Quarries of Riachuelo
(Coordinates: 34°26’36.0″S 57°43’30.5″W)
Since many years, Uruguay is a country focused on the Atlantic Ocean. To understand the relationship between the country and the ocean, we need to go back to the past.
At the 18th century, there was only a vast meadow surrounding the port of Montevideo. With a mount, easy to identify which will gave the name to the city, and a bay drawing a vast anchorage area, the geographic features of the region offer a perfect strategic place for the creation of a port. Built at the beginning for being a military bastion, it became quickly a commercial port competing with the one of Buenos. Aires. The little fight between both ports symbolised the beginning of the Uruguayan identity.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the rise of the merchant shipping led to the expansion of the city, plus reinforced the identity of the port and increased its desire of being independent from the main city of the area which is Buenos Aires.
Uruguay is born in 1828, from the British people wishing to create a “buffer state’ between Argentina and Brazil. Montevideo became wealthy with the trade, but stayed a country without an inland region. An important feature for the history of the country, which always set the capital and its culture coming from Europe, against the inland reunion and its culture of the “Gauchos”.
Since the end of the 19th century, the port function of Montevideo decreased. The strong links between the city and the port got lost. It was the beginning of the “European” city. The first French and Italian migrants changed deeply the behaviours, the ways of life and gave a new character to the city. The capital became focused on the beaches along the Eastern coast. Bougainville, a French sailor from the 18th century, already noticed in his logbook that everything in Montevideo was inviting the sailor to spend quiet and peaceful days within a happy mood…
At the 20th century and still nowadays, the Uruguayan people renewed their links with the ocean, for its leisure benefits. The port, reorganised at this time, offered only an economic interest to the bay, when the promenade (perfect for relaxing) was built along the Atlantic beaches. The town and the country became focused on the ocean for its bathing function by arranging the sea front with the creation of leisure ports and the seaside cities development.
During the crossing of the country, the nice weather invited us also for a relaxing and bathing time. But finally, it was not in the waves of the ocean or on the beach of one of the seaside cities, that we had the most unforgettable swim in Uruguay.
By asking Jorge about an interesting bathing spot before to reach Montevideo, he invited us to discover the pier of Riachuelo.
About 12 kms away from Colonia del Sacramento, the pier is well known from the local sailors for being a small and quiet quay, located on a small river with the same name, where it’s great to enjoy watching the sunset on a desert beach.
But the most charming secret of Riachuelo is, without a second thought, its quarries. Indeed, Uruguay has several lovely quarries which worth a visit, throughout the coast. A secret well kept by the locals, who reveal rarely its access for keeping the quietness of these places.
Following Jorge’s advice, we took the direction of Riachuelo pier and left the side-cars on a parking lot for taking the small path leading to this natural swimming pool. It appeared after the former quarry was flooded by the groundwater table. Surrounded by rock cliffs offering a nice spot for sunbathing and resting, we were alone in the middle of this beautiful natural place.
To honour the hippy mind of Jorge, we decided Julien and myself, to stand up in front of the quarry completely naked, on the top of the highest peak.
For reaching it, we had an epic climb of a few metres in a kind of a little jungle without clothes… Then, in front of the emptiness below us, we did a quick check on the right to verify we were still alone, and on the left for getting the support from our girlfriends. It was time for jumping. 5 metres was not very high or a great performance, but the feeling of freedom generated by this morning jump was a unique moment. The water temperature was great, the sun was already warm, the moves of breaststroke stretched the back. It was time to brave again the jungle to repeat the experience. Once the adrenaline was replaced by the tiredness of climbing the peak, came the time to find a towel, just for a few minutes to let the sun dry our skin.
After enjoying this unique moment came the time to put our clothes back for going back to the life in society and to end this fairy time offered by the power of meeting people during a travel.