I do like it when cruise excursions include some unusual form of transport in them; usually that’s a boat of some description (e.g. while on the Lovatnet Lake in Norway) but there are other interesting modes of transport too such as when we did the Beijing Hutongs by pedicab or the Hong Kong funicular or, as in this case, a steam train in Uruguay.
The trip we’d arranged during our day in Montevideo was to a vineyard for a wine tasting. That vineyard was 35 kilometres from the Uruguayan capital, in Juanico, and to travel there we boarded a steam train that had been restored to working use by a local group of amateur rail enthusiasts.
Our steam train set off with plenty of whistles to announce its departure from Montevideo and then began its fairly leisurely trek northwards out of the city and through the Uruguayan countryside. Despite my general aversion to taking photos through windows on account of their general dirtiness and reflections galore I did take some video and a number of pictures of the various villages, houses, and people of Uruguay that we passed on the way.
We noticed many dogs running alongside the train. In fact, we noticed many dogs throughout our tour around South America; very much a land of dogs. The local Uruguayan people all came out to stand and stare as our steam train rolled past them too which led us to suspect the train did not run that often. Obviously, we did the very touristy thing of waving to everyone we passed. Not everyone waved back but there were some smiles.
There was a big, obvious wealth disparity as soon as you ventured very far from the centre of Montevideo. When you’re used to travelling throughout the UK and much of Europe with generally pretty even levels of income in whichever country you’re in it can come as a bit of a culture shock to move so quickly between fairly well-off (European-comparable) levels to what looks like close to abject poverty in very short order. I know that there are some people who think that tourism is bad but it can open up your eyes from the outside looking in and there’s no denying that it does bring some money to poorer areas even if the dispersal and use of that money isn’t always obvious or well-managed.
Once we arrived at Juanico train station we had a bit of time to see the steam train in all its glory (as it had been difficult to do so from the platform in the capital city) because there was a bit of filming taking place by one of the Princess Cruises ship videographers, Leandro, for the various promotional pieces and souvenir DVDs they produce on these trips.
The area of Juanico itself was devoid of much of interest but our next stop wasn’t too far away. We waited patiently for our coach to arrive and carry us onto the vineyard and I entertained myself with a few, final photos of the local landscape.