My first thought when I step on to Uruguayan soil is not how much parts of this place look like its colonial master Spain - but more what on earth did the cows do to annoy these people ?

We are in Colonia, a small portside Uruguyan town popular for Portenos (Buenos Aires locals) for its more relaxed pace and the chance to buy duty-free goods without having to get an air ticket.

There are few, if any, All Black fans with us today - no doubt many of them sleeping off hangovers from their first night on the Buenos Aires tiles or just tuning themselves in to the 15-hour time difference.

We have made the journey via fast ferry over the Rio de la Plata - considered by some to be the world's widest river and whose coasts are the most-densely populated parts of Argentina and Uruguay.


Like many other nations throughout the world, the Uruguayans like the Argentines have a thing with grilling meat.

Their version is called Parilla (pronounced Pariza) and its thick aroma from charcoal fires that have been burning since the early morning fills the Colonia air.

I'm told that the first colonists in Uruguay did it tough trying to settle their new lands, so upon leaving the Colonia area the cows and bulls they had brought with them were left behind.

They came back in the late 1500s and settled the score with these formerly unproductive animals, quickly turning them into handbags, boots and belts.

"They used to throw the meat away, it was like junk," says our guide, Leo.

They then re-acquainted themselves with eating these animals and now there are Parilla everywhere in Uruguay and Argentina.

For serious carnivores, it's heaven, as masses of rib-eye steak, sirloin, rump, offal, sausage and chicken are piled into a mound that I honestly believe stood nearly a foot high on the grill.

I'll admit, I was intimidated by what was on offer and what was happening - I saw one guy eat as much steak that would last my family a couple of weeks.


But it's a staple part of the diet in both Argentina and Uruguay, and as the lunch hour arrives the many restaurantes suddenly fill with people of all ages, all indulging in the pleasures of the flesh.

Leo says Parilla is a way of life for his countrymen. The offerings are simple but served with delicious sauces and care.

"People want to spend their money on something here, so why not eat, drink wine and talk with your friends and family ?" Leo asks me.

James is following the All Blacks and their supporters in Buenos Aires and Uruguay thanks to Air New Zealand.