Sunday, November 08, 2009

Punta del Este, Uruguay

Yesterday's trip to Uruguay couldn't have been easier. The flight itself was less than 30 minutes long and as soon as we got out of the Montevideo airport there was a bus waiting to take us the 1.5 hours to Punta del Este. We arrived in time to sit on the beach to drink a mate and watch the sunset. Gorgeous but windy.

Then it was off to our hostel further east near the hip spot La Barra which required another bus ride. The driver was very nice and told us where to get off, but thank heavens we were together because the hostel was not exactly one block off the highway as its website suggested it would be. After about 5 blocks of walking down a pitch black sandy road in the middle of nowhere (don't worry, it's really safe here), we finally got to the hostel. It was nice but not nice enough to stay both nights so tonight we transfered to their other hostel in the center of town so that we're a stone's throw from the bus station for tomorrow morning's ride to Montevideo.

We didn't do much last night but still managed to sleep in until almost 11 this morning. We got going pretty quickly and shortly found ourselves walking on the beach on a gorgeous day. Apparently it rained all last week so our timing was perfect. We decided not to walk the 3 km to La Barra where Sol needed to do some reconnaissance work for a potential Wine Tour Urbano here in January (yes, that website and the event is all Sol's doing), so we went back to the highway and, since Uruguay is tiny and safe we decided to hacer dedo aka hitchhike (literally translated as "make finger") into town. Before we knew it a nice German man smoking a cigar had stopped in his huge Toyota truck (what is up with all the Toyotas in Uruguay?) and took us the short distance in style.

It's still low season here so there isn't much going on so far. A lot of places are just getting ready to open for the season. But, in January and February, Punta del Este is the place to see and be seen. It's actually similar to how I imagine Miami. Observe:
I'm really glad to have gotten the chance to know it when it was still empty, because if and when I come back in January to help Sol with WTU it is going to be a sh*tshow.

Once Sol had walked the short distance of La Barra's main strip we sat down to drink a smoothie and have a snack. Then it was back to the beach where we had more mate and dozed in the sun. Good thinking... we're both ridiculously sunburned.

After the burn we checked into our new hostel, bought some sunscreen, and then took some touristy photos by this weird but famous statue of fingers coming out of the sand.

After that we hopped on another bus, this time to CasaPueblo, a house/museum of famous Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. It reminded us both a lot of Gaudi's La Pedrera in Barcelona, except it was his homage to women and the sun, the former because I guess he loved women and the latter because it is an amazing place to watch the sunset. It was probably the most amazing sunset I've ever seen, and they play music and read a beautiful ode to the sun that he wrote from the house. Of course it was also filled with jerks talking over it whom Sol and I shushed, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

Once the sunset was over we decided not to walk the 2 km back to the highway just to flag down a bus that might take up to an hour to arrive (all in the dark) so I stuck my thumb out again and a young Brasilian couple stopped this time. They took us all the way to the center of Punta del Este and were super nice. I also learned that Sol speaks Portuguese, go figure. Since then we've been lazing around the hostel, admiring our sunburns and trying to work up the hunger and the desire to go out to eat chivitos, Uruguay's most famous dish. I think the desire is upon us, though! More tomorrow from Montevideo.