birds for my affection. The blue-eyed creature below was no exception.
It is amazing how loud some of the smallest birds are. And just because it has House in its name doesn’t mean it can only be found in a house or that it is nothing special.
After my afternoon walk and back at the lake house I saw a little Gnatcatcher in a tree.
When I think of Hummingbirds I think of a small bird with a needle-like beak flying rapidly around a flower. I never realized that they can sometimes be found hanging out on a wire.
When birds get wet and when they fluff their wings they look different then when they are just perched. Such is the case for the Tropical Kingbird below.
Not only will you find beetle-eating birds on the dung hills but birds of prey as well.
There were lots of Heron (Ciconformes) and Crane/Rail (Gruiformes)..
And back to the lake house where my son-in-law was preparing the Uruguayan Asado Grill.
Next Stop - MELO
Melo, capital city of the Cerro Largo, with a population of just under 52,000 is located in the North-eastern part of Uruguay, near the Brazilian border. The town has trellises across many of the streets that are decorated with beautiful purple flowers, beautiful architecture, some Street Art, and some very interesting doors.
I wonder if some Uruguayans of the 1800’s were very tall because the doors to several buildings were probably 5 meters high.
If you are looking for a Coke I think I know where you can find one.
Like a lot of cities, there are expansive parks in Melo that make you feel as if you are in a forest.
There are also historical sites like Posta del Chuy, a National Monument, which is located about 12 km from Melo. This museum has information about the local history and very interesting “Instagrammable” buildings.
Back to Melo
There are lots of nice doors in this town
Without words the Street Art below lets you know that you are in Uruguay.
We stayed at the Hotel Posada La Comandancia which was really quite nice and very conveniently located.
And one of my favorite Melo Murals...
To see more photographs of Uruguayan Street Art : https://mariamarkatos.smugmug.com/GlobalStreet-Art/Street-Art-Uruguay/
To see more photographs of Melo: https://mariamarkatos.smugmug.com/Uruguay/Melo-Cerro-Largo/
Our next destination in our self-tour of Uruguay was La Barra, a town we have stayed in before and one which we really enjoyed. La Barra is a beach town, not far from the popular tourist destination of Punta del Este. It is a little bit more low-key and laid back, offering wetlands, a great many species of birds, and decent restaurants, some with vegan options.
Here we saw Muscovy Ducks.
There were More Monk Parakeets.
Another variety of Ibis, the Bare-faced Ibis which kinda looks like a vulture with a long-curved bill.
Less than nine kilometers from La Barra, in the resort town of Balneario Buenos Aires, Maldonado Department, is the Foundation of Pablo Atchugarry Sculpture Park, a place well worth a visit. There are sculptures in landscaped and wild areas as well as in the museum’s galleries. Additionally paintings and other art is exhibited in the gallery buildings, A wonderful place to spend an afternoon.
To see a larger sampling of the sculptures that can be seen at the Pablo Atchugarry Sculpture Garden please go to: https://mariamarkatos.smugmug.com/Uruguay/Pablo-Atchugarry-Sculpture-Garden/
Between La Barra and Punta del Este there is a very curvaceous bridge that my husband likes to drive fast on to scare the living bejesus out of me. That bridge is in El Pacer, a place where I have seen hundreds of birds.
Our next and final destination on our most recent trip to Uruguay was Carrasco, the suburb of Montevideo where the airport is located. We stayed two nights at the Cottage Hotel, which afforded us a nice place to stay, with an ample breakfast, a short walk to the beach and shopping as well as free parking. It was about 30 minutes from Montevideo which made the city an easy trip.
We had the opportunity to see more art, not contemporary as before but more classical in the form of beautiful statues and architecture.
We also walked past and around the gorgeous Sofitel Montevideo Casino Carrasco & Spa
Typically when you board the plane for the flight home it marks the end of your adventure. No doubt thanks to covid, that was not quite the case here. We had taken antigen test kits with us so that we could meet the 24hr requirement for return to the US. It was quite convenient as we were able to do this right from our hotel room via the internet. Again, an issue arose with the connecting flight, this time in Guatemala. Not only were we switching planes, but we needed to change carriers as well going from Copa to United. These airlines are ticketing partners in the same alliance so the baggage could get right through but us, not so much. Because our covid documentation had to be reexamined by the “new” airline, we were not issued boarding passes for all legs of the trip. We of course were assured this was no problem as our documents would be checked at the gate.
Well, as we deplaned in Guatemala we could see the gate from which we would depart 30 minutes later from the skybridge above. Rounding the ramp for transiting passengers just before the gate area we came to a security checkpoint. Permission to pass DENIED. Why? No boarding pass. “But I have an electronic copy of the ticket and the pass will be printed at the gate”. Security wasn’t buying it and we were turned away. It seemed we would have to go to ticketing upstairs to get a boarding pass. Of course to do this we needed to go through passport control and actually enter Guatemala officially. Did I mention we now only had 25 minutes before our scheduled takeoff? Oh and we couldn’t get into Guatemala because we had not listed where we were staying on the immigration form we had to fill out because, well, we had no intention of staying. The result, entry DENIED. So here we are stuck between entry to Guatemala to get a boarding pass and exit to the plane for not having one. Tom Hanks played a guy in a movie in a similar situation. It took that guy 18 yrs to get that resolved. Some loud protestation attracted attention. Most were not helpful suggesting we should have gotten the boarding pass earlier not understanding the airline wouldn’t transmit it to us. My limited Spanish also caught some rolling their eyes and asking why the North Americans always seem to have problems. Luckily a young Copa agent happened by and we were able to explain the dilemma and demonstrate that the airlines were holding up the boarding pass. He took photos of our passports, ran through border control, got to ticketing and ran back with our boarding passes. Now it was back to that security checkpoint. “Take everything out of your pockets, remove your belts, put everything through the scanner”. No problem. The agent that helped us said “Now, you’ve got to run because the door is closing in 2 minutes.” So off we went running through the terminal, my husband, with carry-on in one hand, and holding his pants up with the other getting to the gate just in time. One problem, no boarding passes. We started running before actually taking them from the agent who now came running up behind us. Nice kid. Thank God. We were the last ones on the plane, (except for what had to be an air marshal who was clearly waiting for us) and lived happily ever after.
So when booking multiple legs make sure you have enough time at each stop. I like a minimum of 90 minutes, but 2 hours is perfect.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our recent trip to Uruguay and hope that you join us on our next adventure when we go to South Africa. https://www.photographybymariasavidis-blog.com/post/south-africa-beckons-part-1
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In case you missed the first segment of the two-part Uruguayan blog
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Things you should bring
Lightweight down or Thinsulate vest
Waterproof hiking or trail shoes
Lightweight long pants
Convertible pants if you have them
A bathing suit and beach towel
Light-weigh long sleeve tops
One nice washable outfit
Toilet paper (one roll)
Life-straw (water is not potable everywhere)