Another visit to Aquas Dulces

Location of Aguas Dulces, Uruguay

Strange structures seem to dance, witch-like, as we drive into Aguas Dulces. They turn out to be paja (straw), the local equivalent of quincho. However, here they also use paja in walls as well as roofs.

Starting my walk around town, I notice what must have once been a map but appears to have evolved into an existential statement:

Faded map in Aguas Dulces, Uruguay
“You are here”

A house that survived, inexplicably, the storm that destroyed so many others. I remembered this one being in much worse shape, and indeed: compare with the picture in the previous post. Somebody’s been busy!

Aguas Dulces, Uruguay, November 2016

Lovely afternoon light. There’s a cat in the picture, and several more nearby.

Next morning, an amazing breakfast in an amazing setting. The onshore wind blows back the top of  the waves. The face of the farthest break is at least  two meters high.

Funky beach, funky houses.

Funky beach houses in Aguas Dulces, Uruguay

brightly painted garage, Aguas Dulces, Uruguay

¡Hasta luego, Aguas Dulces!

 

Montevideo: faces on buildings

Running errands in Montevideo the other day, I saw a building that seemed to share my sentiments about the weather.

Then, on Av. Italia, something I probably should have seen at some point but never have.

Teatro Cinematica 18, Av. 18 de Julio, Montevideo, Uruguay

But then, I note it wasn’t there in October 2015. And it’s not as though I’m on Avenida 18 de Julio driving, seeing as it’s one of my least favorite streets to drive on in Montevideo. Narrow lanes and lots of buses and pedestrians.

Teatro Cinematica 18, Montevideo, October 2915

 

 

 

Strange shadows

odd shadows on house, Uruguay

We walk by this house every day. Now at just the right time, and right time of year, for this bit of weirdness.

The Yacht Club

We had lunch the other day at a restaurant overlooking the Arroyo Solís Chico, opposite the Yacht Club Parque del Plata, near the statue of Ruperto. Several kids were learning to sail in tiny boats in the mild breeze.

Yacht Club Parque del Plata

You’ve probably guessed this already, but I has to walk around the back to see more. Not a Yacht in sight.

Yacht Club Parque del Plata

Curious to learn more about their activities, I discovered that they have a web site. There are no yachts there either. I’ve written before about the pathetic state of some web sites in Uruguay: take, for example, the national oil company. Try this link: ancap.com.uy. Now type www. at the beginning and hit return. Kinda takes ya back twenty years, no? That’s Uruguay.

But the Yacht Club Solis Chico takes the web to a new level: see for yourself!

 

 

Beautiful new winery

Guest post by Syd Blackwell

map, Punta to El Edén

Ruta 12 carves an up-and-down path through the hills of Maldonado, northwest of the resort area of Punta del Este. It is a most beautiful road for a scenic drive. Just four kilometers south of the tiny village of Pueblo Edén, high on one of those hills, is Viña Edén, a winery. The owner is Brazilian, and a passionate oenophile.

The property is huge, but a mere seven hectares are devoted to grapes. The rest has been, and will continue to be, displayed in the natural beauty of this greenest of Uruguayan areas. The views are magnificent. The emphasis here is on quality, not quantity.

We had not pre-booked a visit. We only learned of the winery during a visit to Lote 8, an olive oil farm, located just north of Pueblo Edén. Naturally, we seized the opportunity to see the winery. They are open from 11:00 to 20:30 daily and can easily accommodate unannounced arrivals.

Viña Edén, Maldonado, Uruguay

The road that has been created to reach the operations, is already quite a marvel, as it steeply climbs the rocky hillside. The stunning building at the top is sheathed in a deliberately rusting metal, a very natural-looking colour. The windows are immense, maximizing the views. We were immediately greeted by an employee, on the wide terrace in front of the building that looks across the beautiful landscape.

