URUGUAY IN THE EYE
On my route through the north of Uruguay towards Brazil on route 30 I arrive at one of those places that are not forgotten, it is one of the few protected landscapes that remain in Uruguay, I am in the Lunarejo Valley.
I am amazed by the diversity of birds that I find, in the little space that occupies the Valley are concentrated up to 150 different species. the songs of the birds accompany me at every pedal. I pedal through meadows and hills, among ferns, orchids and willows. The Lunarejo stream that gives its name to the valley accompanies me until I meet the Tacuarembó river.
It is getting dark and I get ready to put the tent, I intend to arrive in a place next to the river that indicates me the map, while I’m reading these coordinates I see at the end of the road what looks like a small house.
I start pedaling again and when I pass by it a story inside another story will begin, an experience inside another experience making my days in the valley a river of emotions.
At the entrance of the house I find a man sitting, he has been watching me for a while. He is in the middle of the ritual of taking the fresh air in the afternoon outside the house and holding a mate in his hand that he is absorbing little by little.
His gaze is penetrating but also somewhat mischievous and jovial, accompanied by a smile as he asks me if I have lost my way.
I reply that no, I’m just looking for a place to camp and ask him if it is very far to where I’m going, he tells me that “It depends on the hurry you are in “I let him know that in my nomadic journey the hurry is not usually present and that I am a millionaire in time and he laughs.
I get off the bike and he hands me the mate, “this is bitter mate”, he warns me.
All the mates I will drink with Beto Valiente from now on and the conversations we have while drinking it will be a great experience for me that has nothing to do with bitterness.
Nowadays his daily life is spent in a provisional room since his house of all his life collapsed recently and for that reason he is building a new house, cutting and polishing logs himself that will be the new pillars of his new house, at his 73 years old.
At that precise moment his grandsons appear, they are Esteban and Alejandro. I have been watching them for a while now, looking out the window, observing, they ask me all kinds of questions about the bicycle I am carrying and all the rest of the equipment. After satisfying their curiosity, they ask me to enter the tent and of course I say yes, they play and we play together too, Beto is still in his chair drinking mate and tells me that I can camp right there if I want.
The nights in Lunarejo are full of thousands of sounds that seem to come down from the hills and also accompanied by thousands of fireflies that appear and disappear out of nowhere in the darkness, I feel happy to be here.
The next day Beto invites me to have breakfast with him and we chat for a long time while drinking mate, he tells me that he met Pepe Mujica in the times of the dictatorship in Uruguay, and although he is also critical of him he tells me; “I tell you black (friend) that if I see Mujica now and he tells me to have some wine together I say yes”.
José Mujica was in the valley when he belonged to the Tupamaros and was a refugee in the area, he went to Beto’s parents’ house. He is proud of the interviews he was given for the Uruguayan press. What fascinates me is his personality and his strength.
Days are not easy for the family, but somehow they always adopt an attitude that leaves aside resignation, frustration or sorrow.
The Valiente’s live daily in the valley, they have difficulties but they also know how to get ahead with a strength that like so many people in Uruguay are an example for those of us who come from a certain comfort in life and insofar as difficulties are present, they face them daily with great dignity and wisdom.
This year the farm they have and where they work so hard will give a good harvest of watermelons, this is the most typical fruit and type of crop in the area and this in turn will give the possibility to start the construction of a better house for the whole family.
After two weeks of sharing conversations, laughter, I continue my way through this wonderful valley without really leaving them behind, I arrived by the causality that offers me to live a nomadic life and they became very important people in my life and in my trip that will confirm the idea that I had before leaving the comfort of my house in Catalunya that the protagonist in my trip is not me, but the wonderful people I meet on the way.