Country Uruguay | Dates May 11-13 | Accommodation F & F Hotel/Hostel
We grabbed a cab to the bus station in del Diablo, mainly because we were going with a girl from our hostel (split the cost) and it was downpouring. At the station, a stray dog with fleas (?) approached us. 2.5 hours later we were dumped at the bust station in Punta del Este, which the interwebs refer to as the “St Tropez of South America.” The only thing we knew about it was: it was a beach, and home of los dedos (the fingers), formally known as las manos (the hands), sculpture. Which was anticlimactic, to say the least (and this coming from someone obsessed with roadside oddities).
Buildings and Beaches, A Self-Guided Tour
Day 1 started with an early sunrise walk for me, as usual, on a beautiful empty beach full of amazing shells (full olives and conchs!) to add to my already-several-pound shell bag. Along icy cold water and a skyline of tall, new, fancy-looking buildings I walked, my rogue foot bruise hurting with each step. First impression of PdE: there was money here.
Our hostel was actually a hotel in disguise (the property owned both on the same street), so we enjoyed a slightly nicer, substantially more sanitary breakfast. The hotel was nicer than a hostel, aside from the unsecured wooden window that did not shut and faced the street, and the shared bathroom with extremely strong perfume pumping out constantly. From here we set off planning to “take it easy.” Which, naturally, turned into another 10-mile walking day.
We headed down the main street, Avenida Gortero. Lined with shops, upscale restaurants, and nice buildings and trees, we could certainly imagine it being a huge tourist hub in-season. Since it was way not in season, we had the place to ourselves with a sparing number of others milling around. To our relief, we did not spot a single USC (unsavory character)! We popped into the artisans market in the Plaza of Artigas (Uruguay is def obsessed with him). We stopped by another beach, Playa de Ingles, and got on the Rambla – or walkway by the ocean. As we rambled on down to the peninsula, seeing a beautiful blue church, Iglesia Candelaria, and the lighthouse, Faro de Punta del Este, which was weirdly not on the water. Our beachfront stroll continued as we took in the waves, rocks, scenery and some extreme wind at which time my jacket almost blew into the ocean and a bird pooped on Sarah.
Next stop? The Puerto de Punta del Este and the fish market — not for fish but for lions of the sea! We looked at them, waved at them, watched them decapitate fish and felt love. We longingly peered at the nearby Isle of Lobos where the largest colony of sea lions in the western hemisphere lives, but did not go because I didn’t feel like puking into the rough waters (seasickness).
Casa Pueblo is a museum/giant white house on the coast 20 minutes from Punta del Este. There is a tour to visit, but of course we went the DIY route. We got off and trekked a minor 1.5 miles uphill, following closely (too closely, creepily, perhaps) behind two other backpackers doing the same. Upon arrival, we realized no part of this was open without a “museum ticket” (10US each; far from in budget). “No you cannot see the house from the front because of the ocean. The only way to see it is to buy a museum ticket and go on the terrace,” the lady said. The lady was lying!
You can see the house from the front if you take a rocky, semi-legit path down the side of the mountain, in fact. We simply traversed the steep mountainside, Sarah stashing her water behind a rock for safety, and wound up quite close to the casa for stunning views of the coast and house…our budget fully in tact.
We then booked it back to the bus, not wanting to miss it. It never came, so we flagged and boarded another random bus which wound up being cheaper! Yes! [Who needs a 25$ US per person tour when you can take the local bus, scale a mountain, and see it for free?]
Eating & Drinking..or Trying To
Night 1 we dined on the best empanadas I have ever had at a cute little place called Las Charruitas. We scoped out some other restaurants, planning to have a “nice meal” on Saturday. Turns out, on Saturday restaurants are only open in the daytime in the off season. We found this out after wandering for 2 hours and trying to go no less than 8 places, so in the end we cooked eggs.
For a snack, we bought this delicious triangular pastry filled with dolce from a lady selling it by the pier. After eating it I felt wildly ill. I do not know what it’s called.
Night 2 we enjoyed drinks at surprisingly open, yet pretty empty, bar called Capi Bar featuring local craft brews from around Uruguay. They were delicious and we got drunk fast, from one beer each, as we hadn’t eaten or drank water since 10am.