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turns and returns

Some people know exactly where they’re going and some don’t. I have never ridden with a plan and and so I don’t have any real way to know if things are running according to it.

I had thought for a while that I might ride my bike north from Brazil, via Argentina and Paraguay, ending up in Venezula, perhaps by way of Suriname, Guyana and French Guyana. That would have given my America experience a superficial air of completeness. But when my time finally came to leave Brazil, I found that it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.

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And so I ended up retracing my steps to Uruguay, instead,..

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… to spend my birthday on horseback…

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…on a four day trek in the Sierra Rocha…

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… with my good friends, Lucie,…

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… and Santi.

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And then, I spent four days in Montevideo…

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…exploring out of the way corners…

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…with Mara, a young German volunteer at Caballos de Luz, over coffee.

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Montevideo’s faded glamour is reminiscent…

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…of Cuba…

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…with colourful…

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…retro cars…

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…and glimpses of intriguing courtyards…

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… and the interiors of dusty shops…

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…inhabited only by the birds.

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Colonial juxtaposed with modern.

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Another coffee in the afternoon.

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People crowd into the centre of Montevideo to bid Pepe, Uruguay’s beloved President, goodbye. Pepe is famous for his blue VW beetle and other humble ways. Unlike most populist South American presidents he hasn’t tried to cement his power and seems content to hand over the reigns after his allotted time – Uruguay’s constitution only allows for power to be held for a single presidential term and Pepe is happy to honour that.

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Bye bye, Pepe.

You’d be right in thinking that you haven’t seen much about cycling here on this blog for while. And I guess we might have to talk about that eventually. But trust me, bicycles and the people who love them are still an important part of my life.

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After Mara returns to Caballos de Luz I too leave the faded glories of the run down hotel by the docks. My new hosts in Montevideo are the charming, Carlos, and his partner, Ruth, who I contact through Warm Showers. Carlos here is posing as a typical Uruguayan with maté clutched in tight proximity – but in reality the maté equipment had to be dusted off especially for me. Carlos and Ruth aren’t fans of this stereotypically Uruguayan beverage. (Yes, I know, the Chileans, the Argentinians and even the guachos of Brazil all imbibe maté but none with quite the same demented addictive fervour of Uruguayans.)

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Carlos examines my bike with a somewhat critical eye. His and Ruth’s stable of bikes are more stylish steeds.

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Carlos runs a bike organisation that uses volunteer labour to refurbish donated bikes to sell to people who are interested in starting out on a bike at affordable prices.

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And then finally I put my bike in a box and flew to Sydney.

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