Life & Leisure

Gold rush: mining tourism grows in northern Uruguay

By Alejandro Prieto

Rivera, Uruguay, Jul 9 (EFE).- A former gold rush town in northern Uruguay is attracting increasingly large numbers of visitors looking to retrace the footsteps taken by miners in the 19th century.

Usually described as a “gently rolling” plain, Uruguay’s geography abounds with sceneries of cows and sheep grazing in green pastures; however, in the northeastern department of Rivera, a set of flat hills heralds the richness that lies beneath.

This is where, as Edelweiss Oliver, owner of the Posada del Minero and in charge of the “Gold Route” tour, tells EFE, in the 1820s, when present-day Uruguay was the Portuguese-ruled Cisplatine Province, that a man found gold nuggets that he kept hidden in a jar in his house.

“One day he was robbed and as a result of that robbery, word spread that there was gold in this area. Everyone starts to find out (…) and the gold rush begins. It begins to be populated by adventurers, by people who have nothing to lose and decide to try their luck,” says Oliver.

With an annual average of around 6,000 visitors, Oliver says that the Gold Route has an increasing number of tourists, particularly Europeans coming from Germany, France and England, as well as Brazilians.

There is a variety of experiences on offer, she says, including searching for gold with a prospector, tasting regional wines or walking through the hills of an area that has applied to be recognized as a Unesco Global Geopark.

With an annual average of around 6,000 visitors, Oliver points out that the Gold Route has an increasing number of visitors, especially Europeans coming from Germany, France and England and Brazilians.

There is a variety of experiences, she says, as they offer a search for gold with a prospector, tasting regional wines or walking through the hills of an area that, she reveals, some time ago applied to become a Unesco Global Geopark.

“We can go underground, into the ancient subway galleries and really see what it was like to work down there and how hard life must have been for the miners at that time,” Oliver says.

But progress is slow, she adds, since authorities have only recently approved a project that would guarantee the safety of tourists when visiting the area, and the willingness to preserve the ruins and the nature of the area seems more distant.

“There is a very large colony of bats which very significant for preservation, as well as a lot of other layers and stories. Conservation is a very important part that tourism brings to these types of sites, it turns them into something more than just a pile of bricks,” she says.EFE

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