My brief stay in Artigas is over and I'm heading into the interior of Uruguay. I need cash, but the bank doesn't open until 1:00 P.M. for some reason, so I watch a movie in my hotel room to burn time. After getting some cash, I head to the bus station and get a ticket for Biassini. Back at the hotel, I chill for a couple hours, then check out at around 4:00 P.M. I was supposed to be out of my room by 10:00 A.M., according to the attendant, so she charges me an extra fifty pesos—about two-and-a-half dollars.
My true destination is Tacuarembó, but I don't want to be a tourist, I want to be a traveler, so I pick a spot in the middle of the route and decide to stay a night there. I don't know what's in Biassini, but I'm pretty sure it's not a major tourist destination. It's not on a main highway, just a back road, and the dot on the map is pretty small.
Every so often, the bus stops in the middle of nowhere and someone gets on or off. At one stop, a young man wearing tennis shoes and jeans and carrying a backpack exits the bus and begins to walk down a dirt road. The road goes into the distance for miles. I don't see any house or building. At another stop, a motorcycle is waiting for the passenger. At yet another stop, a horse is the ride.
At this moment, I am struck with a brilliant idea. After spending the night in Biassini, I'll head out tomorrow for Tacuarembó, but instead of riding straight through, when the bus stops at some random remote location to pick up or drop off a passenger, I'll ask the people exiting the bus if there's a hotel there. If I hear a "sí," I'll grab my stuff, stay in a quaint little town in the outback of Uruguay and see what this place is all about. Maybe I'll even meet a gaucho and get to ride a horse. I'm pretty fired up about this idea. No tourism for me.
After a few hours of travel on rough roads through beautiful, rolling countryside, the bus pulls off the road and the bus driver opens the door which separates his cabin from the passenger compartment. He looks at me and asks "Biassini?" along with a few other words I don't understand. I ask "¿Estamos en Biassini?" More words I don't understand along with "Biassini" again. I grab my camera bag, stand up, and walk forward.
As I look out the door into the toasty Uruguayan air, I notice a small building—more like a shack, really. I don't see much else. At this point, I ask if there is a hotel here. The bus driver says all kinds of things I don't understand. I look at him with a blank look on my face. More stuff I don't understand. I tell him that I need a hotel. Apparently, it doesn't occur to him that, when the tourist—er, traveler—doesn't understand what he is saying, he might speak more slowly and use smaller words, as he just keeps saying a bunch of stuff that merely serves to confuse me slightly. The blank look on my face remains.
Eventually, I come to the conclusion that Biassini is Podunk. The bus driver corrects me. "Biassini is the freaking capitol of Podunk." I get the picture. No hotel here. I'll have to take the bus to the end of its route—Salto. Salto is the second largest city in Uruguay, next to Montevideo, with a population of just under 100,000. I'll spend two nights there and take the next bus to Tacuarembó, which departs on Wednesday.
The moral of the story is this: just because there is a dot on the map doesn't mean there is something there. The only reason there is a dot on my map with the word Biassini next to it is because that's the place where two roads intersect. From here on out, no assumptions about dots on maps.