Sometimes a person wanders by you and stops to make your life a better place. Meeting Ricardo Ibáñez was one of moments.
Being stuck in a the northern Uruguayan town of Melo without a bus out until the following day and a fruitless hunt for a room for less than 40 dollars a night (over twice our budget), things were looking iffy – spend loads of dosh or a night on the street. Enter Ricardo.
He must have seen us wondering a round the town for 2 or 3 hours and decided to stop on his scooter and offer assistance. Probably in his early 50’s of medium build, greying hair and a welcoming manner, we explained to him in our best pigeon Spainish that the hotels were all “muy caro” and he agreed and seemed to offer us a shower at his place. We really needed somewhere to sleep and thought we had politely declined but Ricardo seemly undeterred disappeared off on his scooter.
After he left, we went back into the only hotel that seemed reasonable and tried to negotiate their rate down but the owner wasn’t budging. In fact the hosteller was a knob and I was desperate not to do business with him, particularly after he had showed me what little I was getting for our money. We regrouped outside and then I went on last wander of the town to see if any alternatives had evaded us…
I returned to Gemma chatting to Ricardo who had returned on the scene with what we later found out to be his mates pickup truck and insisted that we throw our bags in the back and go with him. This probably sounds risky but we decided to go, and with Gemma sat on my lap in the cabin and rucksacks in the back we were off to Ricardo casa which turned out to be no more than 5 mins drive from the centre.
Once inside Ricardo phoned his friend – who spoke a little English – and he explained to us that Ricardo worked nights and he was offering us his home as a place to stay and a bed for the night, without charge (despite our insistence).
Sometimes those with little give the most. Richardo was one of these people. A divorcee, living in one up one down with little by way of possessions was giving two strangers from another country who spoke little of his language the keys to his place for the night. All I could do was give the guy a big hung! We sat and spoke to him in Spainish before he left for work that night and then when we returned the following morning. He is a genuinely nice guy with a passion for history and talent for art. He also knows where a great Asado can be found. And took us to his local which was a gritty outdoor affair which was a real view of local life.
Ricardo wanted us to stay a further night and we would have gladly accepted if we hadn’t got a bus tickets booked. So he again borrowed the pick up truck and took us back to the bus station. The guy was a legend.
Despite our crap Spanish I hope we got across how grateful we were, the only word in the Spainish vocabulary book we have was that seemed appropriate was “buen recuerdo” which means “good memories”. He seemed to understand what we were getting at.
Before we left home, my brother in law joked with me that he heard the argentines have a saying that goes ‘you can’t trust a Uruguayan’ – well I would probably trust this one with my life and that’s why he’s the first hero of our travels.