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.
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.
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.