Uruguay in 22 hours (part 1): rocks and watchful cattle at Sierras de Mahoma

Uruguay was just supposed to be an 8-hour layover, a quick dip into Montevideo, then on to Paraguay. But Pluna’s cancellation a couple weeks ago of the Saturday night flight to Asuncion left me scrambling to further compress Paraguay and expand Uruguay.

Beaches are not my thing, sand is sand as far as I am concerned, and it is winter anyway. The Bradt Uruguay guide had a small entry for Sierras de Mahoma, a moonscape of unusual rock formations, while Lonely Planet gave the whole region between Montevideo and Colonia de Sacramento a pass. Under a 2-hour drive from Montevideo west on the way to Colonia (2 hours if, like me, you get lost on the tangle of poorly marked roads out of Montevideo), it was perfect for a hike, and the attached ranch and vineyard, Finca Piedra, a delightful refuge.

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Ranches dot the rolling Uruguayan landscape

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The Sierras de Mahoma

The Sierras has several discretely marked trails to avoid the bogs, though beware the vicious, clothes-shredding flora. On this cool, overcast fall day the only other interlopers were cows and their prodigious, grass-fed output.

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These plants have claim many a fabric victim

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Grass-fed cattle certainly are productive

Sunset encroached on the afternoon too fast and time for a rest at the ranch…well, no, instead a madcap 150 km dash to Colonia to sample a chivito sandwich at the UNESCO-listed colonial town, and try to be back in time for dinner.

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Shrine

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Cattle on watch

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A moment to bask in the setting sun

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  • Love this! Little old Uruguay doesn’t get much coverage, outside of a bit on Montevideo, Punta, and Colonia, if that. And that Brandt Guide is the only English-language guide extant dedicated to the wonderful Oriental Republic.

    Better watch out though – 22 hours can be enough to get you hooked on this great country. Heck, 6 years ago my wife and I did 8 hours in Colonia as the classic Buequebus ferry sidetrip from Buenos Aires, and that was enough to make us decide to consider living there. Last year we kicked around the idea in February (“hey, remember how we liked the vibe of Uruguay, want to consider moving there?”, checked out about 10 towns in April, rented a 3-month “test drive” in September, and moved into our permanent new apartment in December!

    Haven’t to Sierras de Mahoma yet. Will have to explore soon. Great trip report!

  • Finca Piedra is a jewel of an Uruguayan “Dude Ranch” witha French touch. Great food on-season and off-season (off-season guests eat in the kitchen at a massive table while the cook works her magic around them). It is only an hour and a quarter from Montevideo (if you don’t get lost in the drive).

    A short horseback or car ride away is the sea of stone (Sierras de Mahoma) formation. Great photos BTW.

    My wife and I prefer the off-season atmosphere of Finca Piedra, and have enjoyed great conversations with the young couple who manage it. She is from France and he is from South Africa.

  • worldtraveller2

    off the beaten path! love it!

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