We arrived into Montevideo at 11am after the shortest bus journey of our entire trip. Joaquin took us on the usual orientation walk, but being Sunday most of the shops along the main street were closed and there weren´t many people about. Montevideo is home to half of Uruguay´s 4 million citizens and is a major port and trading centre in the region. Being a port town I was unsurprised to find it a little grubby looking, but it seems like quite a pleasant and liveable place, which is how I´ve found Uruguay to be generally. We passed through a few plazas on our way to the dockside market, where we stopped for lunch at an amazing parrilla (steak house). The grill and most of the chefs operated within view of the general public, and we sat at the bar in order to observe the staff slicing through all kinds of meats and sea food. I had a beef and ham sandwich since I am pretty much fed up of steak having eaten so much of it in Argentina!
From here we got a taxi to the Estadio Centenario for my 2nd South American football experience. The stadium played host to the first world cup final in 1930, a game won by Uruguay, and was also venue for the Uruguay versus Argentina game which I watched last Wednesday. One of Uruguay´s most successful teams, Penarol, were facing one of the league´s minnows - city neighbours Cerro Largo, in a match which kicked off at 4.30pm. Penarol had a couple of players I had heard of playing for them - former Juventus winger Ruben Olivera, and former Schalke left back Dario Rodriguez, who scored a wonder volley for Uruguay in the 2002 world cup. Like the last football match we attended, we opted not to sit in the hardcore end and instead got seats by the halfway line for the equivalent of just 6 pounds (200 Uruguayan Pesos). The view was excellent but the seats themselves were appalling. They were made of concrete with little bits of stone in, and I managed to graze both elbows simply by resting them on the arm rests! The football match itself was much more action packed than the last game I watched in Santiago, but the atmosphere was nowhere near as good. Just 15,000 people attended the game in a stadium with a capacity for 76,000, so there were lots of empty seats. Although the Penarol end to the stadium was bouncing and making lots of noise, there were only about 200 Cerro Largo fans there. They had drums and lots of fireworks but they still looked very lame in comparison. Penarol took the lead after just 2 minutes with a shot which the keeper might have saved. Both sides had chances in a first half ruined by petty refereeing, but Penarol were next to take one on 49 minutes after a neat move. Cerro Largo pulled one back with a low shot from the edge of the box after an hour, but Penarol held on to win 2-1.
Today we had the option to visit one of South America´s premier beach resorts, Punta del Este, but with a 6 hour bus journey to Salto awaiting tomorrow I could not be bothered to sit on the bus for 4 hours today. I was glad I opted not to go when I awoke to see the weather was overcast. It was still warm though, and brightened up as the day went on. I had a quick walk to the Uruguayan parliament building in the morning and then met up with some of the others to walk along Montevideo´s "Rambla", which in Uruguay means promenade. It wasn´t particularly nice with the path following a busy main road and the beaches looking pretty grubby. We stopped for lunch in a large but very quiet shopping centre, and then headed back via a different neighbourhood and the city park, which like a lot of parks in South America had a load of fairground rides in to entertain the kids. I think we walked about 7 or so miles so my legs are pretty tired now. I might be going bowling tonight with another GAP group we are in the hotel with, but half of them are annoying American men (how it is strange to see how different the group compositions can be), so I´m undecided as yet.
Also sharing our hotel is a first division Uruguayan football team named Racing, who are exciting the girls. I saw their goals on TV here. They lost 2-1 and one of them scored a horrendous own goal but I´ve sadly not seen him to abuse him about it! Tomorrow we´ve got our first horrifically early start for a while. I have to be up at 5.30am for our 6 hour bus ride to the spa town of Salto in north west Uruguay. This is a shame since I´ll miss the hotel breakfast here - the first breakfast I´ve had in weeks to include cereal, fruit and yoghurt. Normally its just bread which I´m horrifically bored of, so I was moderately excited this morning! I shall hopefully update from Salto but we only have 1 night there.