October 25, 2004
We made a stop at the local market, where locals and visitors alike come to buy necessities and trade information. We continued through several quietly overgrown waterways, where the only sounds were the birds in the trees and the soft hum of the barely running motor. We passed local fishermen hauling in their catches. We passed the "school bus," a small boat chugging from home to home along the river and depositing children from the nearby school. We finally stopped at a small restaurant with a campground and maybe a few small rooms for rent, where a quart of beer was a dollar and some local soft, tangy white cheese was the appetizer of choice. The contrast of seeing the enormous oil terminals on the River Plate and the gargantuan tankers feeding them, so close to the local fishermen pulling in a day’s catch in their small (but motorized) wooden boats, was striking. The quiet backwaters of the Plate and the natural beauty of the surrounding jungle were starkly set against the lifeblood of the world economy.
Naturally, our 4-hour tour stretched into almost 6 hours, and it got dark as we crossed the Plate back to Uruguay. As the temperature dropped and the sun dipped below the jungle skyline, we were treated to an unsettling darkness that highlighted the most beautiful night sky I have ever seen. Never have I seen so many stars, and disconcertingly so, since finding an almost entirely blacked-out shoreline by starlight seemed to be trickier than the boat guide let on.
From journal The Other Uruguay--Upriver in Carmelo