Road adventures are meant to be challenging. Motorhome travellers who opt against the amenities of mainstream tourist destinations prepare for bad roads, spaced out gas stations and lack of clean water when they head for Latin America.
Then there are the less fun challenges. Few want to spend days or weeks of their hard earned sabbatical negotiating bribes with corrupt port officials. Which is why the port of Montevideo is a favorite landing spot for motor homes from overseas for a long (off-)roadtrip.
Customs clearing procedures in Uruguay are said to be less tedious than in neighboring Brazil and Argentina, and officials apply common sense rather than blackmail.
Vehicles of overseas owners can stay in Uruguay for long-ish times, unlike in Argentina or Brazil, where laws require them to leave within weeks or months. So some have been leaving them there for winter to continue their trip next year.
During the Covid-19 Pandemic, Uruguay became the place where many of these trucks spend their quarantine, with or without their owners.
It’s almost impossible not to eat an asado while you’re in Uruguay. Even if you come with a range of rational arguments against beef orgies, you’re best of leaving them in a hotel safe for at least one day to experience the whole body ritual that is an asado.
You’ll eat a ridiculous quantity of meat, from cows that were raised under the open sky all year around. It will be served from above embers that come in a steady flow from a little wood fire beside the barbecue grill.
In Uruguay it must be a wood fire, never from charcoal, because that’s what Argentinians do, and the asado ritual is about roots.
One of the most authentic ways to celebrate an asado is in the middle of a shift on a building site. There likely won’t be a comfortable place to do it there, nor whole-hearted support from management, which makes it as raw and masculine as the asado experience can get.
The indoors people paying staff to serve the same meat on a table with white tablecloths and good wines secretly know that they’re not doing it right.
Uruguay es el mejor país was likely meant as an absurdly melodramatic claim. In the early years of Youtube, a Russian-German violinist realized that videos could go “viral” when young-ish people took turns showing each other weirdly funny videos on the internet. So, in his piece Uruguay, he sings excitedly:
Yo me voy a Uruguay Porque me gusta la gente Yo me voy a Uruguay es casi siempre caliente URUGUAY ES EL MEJOR PAÍS Mejor que Francia y mejor que Paris (…)
I’m going to Uruguay Because I like the people. I’m going to Uruguay It’s almost always hot. URUGUAY IS THE BEST COUNTRY Better than France, better than Paris (…)
Behind the obvious irony of every sound and movement that the singer/violinist/composer makes, there is a deep truth:
Uruguayans are among the most pleasant people to be around.
Winters here are short and mild by Northern Europeans’ measures.
Move to France instead, and you will regret it.
Epilogue: Years later, the Uruguayan Tourism Ministry paid for a second video shoot, flying the artists in to have them perform in front of both types of Uruguayan landscapes (rural and beach). Say el mejor país, and everyone in Uruguay knows which country you’re referring to. There are entire channels dedicated to referencing the song and its message.