Monday, September 16, 2013

Uruguay, so far.

We're in Punta del Diablo, Devil's Point, in the north of Uruguay, close to the Brazilian border. It started storming the day we arrived, and it hasn't stopped, not even for an hour. Overnight, the weather went from 30 degrees and sunny to 12 degrees wet wild and windy.
The horrible weather didn't stop these Punta del Diablo locals from enjoying the beach.

Punta del Diablo is a tiny fishing village with dirt roads, a handful of sheds, small shops and eateries, and the sort of picturesque cabins us tourists swoon over until the roof starts to leak.

At the frutería just outside a local supermercado.
We're told the village has a permanent population of more or less 1000. In summer, the number can swell to tens of thousands of mostly Brazilians, Argentinians and local Uruguayans who come to party, enjoy the summer sun, and surf. Because it's so small and fairly isolated, we've come here strictly to chill, not to see if it's a place we can retire in. (But who knows.)

 "¡Uruguay es muy caro!" locals have been telling us all week. Uruguay is very expensive. Who would have thought. But they're right. Prices of many things here, like petrol and utilities and even eating out, are surprisingly only slightly cheaper than in Sydney. 
These chewy caramelised coconut macaroons were 30 Uruguayan pesos each (about AUD1.50) and worth every centavo.

Here in Punta del Diablo, the Brazilian border town of Chuy is less than 40 kilometres away and locals drive there to shop and pump petrol. It still works out cheaper. As an affordable place to retire in, Uruguay wouldn't make our list. But in every other way, we love it. We can even imagine living here in this (currently) soggy village with gaping potholes carving up the dirt roads, no medical facilities to speak of for us oldies, and no permanent vet services for our precious pigdog.
Could cheap caipirinhas and good apple crumble be valid reasons for moving here?

As in other places we've visited in Uruguay, there are many street dogs in Punta del Diablo. The locals don't seem to mind them and, in fact, are very tolerant of their coming and going. Some wear collars and belong to people but are free to wander. 

"And this is how you dry yourself off when you haven't got a soft fluffy towel and hair dryer."
"You rub against the wall like this, up and down...
...up and down...

Others are collarless, thinner and presumably strays.
This little tyke scored a bone from the butcher in the supermercado.
We thought she was a stray, but the fruit and vege lady knows her and says her name is Maria.
"Don't you feel sorry for me, turista. I might be little but I know how to take care of myself."

In Punta del Este further south, the Riviera of Latin America and a bit like our Queensland Gold Coast (over developed, bloated, jaded and lacking anything interesting for me personally), we were told that many of the street dogs actually belong to people. Punta del Este, like many beach towns in Uruguay, only seems to have a small permanent population. Visitors come during summer, especially in January. When they leave, their dogs get left behind, so we were told, and the people who actually call Punta del Este home, then randomly feed and take care of them. Presumably until the errant owners return.
"Hola! Could I please come in for a pat and some food?"
"Gracias señora."
"Oi turistas, don't forget to leave me some scraps, okay?"

I can't verify this story and I'm not sure that I agree with this practice if it's true, but it seems to work, so who am I to judge.

What I can say is that the street dogs we've met so far, are not nervous of humans (as dogs that have been abused can be). Some are very naughty and like chasing and barking at cars and motorbikes which can be a problem. But apart from that, they're affectionate, well behaved and seem to understand their boundaries well.

These 2 came to our cabin for a feed today. There must be a local doggy grapevine because we find more and more dogs waiting for us each day.
"¡Buenos días! Are you the Cushion we've heard so much about?"
"What's on the menu today? Kibble? Bikkies? How about some bones?"
"Don't worry, we won't come in. You can feed us out here."

Honestly, their manners would put Georgia's to shame.

A few other perros del Uruguay.
The picture above and the 2 below, from Maldonado.
Can you spot the doggy in the picture above?

Picture A: The doggy below was in La Barra. It looks like she may have had a litter not too long ago.
Picture B: This dog lives in Punta del Diablo. Many (maybe even most) male dogs here are intact, which could be the reason why there are dogs like the one in Picture A.

This is Ollie from Barcelona, who now lives in Punta del Diablo with Sara and Leo, the lovely young couple we're renting our cabin from. (If you're thinking of visiting this place, I can't recommend them enough and you can email me for their details.)
Ollie's learnt to be a real dog here, Sara says, and is happier and more tranquila. Could this happen to Miss Pea if she comes here to live? The mind boggles.

Ollie kindly shares her home with 2 street dogs, Negrita..
...and Clarita.
Negrita and Clarita are free dogs who come and go as they please. They get fed every day by Sara and Leo. If Sara and Leo are away, they get fed by other families in the area. 
On cold rainy windy days like today, they also have a welcome spot by the fire at Sara and Leo's home.

I have to include these 2 pictures of Cushion in La Barra, cooing in his sweetest voice, trying to coax this dog to come up to him.
This might be the first time ever Cushion has been so pointedly ignored by a dog.
Look at his face! If looks could kill, the man would be dead.

Here are some other favourite shots from last week -

In Punta del Este.

In Maldonado.

Lots of vets and pet shops around.

In Jose Ignacio.

On the bus from Jose Ignacio to Maldonado.

Tomorrow, we head off down south again, to Piriápolis, then Atlántida, Montevideo and back across the Río de la Plata to Buenos Aires on Sunday. I hope the rain doesn't follow us! Until the next time we get good internet connection, adiós mis amigos! X

Monday, September 9, 2013

A postcard from the dead.

Dear Rose, Mary, Jean, Olivia, Vero, Annie, Sonia, H, Tootsie, Chandra, Gizmo and Barb - hello, hola!

Just to let you know, we're not really dead, we're in Buenos Aires. 
Thank you so much for writing and asking after us! Sorry for being such a rude tick and never getting back to any of you. I can't believe 3 months have gone by since my last post. I got busy, then lazy, and that was that. Hope you're all well! I miss you! though I do not miss blogging at all, I must admit.

Thought you might enjoy these pictures of our day out at the Mataderos Markets today (which took 5 hours to upload you can see we have great Internet connection here).

There were quite a few dogs at the markets. In fact, I don't think it's our imagination that there are A Lot of dogs in Buenos Aires, even in the city centre where we're staying. This one was a free spirit.
No one seemed to mind him scavenging around their tables, and a few people actually called out to him.

This old gentleman was very keen to show off his little dog's party trick.
The dog was so relaxed, he fell asleep.
The gentleman made sure I didn't forget his other friend.
I get the feeling Argentinians love their dogs.
Wonder if this one was ever found.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Georgia is back at Mr O's. Here are some pictures from the last week or 2.

She didn't like seeing the bags being packed.
"You're bloody leaving me again, aren't you?"

A last walk in the glorious Spring sunshine.

A last cuddle.
"Just admit it. You're going to miss me."

She apparently settled back to being a farm dog in one day. 
"Hey, I remember this place! I get to eat raw chicken carcasses here!"

We're very grateful for that. Regardless, it'll be a while before we start to feel less guilty about leaving her behind for 3 months. 

Mr O sent us this picture. 
It was in our mailbox before we even landed, how sweet is that man!

This is the face that looks back at me from my mobile phone and reminds me what an awful dog parent and human being I am.
"Miss me yet?"

Yes we do, Georgia Little Pea. 

Hooroo for now! Got to get up in 3 and a half hours to catch the ferry to Uruguay. Isn't travelling fun. Hugs to everyone! X