Punta del Este, Uruguay: Day 1
Martin Heckler, my couch surfing friend from Argentina who Lexi (my daughter) and I met in Dubrovnik, Croatia and I later saw again in Rio, suggested Punta del Este. As he is a couch surfer, I found this surprising. Makes me believe I come across as a principesa. Good thing I left my former luggage Louis (Vuiton) at home 😉
Yes. It is true. Sometimes I need a hot shower, water pressure, a mini fridge, a massage and good internet and to not get kisses all night on my face by mosquitos. I do care about these things less than I did before obviously but that part of Suzanne is still somewhere in there. I’m not ashamed to admit it as it’s there along with my “fishing knee deep in mud” side, my “jumping out of airplanes” side, my “rock climbing seaside” side and my “if you are going to do it, do it right” aka my “hard working” side, among others.
I tell you this because because Martin recommended a seaside resort town when he recommended Punta del Este. It is charming, more regal, caters to tourists and much more expensive than other places in Uruguay especially compared to Cabo Polonio! Rooms run closer to $150 a night or more. But it is a great idea to check it out and compare. And for those of you who are looking for spa experience on your next vacation or a family vacation with kiddos in tow perhaps Punta del Este is a better fit. For those of you not looking for a spa vacation, try Punta del Diablo. While I haven’t been there, the name sounds enticing all on it’s own and several other backpackers in Cabo recommended it. Also, don’t forget Colonio. I will try to head back to Colinio when I get back to Buenos Aires. Colinio shouldn’t be missed.
So I got there by first taking a Rutas del Sol bus to San Carlos from Cabo Polonio as Rutas doesn’t go to Punta del Este. I then I could have switched to COT bus line for what would be an additional 2.5 hours on the bus to Punta but couldn’t bring myself to do it when it was only a 20 minute cab ride. Now 900 pesos for a taxi to Punta from San Carlos sounds high and that’s because it is at $30 USD given Uber prices in the remaining part of the country like 45 minute ride to port was $7.00 USD with Uber; however, Uber doesn’t operate in San Juan yet so it’s bus ride for $20 which takes 2.5 hours or 20 minute taxi for $30. You know which way I went….ah there’s that principesa again. Look, if you are going to a resort town what else do you expect. Residents get everything at a quarter of the cost of non-residents in Argentina and other South American countries and trust me, no matter where I am in the world (except perhaps Burma), they see this gringo coming a mile away. I do find that helps to speak their language and to ask for price up front but there is also a way to sidestep this issue when buying airline tickets which I tell you about in the next day or so.
For me Punta was all about el mano! A sculptor from Italy is responsible for this strangely cool photo op which I’m sure some consider a monstrosity (there is always a hater or two). It was completed in and literally is a huge hand coming out of the sand. I felt compelled to do none other than hug the middle finger because where would this world be without this universal sign! (Probably a bit more vocal!)
And, if you stop in Punta del Este stop by La Fusion next door to the bus terminal. Best pizza I’ve had on my travels (including in Italy) and it’s real wood oven pizza with bread – no carne con queso con carne. Don’t get me wrong I like carne but here in parts of Sude America…well lets just say you don’t have to ask the age old question – where’s the beef?
Now back to Montevideo for my ferry boat ride to Buenos Aires! Before I go, I really want to repeat advise previously provided: when you are offered an opportunity to stay with locals, take it. (That’s what couch surfing is really all about and, of course, the fact it is gratis.) I again was invited to stay in the home of a new friend in Montevideo who I met in Cabo. Not only did he pick me up from the bus station, help me purchase my ferry ticket for tomorrow and provide me with a place to sleep, I got to experience life as a local in the big city from the ordering out for empanadas delivered via motorbike to waking up for a work day and I learned a bunch of stuff about what happens in between. For instance, you will most definitely notice mate (pronounced mâ – tā) in this part of the world. Uruguayans are absolutely addicted to it. They carry what I refer to as an adult “sippy cup” full of dried tea leaves and a huge thermos of hot water around with them all day every day and every where they go. I tried it of course and never tasted anything quite so bitter in my life but I’m told that after 100 more tries I will learn to love it. Ya….no thanks. The other thing I learned is the laws surrounding mota…their other addiction I think. It wasn’t quite like being in Amsterdam but pretty much every corner I turned I smelled it right there on the street…hello Colorado. Following my question which was “is it legal?” I was promptly walked up to the rooftop terrace to find exactly 6 marijuana plants growing (equivalent of a kilo I think come March when they bloom). Apparently, it’s legal but if you are going to grow it and have more than 3 plants you have to register with a club of some sort ie you must has E a license of some sort which inevitably means “pay up” just like it does everywhere else. Question answered as my host lit up a joint right on the roof standing next to his 6 children. Thanks Mauro for the company and the hospitality. The greatest thing about sleeping at Mauro’s was (no not the mota my pets!) the moonlit sky and the morning sunrise seeping in through the open windows and the sound of the synchronized chirping birds singing a melody to wake me from my slumber. Oh and Tigro the cat! Looks just like my Max and made me miss home but Tigro was “mimosa” Mauro said which means champagne and OJ for Sunday brunch where I come from but means sweet here.
That’s all for now. With love and a little purr from Uruguay.