As mentioned in the previous post, Colonia is a small town with not a lot to do. However, it is a small town where you can rent a scooter for $30 US if you have a driver’s license, passport, $200 US cash deposit per bike, and are willing to deal with the least helpful scooter rental shop in the world. Up until the minute we got on our bikes and left, they were warning us to not go on the highways, to wear our helmets, to ride slow, and to be aware that every single cop in Colonia would try to pull us over and get a bribe. Well, the scooters barely went the speed limit, much less over it, and we didn’t see any cops the whole day so no problems there.
We did however see approximately 40,000 pencils. The tour was given to us by the least enthusiastic Uruguayan girl I’ve ever met (though I haven’t met a lot of Uruguayan girls to compare her to) which I guess is understandable when your job is showing a pencil collection off to tourists. But wait, not just a pencil collection! It’s also an ashtray, key chain, and old can collection. And it’s free to view. They have a little shop that sells jam and cheese to the tourists lured in by the sweet bait of many, many pencils. So yeah, if my job was showing off way too many pencils in the hopes that someone would buy a jar of marmalade, I probably wouldn’t be very stoked either.
After checking out the pencils, Harrison and I rode back into town to grab the free lunch that was part of our program. I ordered a chivito which is the main food Uruguay prides itself on. Basically, it’s one of those sandwiches that gives the finger to the health food movement. People say, “Awwwmaaaaaigaaaaawd, you gotta eat a sah-laaaad and some brown rice,” and this sandwich says, “Fuck you hippy, I am steak, ham, bacon, cheese, and a fried egg piled on bread. Suck my dick.” It was delicious and I was very relieved to not have to buy one from the place with the terrifying clown. I scarfed it down and then Harrison and I hit the rode for more adventures. Our first stop was this awesome old bull fighting arena, the last free standing one in South America, we had passed by in our bus the day before. I think bull fighting sucks and have very little interested in going to a real one – I’d rather watched Filipino horse fights – but checking out an old ruined arena is always cool. Here it is from the outside:
After not going into the bull fighting arena, we walked around the area and quickly discovered a hippodrome, which despite its name has nothing to do with hippo battles. Instead it’s a horse racing arena. Harrison and I hung out with the horses, unsuccessfully tried to get one to wear a helmet (see below), and kicked around the race track. This is the great thing about renting motorcycles: It lets you actually explore. With a tour, sure you get some fun facts about history, but you are being shown things. On our little scooters, we were free to veer off the main roads and cruise down side streets to discover upscale houses or impoverished neighborhoods whenever we liked. If we wanted to stop at a small restaurant by the beach and split a beer, we could do that. Or we could keep cruising. It was a very nice taste of freedom after being wrangled like tourist cattle in a pack of 40 loud herd animals the day before.
Like I said at the start of this post, there isn’t much to do in Colonia. We’d walked the beaches, seen the pencils, not gone in the bull fighting arena, played with the horses, and even checked out the little joke mall called “Shopping Colonia.” But before we returned the bikes we had to fill up their teeny tiny two liter gas tanks. At the gas station, we also tried out a frozen confectionery treat called “Torpedo Monkey.” Now, I know it sounds like some bizarre World War II racial slur, but it’s actually a banana flavored popsicle with frozen dulce de leche inside. If you like banana runts, but wish they were colder and more like a popsicle, try a Torpedo Monkey. Not quite good, but certainly a thing that exists.
Since returning from Colonia on Saturday, I have come down with an illness. Being sick is rarely fun, unless you’re in elementary school, but it’s so much worse in a foreign country. Everything feels really overwhelming and trying to stay in and rest makes me feel bad because I’m missing out on awesome stuff. But then, when I keep forcing myself to go out to punk rock book festivals and museum exhibits, I prevent myself from getting well. Being sick has also put a serious kibosh on my Spanish skills. Now when I hit the streets everyone sounds like the grown ups onPeanuts. But as soon as I get better I will go have more adventures and blog about them.