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Published: April 12th 2017
I'm so far behind on my blog now that I'm going to try a different approach and jump back and forth between recent events and ones that now feel like a lifetime ago. So we now jumping forward about 100 days to last week. I'm currently in Uruguay and have been here since 30th March. It's not the most exciting country in South America, and it's very quiet in most parts at this time of the year. However there is a nice feel to the place, the people are laid back and friendly and I think it would be a great country to live in. What I have most appreciated is its size. I definitely prefer smaller countries - and in Uruguay a 5 hour coach trip took me right along the coast to close to the Brazilian boarder. So I spent a week making my way back to Montevideo inspecting various beaches and seaside towns that had been recommended to me by a Uruaguayan. The one thing they had in common was that they were incredibly quiet as the summer season is well and truly over. Other than this the three places I stayed were all quite different from each
Day 208 - Tuesday 4th April - Punta del Diablo
I had less than 24 hours in Punta del Diablo, partly because it was quite an expensive place to stay even out of season. It seems to be a very popular stop off spot for backpackers on the gringo trail heading from Brazil to Uruguay or vice versa - much more so than any other spot on the coast. There are no made up roads for the cars although a lot of the houses are quite smart. It has three large beaches and I'm told that it is usually incredibly windy. Even when I left the hostel in the morning I hadn't decided exactly what I wanted to do with my day - on of the options being to take a bicycle from the hostel and cycling to the nearby national park. However the guide book had not sold the park to me and I ended up just exploring the town by foot.
The day started off very grey. I walked to the first beach by the hostel and then away from the town a bit over the rocks at the end of the beach. There
were a few other people on the beach including one couple who had been for a quick swim. Nobody was sitting on the beach though - it wasn't that sort of weather. It was here that I had my first experience of being adopted by a dog who chose to join me for my walk. There were loads of dogs wandering the streets in Punta del Diablo and La Pedrera, and even a bit in Punta del Este. I read that they are left behind by their owners at the end of the season but I'm not sure if that's true or not. They certainly seemed pretty domesticated and trusting of humans.
I had to return to the hostel after a short walk to check out. During this time the weather changed dramatically and it was hot and sunny for the rest of the day. After about half an hour I ventured out again - this time in the other direction. I walked along the seafront past a few cafes and round to the large beach on the other side of the town, stopping sometimes to sit and watch the waves or to read my book, I have been
re-reading my favourite book, "Back Home", on my phone and a book called "Child of the Jago" by Arthur Miller, which was also excellent, although it had quite an abrupt ending.
I ended up having a late lunch on my way back to the hostel in one of the cafes by the sea. (Many places were shut.) I had a great veget crepe and they had free WiFi so I rang my parents from there. It's just as well I did because when I got back to the hostel I couldn't get on to the WiFi at all. This was an issue because I had been told that I could pick up my bus from the stop in town and save myself a half hour walk with all my luggage, but I needed to get on to Google Maps to find out where the bus stop was. There were some other people in the hostel getting the same bus and they seemed to think that you had to get the bus at the bus terminal so I did end up doing the longer walk, with an added detour to avoid the dog that tried to bite at my hand
when I walked past his house. We ended up watching the bus head into town to the other stop before returning to pick us up! Still the walk was better than missing it, and I want to hike to the Rainbow mountains in Cusco so I need to keep working on my fitness levels.
Everybody else on the bus got off at Cabo Polonio - which many people have recommended to me but I skipped, initially because I wasn't sure how to get there and then because I don't fancy a night in the middle of nowhere without electricity at the moment. It might be more appealing with a large group of friends in summer but I don't feel I missed out too much. A few people got on the bus here - but nobody else got off when we arrived at La Pedrera. This should have been a clear indication of how quite La Pedrera is at this time of year but I was still surprised!
My hostel was just a short walk down the high street. La Pedrera was immediately different from Punta del Diablo because it had proper roads and pavements. Again I had my
dorm room to myself. In fact there were only two other people staying in the hostel - a woman and her daughter, who I think was probably about 4 years old. I think they were either related to, or friends of, the people who worked at the hostel. I only made it as far as the supermarket in the evening. I cooked at the hostel and had a quiet evening in - talking on and off to the girl. Her and her mother ate at about 11pm shortly before going to bed - cultural differences.
Day 209 - Wednesday 5th April - La Pedrera
Wednesday was a very quiet day. La Pedrera made Punta del Diablo look busy. There is only one Main Street and everything was shut. When I went out to get some food in the evening there was only one place open to eat! The beach on Santa Catarina Island in Brazil had reminded me of Woolacombe's beach, and La Pedrera in April is what I imagine Woolacombe is like in January, only warmer and with more dogs. There were a few other people about, mainly on the beaches. It was quite warm and I
did try to go for a swim, but the waves were pretty big. Mainly people who were in the water seemed to stand in the rock pools between the two main beaches, unless they were surfing. The beaches are definitely beautiful; mainly sandy but with lots of shells in places. I went for two walks to pass away the day, accompanied both times by a pair of black Labradors who, for the most part, were calm and friendly, but I could have lived without their close attention.
