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Posted on June 10, 2019
Steve has been booking riding holidays with In The Saddle since 2007 and we have enjoyed arranging trips for him all over the world, from India and Jordan, to Chile and Costa Rica. In this blog post Steve tells us about his recent visit to Uruguay for the ‘Painted Birds Trail‘.
The Painted Birds Trail in Uruguay was a great experience, I feel lucky to have been.
During this trail the riding is fun, interesting and diverse. There are lots of long sandy beaches, dunes, wetlands and grassy pastures. Gauchos whose lands we cross might ride along with us, dogs following.
From a high dune we could see the beach side town we’d reach that evening. The next day we could look back across the lagoon as the sun was rising to see the pink hill we’d paused on during the ride the day before.
Every day had new surprises – the sound of birds and clacking of frogs in the morning, a new foal born, soft sandy beaches, the humming birds you hear humming before you see them, the owls on fence posts, flamingos overhead, ostrich-like birds running in front of us in the palms, looking up and seeing parrots nesting in the trees, herding cattle, shopping for bombachas (gaucho-style riding trousers) on a visit to a provincial town, watching the coals being prepared for the asado (BBQ) and how the meat and sausages are cooked, each meal and lodging different from the last.
The parts of the country the ride explores are uncrowded, secluded, even lonely.
There’s a sense of quiet and stillness. Even the capital Montevideo is a low-key city, people were out on the seawall drinking ‘mate’ or eating chocolate.
The bird life was just great. We saw a dozen owls the first day. There were flamingos, ostrich-like birds, and hummingbirds. I’d recommend bringing binoculars. Listening to the sounds of birds and frogs was great. The first day’s introductory ride was one of the best with so many birds.
The accommodation and food were both memorable. The accommodation was luxurious and comfortable. It’s magical moving from one interesting accommodation to the next. Some of the places to stay were on the beach or a short walk from the beach. There are low-key but relatively upscale small beach side hotels; funky bed-and-breakfasts with engaging proprietors and within a walk of the beach, and a working estancia with animals and birds.
The lodgings are carefully chosen – a perfect selection. We arrived at one beach side town that was a bit bustling, but then rode through the town to the other side to find a comfortable ‘inn’ with sea views and a restaurant with great atmosphere and even better food. You could look out and see the pink on the surf as the sun began to set.
The estancia at the end of the ride is surely a tourist estancia, but there is a working ranch, great sunset views over the water, even better sunrises, a good barbecue for cooking asado and comfortable rooms and dining.
When the guide asked what the best food was, all one could do was recount the best food from each day. The food was so memorable, delicious grass-fed beef sometimes as asado, fresh fish dishes and dulce de leche with flan or with crepes. I particularly liked provoleta, which is a provolone-type cheese cooked over coals until browned and bubbling, served with a dusting of spices and chimichurri sauce.
Mid-March was a perfect time to travel; the tourists had departed the tourist towns, but the water was warmer than California and the temperatures were around 80°F (c. 26°C). Some of the beaches were good for swimming – wide and shallow going out.
It was a great experience and here is a photographic summary of my ‘best bits’:
I am tremendously grateful to you for organizing my holiday. Thank you for a wonderful experience in Uruguay!
Many thanks to Steve for this interesting insight into our Painted Birds Trail. Uruguay may be one of the lesser-visited countries in South America, but we think it should be on your wish list.