El Galope, Colonia, Uruguay

May 2014 – It’s been a while since we stayed at El Galope but it remains one of the most memorable stays of all our travels. You can find the El Galope webiste here and they are also on Facebook. Don’t hesitate – just go and stay there. You won’t regret it.

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Whilst we were booking our hostel in Colonia del Sacramento we spotted another hostel around 40km into the Uruguayan countryside by the name of El Galope. It sounded like a very relaxing quiet place so we booked a couple of nights.

To get to El Galope however we needed to make our very first South American bus journey. Miguel, the owner of El Galope had emailed and advised which bus we should get and where to get off. Buying tickets was actually quite simple but the whole process crashed down around us because we had to telephone Miguel once we had bought our tickets so that he knew when to come and collect us from the bus stop. This would have been okay had we not bought tickets for a bus that wanted to leave immediately. Sadly the Spanish I had been learning did not anticipate this eventuality. Though I knew the word for telephone all the ticket counter staff wanted to do was get us on the bus. They even called the driver in to help. None of them spoke any English.

Whilst I used internationally recognised pointing skills to suggest I might use their telephone Claire tracked down the only English speaker in the building to assist us. Eventually we arranged to buy a ticket for the later bus. But the fun wasn’t over. I still needed to use a public telephone. They don’t take coins here. I found the English speaking girl and she pointed me towards a shop. When I got to it it was full of computers and telephones. But the owner insisted I could only make international calls. I returned once more to the English speaking girl who was hiding her frustration well. She led me to a sweet shop and helped me buy a phone card.

Everything went smoothly from there but this was incident number 2 which reinforced my desire to learn more Spanish.

The bus was fantastic. Reclining seats and air conditioning. Having spent the 2 hours whilst we waited memorising some new Spanish I was able to ask the bus conductor to let us know when we reached the middle of absolutely nowhere. He immediately understood much to Claire’s surprise. An hour later he came and prodded us and there waiting at Km marker 114.5 for us was Miguel.

El Galope is a fantasic place. It is a small estancia in the middle of endless grassland that sleeps only 10 guests. Though for our two nights there we had the place to ourselves. Miguel and his wife Monica were superb hosts and cooked excellent meals for us.

We chatted to Miguel at great length on our first evening about the history of Uruguay and learned a lot. Like the amount of English influences and about a town where all of the street names are named after Irish settlers. He and Monica have lived all over the world and have had many jobs; Lecturer, Publican, running an Art Gallery. As a result he seemed to speak 4 or 5 languages and some Latin. He also told us that Uruguayan Football and Beef is infinitely better than its Argentinian equivalent.

(cheesiest photo so far)

El Galope has a third host in the form of Tupac the dog. He welcomes new guests at the gate, keeps guests company, sits guard outside the room windows and even escorts you safely off the premises. He is a big dog but I think our time with him may have helped reduce Claire’s fear of dogs. Sadly she remains scared of horses, though this didn’t stop her trying to feed one. Though it stood on her flip-flop and from that point on she went to pieces.

On our first full day we hired two bikes and peddled to Victoria’s goat farm around 2km away. Being stupid Ingles we set off when the sun was at its hottest but we got there easy enough. Victoria only started her goat farm recently and she makes cheese with the milk. She told us that she intends to grow her herd but for the time being she is still making a fair amount of cheese. The cheese we tasted is nothing like the goat’s cheese we get in the UK. The flavour is much milder and the texture is similar to Red Leicester. But it tastes fantastic (and is a much better cheese in my opinion) so we bought a large chunk.

(Can you spot Claire?)

(The obligatory food shot)

El Galope sells wine and the Red Wine is Tannat made by their neighbour, a retired winemaker. We tried it on the first night and soon polished it off and we couldn’t resist another bottle the second night. I can just about tell a good red wine and this wine was astonishingly good. Miguel was not surprised to hear this and told us that Uruguayan wine is better than Agentinian wine.

On our final morning at El Galope we took a short walk (again under the midday sun!) and enjoyed the contrast that this flat part of Uruguay gives with New Zealand. As we were leaving El Galope our old friend the rain arrived. It took a while to cross the Pacific and catch us up as the weather for the previous 3 days had been extremely hot and sunny.

We really enjoyed our time at El Galope. It is a fantastic place to relax and we left feeling refreshed enough to return to the franticly exciting Buenos Aires.

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