Uruguay is a small country in South America. It lies between Argentina and Brazil, and has some interesting places to visit. This site contains photos from this beautiful country and its inhabitants.
Uruguay is home to Phoenicopterus chilensis, or as it is called in English, the Chilean Flamingo. I had seen flamingos before, but normally only in the Laguna de José Ignacio. A while ago, I spotted this solitary flamingo while kayaking in Arroyo Maldonado, near La Barra. I was intrigued, and at first I thought it probably had lost track of its flock.
A few days later I decided to explore the Arroyo Maldonado a bit more deeply than I had done before. A few kilometers in, I found a colony of flamingos. I was quite surprised, because I live less than 5 kilometers from this spot, as the crow flies. Who would have known...
There are six species of flamingo in the world, of which 4 live in the America's. The plumage of the Chilean Flamingo is pinker than the slightly larger Greater Flamingo, but less so than Caribbean Flamingo. It can be differentiated from these species by its greyish legs with pink "knees", and also by the larger amount of black on the bill (more than half).
The reason why flamingos stand on one leg is apparently not fully understood. There are several theories, ranging from exotics ones as the supposed ability of flamingos to let half their body sleep to more down-to-earth ones where it would conserve body heat, but none has been proven.
The color of flamingos is greatly influenced by the food intake. The pink color is obtained from carotenoid pigments. However, a Chilean Flamingo is pale pink and will never be as brightly colored as the much more spectacularly colored American Flamingo.
Laguna del Diario is a small lake in Punta del Este. It's about 4 hectare (about 10 acres). It's located at the entrance of Punta del Este (actually officially Maldonado still), and about 50 meters from the Rio de la Plata, only separated by from that by the beach and the highway. The lake is accessible for water sporters such as kayak and wind surf. As is the case for all fresh water lakes in Uruguay, the use of motorized vehicles is prohibited.
Especially outside the holiday season, this place is a wonderful quiet place to enjoy nature. The lake is host to a big variety in birds. Great Egrets, such as seen above, make their nests at the shores of the lake. You can see lots of Snail Kites (see below), and while you're on the water alone they hunt right alongside you.
Along the borders of the lake, there are almost swamp-like conditions. Very little depth, and lots of birds foraging for food, such as this Snowy Egret.
The lake is has a dense population of water plants, and when kayaking through the lake in this time of year, you often find yourself surrounded by vast expanses of water flowers.
If you want to visit Laguna del Diario yourself, you can find it here:
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is a bookstore in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The bookstore is a branch office of the book chain El Ateneo, and it is located in an old theater called the Gran Splendid. In January 2008, the Guardian called this bookstore the 2nd most beautiful bookstore in the world. The building was designed by the architects Peró and Torres Armengol for a businessman called Max Glucksman (1875-1946). It was inaugurated as a theater in May 1919.
In the year 2000, work started on transforming the old theater into a bookstore. Bookshelves outline the walls of the galleries and the main arena. The former stage has been transformed into a bar, where one can eat and drink something while reading a book from the bookstore. Nowadays, El Ateneo Gran Splendid is the flagship bookstore of the El Ateneo and Yenny bookstore chain, receiving over a million visitors every year.
The ceiling in itself is a work of art. The dome measures 20 x 19 meters, and was painted in 1919 by Nazareno Orlandi. The painting is an allegorical representation of peace, and was painted to commemorate the end of the First World War. Peace is represented by a feminine figure, surrounded by representatives of the world.
The front side of the theatre, which was formerly the lobby, is also used as part of the bookstore.
For more photos, see this gallery. The bookstore can be found at Avenida Santa Fé 1860, in the Recoleta neighborhood.
In the old center of Montevideo, there is a beautiful bookstore called "Puro Verso". It's a bit difficult to translate, because "Verso" means several things in Spanish. It means "verse", but it also means "story". I think it's best translated as "Pure Poetry".
Puro Verso is located in an old building in Art Deco style. Although not as spectacular as El Ateneo in Buenos Aires (a topic for another blog post), it's still an impressive place. Originally, this building wasn't a bookstore. It was built in 1917 by an architect called Leopoldo Tosi for an optician called Pablo Ferrando, which closed its doors in 1999. It was subsequently bought up by a Spanish investment group called Estudio De León-Berro-Alvarez. The building is considered national heritage.
The great thing about this concept is that it's a combination of a bookstore, music store and a restaurant. As you can see below, the restaurant is located at the upper floor (you can see the lamps hanging from the ceiling). The restaurant is called "Más Puro Verso" ("More Pure Poetry").
Combined with the classical music they play, the books that you can just read at your leisure in the restaurant and the nice view from the restaurant at the "Ciudad Vieja" (Old City) below, this is one of those "Zen" places where you can escape the noise of the city. A bubble of culture and peace.
More photos here. You can visit Puro Verso at Peatonal Sarandí 675, from Monday to Saturday from 9 AM to 8 PM.
Every year, between July and November, groups of southern right whales (Eubalaena Australis) visit the coast of Uruguay. They can be seen in several areas, such as José Ignacio, Cabo Polonio, and Punta del Este. The maximum size of an adult female is 15 m (49 ft) and can weigh up to 47 tonnes. Maldonado Bay allows the whales to come really close to the coast, so they can easily be observed from the beach. It is an incredible privilege to be able to sit on the beach and just watch at whales playing only tens of meters away.
The southern right whale is a migratory species, exclusively distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. During summer, they can be found at feeding areas in high latitudes. In early winter, the whales migrate to Peninsula Valdes in Argentina where reproduction and birth take place. On their way to the South, they pass by Punta del Este and often take a break here. Although advised against, some people also try go get real close and personal with the animals. Although I've never heard of agressive behavior, one can only imagine what happens if 15 tonnes decide to play with you or just doesn't notice you when rolling over...
In 1789, a whaling factory was established in Punta del Este by the Real Compañía Marítima. Whales were caught in Maldonado Bay, the same place were these photos were taken. Whaling was done extensively (not only by Uruguay by the way) causing the population of southern right whales to drop to the point of extinction. In fact, it was considered commercially extinct in 1840. Luckily, due to increased awareness and protection of the species, number have been growing significantly since the 1960's. Around 2005, the total population was estimated at 10.000, but apparently population growth is fluctuating.
Bonus fun fact: the testicles of right whales are likely to be the largest of any animal, each weighing around 500 kg (1,100 lb).