It has been almost three months since I moved to Buenos Aires and now it’s time for my first visa run out of the country. This time I’m going to Uruguay. I’ve takenthis route before, two years ago on my first visit to Argentina.

It’s about three hours across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay. We opt for the slower ferry rather than the higher priced catamaran that crosses much faster. The river itself is broad, a huge bay separating Argentina from Urugay. The immediately noticeable characteristic of the river is its dark brown color, barely a glimpse of blue or green in the water. Considering the rubbish nature of industries along the Argentine coast, one might guess at first that the river is heavily polluted, which is likely true. But the distinctive brown coloring comes from the sediments in the soil of the rivers that flow into the Rio de la Plata.

Drifting steadily away from the river front, Buenos Aires falls into the distance. The few modern skyscrapers with corporate logos, such as Sun Microsystems, mix with the more historic buildings, the classic railway station, and the 19th century immigrants “hotel” that housed European immigrants who arrived on this shore. The immigrants kept coming by sea even well into the mid 20th century. Ceci’s mother told us about her own arrival by ship from Italy, after World War II.

The ferry itself is very comfortable, dozens of tables surrounded by cushioned chairs. Other parts of the ferry include a game room, several large windows surrounded by lounge chairs, an upper exterior deck, a duty free shop, the first class cabin, and the typically overpriced cafeteria.

A large share of the travelers are tourists, many English speaking and of the young backpacking species. They all have their well worn Rough Guides and Lonely Planets, which they study religiously, plotting strategies for sightseeing and hosteling.

You can take a fast ferry straight to Montevideo. But it’s almost just as easy to take the cheaper ferry to Colonia and then the bus operated by the ferry company onto the Uruguayan capital, which is about two hours away once you land in Colonia.

Colonia del Sacramento is a wonderfully charming 17th century Portuguese town. Back in March 2003 we spent a Wednesday wandering the cobbled streets of Colonia. This time, however, we’re skipping Colonia.