I took a day trip to Pan de Azucar which in English translates to "Sugar Loaf," a quaint town in Eastern Uruguay. I intended to climb the large hill or cerro in Pan de Azucar that you see below. There's a 35 meter cross resting on the top of this third largest hill in Uruguay, but let's just say that I never made it to the top of the hill.
I hop off the bus in downtown Pan de Azucar only to ask for directions to a tourist center or somewhere to buy a map. Oh wait, there isn't anywhere like that in this sleepy little town. That's ok. I'll just walk in the direction of the giant hill with the cross on top. I walk and walk and walk.
I walk alongside major highways, through farmer's fields, and unbounded natural brush. Other humanity is not to be found, but that's ok, as long as I keep the hill in front of me and head toward it, all will be fine.
Unfortunately the terrain is swampish from the rains of the past two weeks. My sneakers get soaked in squishy black mud. I climb over fences where cattle and horses graze and walk alongside large animals that begin to make terrible snorting noises. The brush gets thick in front of me, but the cerro is ahead so I push onward.
I climb through sharp thorns and thistles that get tangled in my hair, poke through my clothes, and cut my skin. But I know the hill is up ahead. A burning sensation creeps up my right leg. I look down and panic. My jeans are coated in a thick layer of big fat red fire ants. It is at this point I start half screaming-half crying while swatting the ants away. They crawled up my jeans, in my socks, and down my shoe; and I am still in the middle of the thistley brush. There is nothing I can do but slog back through the mud and nasty underbrush behind me.
I trek back out of the mess I got myself into and about 4 hours later I get back to where the bus dropped me off. Turns out there are no more seats left on any bus back to Montevideo until the very last one departing that evening. Fine. I'll take that one. I am covered in mud and it's getting cold, so where is the closest restaurant or cafe I can wait in until the bus comes? Oh there are none, the man at the counter says. No really, there has to be something. Nope not really. And there wasn't. I walked in every food service looking place asking for a cup of coffee but nobody could help me. Finally a kilometer out of town, I found a pizzeria that let me sit inside and watch the news while I drank a tall glass of cafe con leche. The best part of my day.
Overall, I'd have to say Pan de Azucar is a pretty agricultural town with spectacular sunsets, but I didn't have much luck the day I visited. However, at least it wasn't as bad as my trip to Concordia--no hitchhiking was involved this time.