WHY URUGUAY?
 
 
   
  COMMENTS
Chelsea Hermus, Canada
  Chelsea Hermus, Canada
 

"I traveled to Uruguay in November of 2007 for a fish collecting trip organized by Spencer Jack. Having listened to Spencer sing the country's praises since February, I thought I knew what to expect, but my actual experience was so much better than I ever could have imagined.

Everything about the trip was perfect. The weather in November (spring) is a balmy 30C. Coming from Winnipeg, where it was -5C and snowing when I left and -20C and snowing when I returned, this was a real treat! The accommodations - from Felipe's guest house, to the hotel in Treinta y Tres, to the estancia near Valentines - were comfortable and clean. The food - oh, the food! I have never had so many spectacular meals in one day. I can't even pick one favourite meal, though I crave asado daily. Don't even get me started on dessert (Dulce de Leche, I love you)... I'll save that for you to experience on your own.

We collected fish in several regions of the country, in so many localities that I lost count. Felipe and Pablo are experts with the seine - they make it look so easy! I will forever carry an image in my mind of John and Alan seining into deeper and deeper water, until only their heads were above the surface. There's something spectacular about pulling up a net (even if you are up to your neck in a pond full of cow and horse shit at the time) to find beautiful cichlids, tetras, livebearers, crayfish, shrimp and plenty more. Their colours are so much more vivid, fresh out of the water in their native habitat, than you ever see in any aquarium: deep reds, shimmering blues, vibrant oranges and yellows, purples, greens, sparkling silvers and golds. One day I sat and tried to videotape a beautiful pair of cichlids with teeny tiny fry. I must have sat in that shin-deep stream for 2 hours, watching, fascinated. The video didn't turn out that great, so I'll have to go back and find them again next year (thanks, John, for not taking them home and letting them raise their little family in peace)!

Not that you would ever get bored with the fish, but there are many other things to keep your interest piqued. The architecture in Montevideo, the old cars and trucks, people zooming around on mopeds, motorcycles, bicycles, or just walking. One night, we walked to 'downtown' Salinas around midnight to watch the candombe players with their drums. Pablo, his brother and their friend gave us a spirited candombe demonstration on our last day, too.

The country teems with amazing flora and fauna just waiting for your eyes to discover them. Unusual trees and flowers, birds (including wild rhea in the pastures!), reptiles (snakes, wild tegu lizards), mammals (armadillos everywhere!) and insects (one day we brought home a tarantula!) abound.

As everyone else who has experienced an Aqva Terra Eco Tour seems to say, the people are what make this trip so special. Our group - Howard Paynter, Mike Wiwchar, John Sabo, Spencer Jack, Klaus Gebhardt, Alan Rollings - got along very well and had many crazy times together. I'm sure we all brought home a lot of memories to laugh and smile about - I know I did. Felipe's family and staff went out of their way to make sure we never wanted for anything. They made us feel welcome, no matter where we were in the country. They made me feel like family, too.

Best of all was Felipe Cantera himself. The Indiana Jones/George Clooney of the Spanish-speaking world (you should see him in his sexy new hat!), he is the real reason you will enjoy your tour to the fullest. Felipe is knowledgeable about all aspects of his country - have a question on history, culture, geography, and of course flora and fauna, he will have an excellent answer. He's quick to smile and laugh and always makes you feel comfortable. If you need a favour, he will be happy to help you out. If your beer glass is empty, he will make sure it is full! If you drink too much beer on the way home and need to stop at the side of the road to pee, he will laugh along with you when a girl on horseback rides by. He always makes sure you are happy and are having fun.

**Being the only female in the group presented its own challenges (apart from needing more frequent bathroom breaks, there are a lot of pictures of me bending over!!), but a sense of humor and a large amount of tolerance certainly helped!**

You owe it to yourself to take this trip. I promise you will have the time of your life - "It's true!" See you next year :)"

 

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