In our usual style we set off along the coast of the river plate and after about 2 hours we spotted a sign suggesting that a nearby beach could be a great lunch stop.
We pulled up onto the most idyllic beach called Playa Agraciada , The Argentina Border was only a few hundred meters off shore at this point. A large Monument to the 33 Orientales was situated on the beach . These guys were the collection of noble men that carved Uruguay's future .
It was beautiful, so all thoughts of pushing on to Fray Bentos were abondoned and succeded by a picnic on the beach and swimming in the river.
All was fantastic and we watched the sun set over the Argentinian coast. Then the Mosquitoes arrived.
These were big bastards with tattoos and knives. Some were two seaters.
We soon discovered how crap our fly screens were at keeping these little monsters out.
We were soon re enacting a scene form the Alien movie.
The good news is that we were victotious and that they didn't bit me. Pat took lots of hits for the team.
After a quick Lunch in Mercedes we pushed onto Fray Bentos. This is were the mother ship for all pies in cans is situated. We bought a couple with us , with the hope of reuniting them with other family members and setting them free. Despite our best efforts they wouldn't leave our side , so we will be forced to eat them at a later date. You can but try.
Most people may not realise that “Fray Bentos” is an fact a region in the North West of Uruguay and not just a brand name of the tinned pies that remind you of your childhood.
We stayed the night in the grounds of what was once probably the biggest meat processing plant on earth on the banks of the Rio Negro.
In its day it employed over 4000 people per day and could process an entire cow in less than minute .
The factory closed its production in 1979 and has since been made into a Museum, so we did the guided tour .
For those who are interested I will try to relay the brief history that was explained during the tour.
In 1868 the factory was created by a German Chemist called Liebigs and a German Engineer called George Giebert . However the funding for the building came from English Investors . The end result was an enormous processing plant with its own Rail and Boat network that was owned by the British but manged on site by a team of Germans. Together they processed and exported meat preserved in salt to many worldwide locations .
During the 1st World War the factory was producing processed meats to maximum capacity and was in fact supplying tins of meat to both the British and the German Troops in Europe .
During the 1920’s the factory moved away from Salt preservation into Freezing and a new Deep freeze , which is the big premises in the photos was built.
To power a deep freeze of this magnitude required a huge amount of mechanical and electrical energy so adjacent to the freezer building was a massive engineering plant , as shown in the photos , that was used to simply keep the freezers cold . A bi product of this plant was that it also produced electricity to the nearby town . It was the first electricity in Uruguay.
Most of the Generators were made in the UK and were fuelled with British coal that was shipped over on the same boats that took the meat back to the UK .
Production in this way right up until 1979 when the factory was closed and has since become a Unesco World Heritage site
Above that factory were the administration offices which employed about 20 people and this area has been frozen in time .
However, Campbell and Baxters of the UK still produce some of the products under the brand name “Fray Bentos” and “Oxo” .