Viña Edén, Depto Maldonado, Uruguay

We were offered a tasting tour, a tasting tour with a meal, or, a simple tour without tastings or meal. We chose the last. The tours with tastings or meal are, we think, quite expensive. We are used to free tastings at wineries. Our tour cost US$45 for a party of four, with nothing offered but words. At the end of our tour, we received an IVA discount, that reduced the price down to approximately $8 per person. The tasting tour, with snacks, costs $45 per person and the tasting + meal tour is priced at $65 per person. If one were attracted to the menu, and the idea of a chef-prepared mid-day meal, I suppose the last choice is a better value than the tasting tour, where the snacks did not look impressive or plentiful. However, when we had a chance to peruse the menu at the end of our tour, we did not think it remarkable enough to fit the asking price. Of course, we had not tasted the wines that would be offered with the meal.

Viña Edén, Depto Maldonado, Uruguay

The wines they produce are, as is the operation, of unique and excellent quality. As listed on their website, they are: Tannat Reserva 2015 for $1080 pesos (USD 38), Chardonnay 2015 for $810 (USD29), Cerro Negro Gran Reserva 2013, and Methode Champenoise, both priced at $1350 (USD48). Without a tasting, we were unwilling to buy any of these expensive products. However, other visitors at the winery clearly were partaking of both the tasting tour or the dining tour, and were purchasing bottles of wine following their tours.

Viña Edén, Depto Maldonado, Uruguay

The workings of the winery are all sparkling and new. It only opened for the public in this format in December 2016. On the night before our visit, they had a social event with live music at the winery. They are planning on more events in the future.

Viña Edén, Depto Maldonado, Uruguay

We were impressed with the incredible cleanliness and on the emphasis to deliver a pure product with the minimum of evasive processes or ingredients. For example, the flow through the system fully utilizes gravity and not pumps, which they told us, traumatize the wine. They are also completely aware of the soils and climate that contribute to their wines.

While we were not purchasers, the visit was well worth our time. We think this valley and this winery are beautiful. We will bring other visitors.

Further information can be found at the website: http://www.vinaeden.com/

Photos by Syd Blackwell

Boutique olive oil producer worth a visit

Guest post by Syd Blackwell

LOTE 8 – Viví Una Expeeriencia Única

View on Ruta 12, Dep. Maldonado, Uruguay
© Google

If you drive east on the interbalnearia (coastal highway) from Montevideo, then switch to Ruta 9 at Pan de Azucar, you will reach the start of Ruta 12, that runs north towards the tiny village (less than 100 persons) of Pueblo Edén, Uruguay. The vibrantly green hills and valleys along this route are, in my opinion, the most scenic of Uruguay. On one of these hills, just north of the village, you will find Lote 8, a unique experience in olive oil production.

Lote 8, olive oil producer, Uruguay

The operation, owned by an Argentinian family, offers tours, tastings, and, of course, the opportunity to purchase products. As recommended, we pre-booked a tour for our group of four, to ensure we would have the services of Martin, an English-speaking guide. We wished, as their brochure offers, “to enjoy a unique place where nature and passion transform its fruit into true art.” We were not disappointed.

Olive trees, Lote 8, Uruguay

The property is lovely; the vistas superb. Martin began his tour among the olive trees, where the fruit was still green and not yet ready to harvest. He explained two different methods of harvest, one with a finger-like device to strip olives from the branches, and one a shaking device to shake down olives. Matting below the trees catches the harvest.

Olive oil processing plant, Lote 8, Uruguay

Next, we followed the route of the fruit. First to a large grilled square in the floor where the harvest is dumped, and the conveyor that lifts it up to where the leaves and twigs are separated. Then the product moves through other machines that mix it with water, pulverize it into a slurry, and eventually separate out the valued oil. Finally, it is packaged, most in utilitarian bottles for Uruguayan supermarkets and such, and some in specially designed Mexican hand-blown glass bottles, suitable for gift purchases. Other products, such as soaps, candles, and chocolates, made with olive oil, are also available in the gift shop.

Lote 8 olive oil production plant, Uruguay

The buildings, the machinery, the layout, the total operation is just first-class. Great care is taken to produce this oil. Work also continues to add more features, more site beauty, to what is already remarkable. Step out of the processing room door and you look across a lily-pad covered pond, flanked by a bed of lavender, down and cross the grand greenness all around. This is a delight for visitors and workers alike.

Lote 8 olive oil, Uruguay

The main product, La Repisada extra virgin olive oil, has already won numerous international awards, some of which are on display in the gift shop. Each of us purchased items for personal use and future gifts.