Apart from this I passed the day talking to a couple of friends from home and messing about in my iPad. It would have been an ideal time for some bl writing but you have to be in the mood. As I already mentioned I took myself out for supper. When I got back I was invited to join the people who worked at the hostel and the other woman and her daughter for some home-made quiche and wine. Although I was quite full of pizza, it seemed rude to turn them down. It was also a good opportunity to practise my Spanish and nice to chat to some locals. The evening
ended with me introducing the little girl to Droopy in an effort to stop her from breaking my iPhone. Despite the quiet (or maybe because of it), I really liked La Pedrera - I think maybe more than I would do at the height of summer.
Day 210 - Thursday 6th April - On to Punta del Este
At midday the next day I caught the bus on to Punta del Este. This time I had to change buses too. I enjoy the bus rides as it's an opportunity to see more of the country. The part of Uruguay I have seen has been very flat and pretty green. I have driven past some large looking ranches but they don't seem quite as big and isolated as those near the Pantanal and Bonito in Brazil. I didn't see much of the town where I changed buses other than the bus terminal because there was only a short connection time and anyway it would have been awkward to walk around town with all my stuff.
Punta del Este was not what I expected. I had been told it was like Benidorm. I've never been to Benidorm, but my
mental image of it is not positive so my expectations were low. I didn't see much of it on the first day but even my first impressions were positive. There are a lot of high-rise condos and hotels around, but there weren't rows of sunloungers on the beaches and there are plenty of (very big) houses too. The place where I stayed was a bit out of town and I loved it - although it had very thin walls and not enough bathrooms. I had a huge room all to myself. There was a kitchen that looked nice but I didn't use it in the end. Apart from the main road into town, none of the roads had pavements - a sure sign that most people drive. There were a lot of large houses around, many of which were clearly summer homes that were shut up for winter. The road that the hostel was on had a large supermarket and other shops at one end and a beach (once you had crossed a busy road) at the other. I ended up walking all the way down to the shopping mall, primarily to check out what was on at the cinema.
(Nothing that appealed was the answer to that.) Then I headed to the beach for the sunset. It was one of the best that I had seen for a while.
Later that night I walked down the road to a place called "Late Chocolates". I figured with a name like that it had to be alright - and I was right! Unfortunately my burger filled me up too much for dessert. I planned to go back on Saturday for lunch to try some of their chocolates, but it was shut. The amazing thing about the place that I stayed was the smell when you walked around the streets. I think it must have come from the flowers in the gardens.
Day 211 - Friday 7th April - A windy day in Punta del Este
I did a lot of walking on Friday. Punta del Este is significantly larger than both La Pedrera and Punta del Diablo.First I walked across town to Playa Brava. It was a really windy day - so much so that sand blew into my eyes when I was standing on the beach. It was still warm though so I was able to have
a final paddle in the ocean for what is likely to be quite a long time. At the end of the beach is a sculpture called in hand in the sand. It's a bit odd but a compulsory photo stop. My guide book said that it's covered in graffiti but they must have cleaned it up.
From here I decided to walk around the peninsula. I was surprised by how residential this area was. It was really quiet though so it looks like they're more holiday homes. There was a shrine and a few sculptures to look at along the way. There was also a pretty, small church and a lighthouse on the square in the middle. This side of the peninsula was particularly quiet and there was nowhere to eat. I was getting increasingly hungry and desperate for the toilet. Usually I wouldn't mention the latter, but I have included it because it led to quite a random experience. One of the places I had stopped had a portaloo which I decided was going to have to do. However this portaloo turned out to have an attendant looking after it. I can't imagine she was kept very busy
as there were very few people around, and probably even less in need of a bathroom; but as a result it wasn't nearly as unpleasant as I had anticipated.
On the other side of the peninsula things changed quite a bit. By the port there were lots of places to eat. I wish I had known this as, while the place I ate was very nice, it had a price tag to match the posh food that it served. There was also a cruise ship in town so there were a lot more people around. It had turned into a really nice day and I would have liked to have had a dip in the river. However I had to walk back to my accommodation fairly briskly as I had to collect my laundry by 5pm and I didn't want the place to close before I got there as it had the week before. I had also been hoping to make it out to Casapueblo for the sunset, but this turned out to be unfeasable. Instead I had to settle for sunset on the beach instead. I consoled myself with the fact that it wasn't as good as a
sunset as the night before anyway.
The rest of the evening I made the most of having a large room to myself. I even managed to find a bit of the new season of Modern Family on the telly.
Day 212 - Saturday 8th April - Back to Montevideo
The weather on Saturday wasn't as good as it had been the day before. I headed back to the shopping centre in the morning ask I had a few things I wanted to buy. However I was over it within an hour. I had missed breakfast because of the queue for the bathroom in the morning, so I headed to the chocolate place in the hope of an early lunch only to find that it was shut. In the end I grabbed a quick lunch elsewhere and decided to head back to Montevideo a bit earlier than planned. For my second stay in the city I stayed in a hostel a bit further out of town. It was mainly chosen because it was a reasonable distance to the hotel where Scott and Gareth were staying. They have come over to do a bit of traveling with me for
a couple of weeks - which is excellent! It was a very friendly hostel but there was no policy on when people needed to be quiet. This proved to be a disaster later on when people were still chatting in the garden immediately outside my window at 3am. I was not a happy bunny!
In the evening I went down to the boys' hotel and caught up with them over some wine and then a meal. I think it should have felt weirder for them to be here than it did. I have really appreciated having people come and join me on my adventures. I wish I could have afforded to stay in their hotel that night!
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