"" Writer's Wanderings: World Cruise - Montevideo, Uruguay

Friday, April 24, 2015

World Cruise - Montevideo, Uruguay

The invitation was tacked to the wall of our stateroom with a magnet right next to the pictures of our grandchildren and just below our calendar that seemed heavy with things to do each day. It was to be another World Cruise Event and it sounded exciting. 

The other exciting part of April 12 would be the end to our seven days at sea. I used to love sea days. Still do. But not seven in a row. I did get a lot of reading done but several rough days and lethargy (or just plain laziness) kept me from writing much.

So, as we headed into port that morning I was up early—before the sun! I watched a glorious sunrise and then the sail in to Montevideo. The city sits on the banks of the Rio de la Plata where it meets the ocean. The river is said to be the widest in the world, 100 miles at the widest point.

We had already heard the story of the famous battle fought there in WWII between the British ship Exeter and the German ship Graf Spee. The Exeter had inflicted quite a bit of damage on the Graf Spee that put into the port of Montevideo, Uruguay. Because Uruguay was a neutral country during the war, the Graf Spee was only allowed a short time in port. The captain of the Graf Spee, Captain Hans Langsdorff, was convinced that the British had greater force in the river than there really was and so he sailed out into the river, setting his crew off the ship and scuttled it. The crew and the captain ended up in Argentina where the captain committed suicide.

After breakfast, we gathered our things and met up with about 500 other world cruisers on the pier to board buses for our event. It was about a half hour ride to Estancia La Baguala, a large ranch that is now being turned into a very elegant hotel. Crystal Cruises had arranged for a huge party on the grounds to include dancers, musicians, and of course gauchos.

Our bus was met by a parade of gauchos and gauchas (females gauchos) on horses and as we filed by, we took pictures and admired the horses as well as the riders, young and old. The gauchos go back quite a way in history and were a part of the fight to win independence from Spain. They are the South American version of the American cowboy herding cattle on large ranches. Their colorful clothing is iconic.

As we entered the large courtyard of the ranch, we found all sorts of tables and bales of hay covered with cushions and cloths for us to sit and enjoy the surroundings and of course the tasty appetizers and drinks. Costumed dancers paraded around the guests and stopped to dance on platforms. They represented several eras in history including the ancient tribe of Cree that were once here.

Appetizers included empanadas, different kinds of breads and in one spot huge legs of BBQ beef that were being sliced thinly for small sandwiches. It was all very delicious and really too much to eat because to follow was a huge lunch.

We explored one end of the ranch house and peeked into the bedrooms that were opened so that guests could use the bathrooms. At the other end of the huge ranch house was a spa with several rooms for exercise, hot tubs, sauna and steam. Another section was a large living area and a dining room that we learned could hold about 300 guests for special events.

When lunchtime arrived, we all filed through the reception area to the back of the ranch house where a huge tent was set up for us with BBQ pits on either side full of all sorts of beef, chicken and vegetables. Our table mates and another couple who had been with us on safari all gathered around one table and began to get plates of food.

The food lines were so long that several of us decided to take another look at the gauchos and horses. One of our tablemates used to have a horse ranch and she had already been on one of the gaucho’s horses. We were offered rides and of course my friends decided I needed to go for one. What??

I don’t know what had gotten into me but I took up the challenge and was helped up by a female gaucho. I thought the saddle was going to come off before I got up there. There is no saddle horn to hold onto to get up there and my muscles aren’t what they used to be. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Those pictures are deleted. Once up though, I suddenly got a cramp in my leg so if I look a bit odd, I’m fighting the pain. A few minutes later the horse was relieved to have me back on the ground. But what a hoot!

I still wasn’t very hungry but I forced myself to get a plate of food just to be able to taste what smelled so delicious. Our main lunch was followed by a dish of flan and then. . .well, wow!

The dancing began and just continued on and on. It was amazing. The dancers were obviously younger than the crowd and full of energy but they energized those watching and eventually pulled them into the dance. When the Spanish dancing was done, drums announced the African influenced dancers. The African beat filled the tent and the energy level went even higher.

Then the grand finale. Very tall, and I mean VERY tall ladies (even without the platform heels) descended the stairs of the ranch house and danced into the tent much to the amazement of all and the delight especially of the men. They were scantily clad but their bodies were well oiled and covered in glitter. Lots of dancing with the crowd and of course picture taking. Everyone’s husband saying, “Honey, take a picture of me with her.” And of course Bob was no different.

Just look at that grin!
All too soon it was announced that the buses were waiting and we began to file out. What a day it had been! I cannot imagine anyone not enjoying themselves. Of course later we teased all the guys about the glitter on them. Bob had some on his nose!

While we didn’t get to explore the city of Montevideo, the countryside of Uruguay was certainly beautiful but of course a mix of poor and the very rich as it is in many countries. We’d love to return sometime and see more. 

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