06/03/2019 Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward is nomadonanomad
The bridge crossing from Argentina to Uruguay is a bit of a problem on a bicycle in that they are prohibited from crossing and cyclists need to arrange a lift. I tried once and stood for three hours with my thumb out trying to hitch a ride but with no luck. I then returned to Gualeguaychu intending to return the next day and it was the next morning when I pulled a muscle in my back and then wasn’t going anywhere. Nothing for it but to rest and sample some more of life in Gualeguaychu. That first evening back in town I was blowing the froth off a glass of porter when a guy wandered over and asked me if I spoke English. My reply was, ‘I am English’. This turned out to be Philip, the only English ex-pat in town and apparently when the staff in the bar, Alabama, pointed me out as an English guy he was very excited as he had lived there for 5 years and hadn’t met a fellow Brit. Imagine his disappointment when it was me! (The last time someone asked me if I spoke English was in Vientiane. The guy asking the question was very obviously American, and when he drawled in his Deep South accent, ‘hey Sir, do you speak English’ I replied, ‘from the sound of it so far I speak it a hell of a lot better than you’. Touche!)
Photo. Philip, the only Englishman in the village! (His expression) This ‘top bloke’ took me over the bridge from Gualeguaychu to Fray Bentos. Muchas gracias Señor.
Fast forward 10 days and I’m running out of visa time in Argentina, my back is sort of ok, and I need to get going. Philip has very kindly offered to drive me over the bridge and we decide we’re going to have a butcher’s, pardon the pun, at the factory museum at the old Fray Bentos meat processing plant which is now disused but a UNESCO World Heritage site. What an amazing experience and the camera got a good workout as you will see. You will also be relieved that it’s about all the script in this post as I have just one night here before heading off in the direction of Montevideo.
Photos. This is the power generation room. Basically it’s a big motor for a fridge! Look closely, lots of the machine parts are made in England.
Photos. This is the control room. Didn’t see any micro chips or geeks in here. Last picture, switch off, switch on. The days when things worked properly.
Photos. The biggest spanner was over three feet long. Thought about nicking it for my bike’s tool kit! Photos of photos from back in the day. The plant, at it’s busiest employed 26,000 people, Fray Bentos has a population of 23,000.
Photos. Top left, giant boilers. Top right, giant filters, both for making Oxo cubes. The other four pics are of the slaughterhouse. 1,500 beasts per day were dispatched here, mainly cattle.
Photos. The plant had it’s own ‘Bomberos’, firefighters. In the museum itself, a huge mural, a two headed calf, a selection of products from way back, and the office without Ricky Gervais.
Photos. I got my hands on a pie but couldn’t smuggle it out of the building. The store room was about 30 metres long x 15 wide. They had 50 of them! The old cranes at the wharf.
One interesting fact. Before it became Fray Bentos it was known by another name. Our guide did say but it’s slipped my mind. How it changed was because the ships coming to the plant would always see a shepherd, on the riverbank, 10 kms before the plant. Shepherd is ‘Fray’ and his name was ‘Bentos’, so that’s how they named your Chicken and Mushroom or Snake and Pigmy!
Thanks as always for reading this far and may your God go with you.
Simon ‘Wardy’ Ward.