I can see clearly now… Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
You know how sometimes after a heavy rain the whole world looks new? New grass, freshly tarmaced roads, straight-from-the-box cars? Well Colonia del Sacramento is not like that. Even after the heaviest spring fall Colonia is old old old.
What is new is the tranquility. Once the old town has been washed clean of the constant stream of tourists the cobbled lanes – cracked, uneven and sprouting an array of untamed weeds – offer a strange sense of peace. It’s like the old port town has been deserted by its sailors and smuggler inhabitants and left to fall deeper and deeper into disrepair.
Colonia in the sun must be marvellous. Cafés spewing forth crowds of chattering day-trippers. Children with ice-cream covered faces. Boats bobbing in the delta. Bodies sprawled out on nearby beaches. It must also be all elbows and flashing cameras. Tantrums towards the evening and queues to use the one free public toilet. Colonia after the rain on the other hand, with its heavy grey skies and slippery stones, was all ours.
While everyone else sipped cortados in cafés and converted Volkswagons we rushed the drawbridge. We climbed over the original bastion walls. We stared silently at the simplicity of Uruguay’s oldest church. We watched a marvellous sunset reflected in a hundred puddles. We rounded up a band of half a dozen dogs and skipped stones across the shore. After our hour and a half of exploration (it really is that small) we devoured the freshest seafood and some surprisingly good Uruguayan wine.
Founded in 1680 by Portuguese settlers as a base from which to smuggle goods into nearby Buenos Aires, tiny Colonia was coveted by other western powers and was for hundreds of years a prize over which the Spanish and Portuguese fought. Eventually the Spanish won and added it to their giant, towering pile of South American conquests.
While it wasn’t the sunny, hand-holding trip we had hoped for Colonia del Sacramento – for all its wet, grey, flaking glory – was the perfect setting in which to toast our fourth anniversary. Fourty-eight months down and only one left to go!
There are more pictures from Colonia del Sacramento available in the gallery