We were totally delighted with our experience and would definitely recommend a visit. More information and contact email can be found on their website.


A special thank you to Karen Higgs, who suggested such a visit in her blog, Guru’guay. Also, if you tell them you read Karen’s article, you are given a discount on your purchases!

All photos except the first by Syd Blackwell.

Bee attack

I did everything exactly wrong.

First, I wore a dark shirt. Most days I wear T shirts, and since yesterday was hot and muggy, I chose one with the thinnest material — which happened to be dark blue. Of course, I had no reason to anticipate what was coming. Have you ever seen a beekeeper’s outfit? No doubt you remember what color it was. Hint: opposite of dark.

Second, I did not immediately identify the insect that was buzzing me. This happened a couple months ago, and then I also did not identify the molester, but that passed with no harm.

Third, I did what most people would do without thinking: I swatted at it with my cap, then with a branch from a bush. I knocked one to the ground and stepped on it. It looked like a honeybee, and there are hives nearby. We’ve walked right by them at times.

When the first sting came, I kept walking. I had the urge to run, but I was with two other people. Gotta keep cool, right (as if swatting at bees with a branch from a bush is cool)?

Eyes after bee attack

This morning, over twelve hours later, I awoke with my right eye swollen almost half shut. I might have gotten as many as three stings in the right temple area, definitely my left ear and perhaps another on the neck nearby, and up to three on my left shoulder and back.


So this morning I did some research. When bees start hassling you, they’re telling you to go away, which is a good idea. When you wave your arms around, they take the motion as a threat because they use vision primarily to detect motion. And then —

Once embedded in the skin stingers also release tagging pheromones, potent chemical signals that attract and arouse other bees. When released near a colony, these pheromones can provoke a massive defensive swarm from the females guarding the nest. “The chemical signal says, ‘Here, sisters, here is where I found a chink in the armor of this big attacking predator,’” Schmidt says. “It really arouses them.”1

So more bees will be drawn to sting in the same area as the first stings. And the dark color (bees see red as black btw) reminds bees of dark-furred animals they have evolved to recognize as a threat.

What I should have done:

  • worn a white shirt
  • not automatically swatted
  • gotten the hell out of there
  • and, after being stung, gotten the hell out of the as fast as I could

I enjoyed a dollop of local honey (this area is big into bees) in my oatmeal this morning, after getting up early and walking Benji on the beach at 7. I think that will be my dog-walking routine for a while. Once stung, twice shy.

 

1Summer Safety: How to Avoid Bee-Swarm Attacks.

Waterproofing: busy day

Since we’ve recently had painting done, we thought it time to try to address some persistent moisture problems on parts of the wall that couldn’t be painted. Inside, our new do-anything guy removed all the revoque (surface) of a section of wall, drilled lots of holes, and set bottles of Igol Infiltración, which eventually empty themselves into the surrounding brick and waterproof it. We hope.

waterproofing wall

Outside, despite being almost directly below a valley in the roof where the most water pours off, the owner/builder apparently made no provision for waterproofing the subterranean part of the sunken living room wall. Even though fixed in place, the pretty-but-shitty window on the right allows water into the wall as well.

exposed bay window foundation

Meanwhile, our Namibian tenant in the campo sought advice from a local South African with lots of building experience, and the two launched into solving water problems on the flat roof there. Typical of Uruguayan construction, the bottom of the drain pipe was slightly above the lowest part of the roof, leaving pooled water to soak through the inevitable cracks in the concrete.

Waterproofing the roof, campo

I helped somewhat, but mostly watched and listened, trying to sort out what they were saying to each other in Afrikaans.

Between the to-and-froing, I managed to take Benji walking with all his buddies, and saw this decent-sized spider casually making its way across our path.

How many workers…?

At our place in the country, a low-hanging power line would have been dangerous for anyone trying to pass to the back of the property with a machine. After months — years? — UTE, the state electric company, got around to responding to the work order(s) to raise it

UTE worker overkill, Uruguay

I wasn’t there yesterday, but apparently the task involved four trucks and about ten workers, only one of whom was actually doing anything. The power pole was for the next street, so why other trucks came up our street so nine workers could watch one work — ? Ahh, the mysteries….