A short distance from Buenos Aires is the small little country of Uruguay. Widely known as the most popular vacation spot for all the Argentinos as well as an easy hop, skip, and a jump for travelers to extend their visa duration. I convinced my traveling companion, B, to join me as we embarked on what ended up being a 1500 km road trip around the south-eastern heel of the country. As usual I made no prior arrangements and was really only armed with stories and suggestions that I had heard from people I had talked to. These stories mostly consisted of “Everything is booked and you will not find anywhere to stay.” and other methods of saying pretty much the same thin since it was the high season.
B and I arrive from Iguazu into BsAs at 9am after a 19 hour bus ride. The bus was more than comfortable and supplied a seat that reclined all the way down and a stuartess type person to bring meals every now and then. I only spilled wine on myself once which made for a pleasant aroma to waft me and B to sleep as we traversed the amazingly unexciting countryside on a double decker bus which I believe to be approaching speeds in excess oh 160 km while we were asleep but that doesnt impress me as I have topped 280 km on my streetbike.
We had reservations on the buquebus for 11am so we quickly go back to my house to change out our wet cloths (from the rain and waterfalls up north) and pack for Uruguay. We go through customs, collect a few stamps in the old passport and go find that all the seats are taken up and we decide to eat our empenadas on the floor. The boat was only for an hour so it wasn’t so bad accept for the surprising amount of crying babies.
Arrive in Colonia and jump on to a bus to take us to Montevideo. First impressions of the landscape is that it looks just like Argentina. No wonder they like to come here. Bus takes two hours and we show up at the Tres Cruces bus station without a plan other than we needed to get some money and a place to stay as well as sort out a rental car for the week. I was designated the cash dispenser since B didn’t get paid until Friday so she would pay with her credit card whenever possible. We agreed to figure out expenses once the trip was done. While I get cash, B sorts out a hotel and rental car. Hotel is near the beach and four star called the Ermitage. We drop our stuff off, then get in a taxi and I instruct him to take us down the infamous rambla that meanders its way down the entire coast until we got to ciudad viejo where apparently the excitement was. It was roughly 5 pm on inauguration day and we missed the major TV events and decided that it was not worth watching a limo slowly move through some streets with Biden whoring his wife out behind it. We eat at a parrilla where B gets quite possibly the largest fish ever after we agreed we were just going to have a snack as to not ruin dinner. We then proceed to walk the streets looking for bathing suits. We had agreed to do as the locals and where tiny bathing suits, a thong for B and tight booty shorts for myself. We fail and end up back at the hotel, play Kings cup with ourselves producing some interesting pictures. We miss dinner and the nightlife which i had heard was not so great in Montevideo. General conception from everyone I talked to is that you only needed one night in Montevideo. They did have a velodrome on the map which got me very excited but I did not see it.
The next day we pick up our rental car (budget rental car), fill out some dubious all Spanish forms and agree to not get insurance thinking that the American Express card would have us covered in all instances. It saved us $50 so why not, I was a good driver if not a very very fast one. The plan for the day was to drive the interior of the country and get to Punta del Diablo. We start out on the coast, Luke ignoring all of B’s claims to cut inland and we stay on the coast for a while until we get to Piriapolis to have lunch. Beautiful city and the place where we ound our bathing suits. I got the chicken, tuna, cebolla, tomate ensalada. This turns out to have exactly those ingredients and no more. It was horrible and I am sorry to B for making fun of her getting the delicious pizza and ignoring the culture. I shat badly for a day or two.
We carried on straight to Diablo. The roads in Uruguay are well kept and extremely long and staright. Our map was found at the bottom of the Montevideo city map and showed basically the key roads in the country. These are the types of roads where you sit back, turn the latin music up exceedingly loud, roll down all windows and maybe even open up the trunk, put one arm out the window doing the little wave thing as the wind travels over your hand, and gun it. Put the pedal to the plastic or whatever this little corsa was made out of and go as fast as you can with no concern for your passenger or yourself or the little mopeds going 40 km/h across a 200 mile distance. The landscape around you is empty with large flat lands or rolling hills. You know there is water somewhere over the horizon so you feel you can never be that far off and thus reassured that should you crash and lose a limb, it wouldn’t be too long until the Uruguayan ambulances found you crawling east.
We arrive at Diablo to find a very interesting town. The camp site out of town was overflowing. The town itself was comprised of one main road filled with long haired hippy types selling string and pieces of wood and whatever else they could make to supply their dope or alcohol habits while living in this out of the way place. The whole town was right on this little shore that was not so pleasant as far as lounging beaches go. There were bars and restaurants and a load of houses on stilts. Some were nice, others were not. There were people everywhere and our rental car seemed to be an eyesore in a place where everybody was either walking or hitchiking. We tried several places and everythin was filled and were told to goto Chuy or Barra de Chuy which was further up the coast. We agreed and by this time it was dark. We feign an attempt to find somewhere in Barra de Chuy and then goto Chuy. Chuy is a border town next to Brasil and it felt like it. Kinda trashy and dubious and if you went off the main road you may not be getting back. We found a 3 star hotel and dropped our stuff off. Got a bite to eat and found out that the only places of pleasure that night were in Barra de Chuy which required a cab for the 12 km. We opted to stay in and entertain ourselves.
The next day we head to Santa Teresa for a short beach stay. We pick up some hitchikers who tell us what beach to goto and it was lovely. B gets a rediculous sun burn which basically modifies her movements for the rest of the trip. She put lotion on her face, arms, upper body and feet but not on her legs or back. When we finally made it to the hotel that night she was bright red and the pictures dont give her condition justice. She bought some cream and then would put it all over her, then lay on a plastic bag on the bed. She would fall on the bed like a tree being fell in the forest. You couldn’t touch her during these three days otherwise she would scream without consideration of her surroundings. We attempted a stop at La Pedreira but the town was full up but it looked very fun and we promised to return one of the evenings. We then settle on the penthouse room in Costa Azul between La Pedreira and Paloma. The view was gorgeous even if the hotel felt like it was put together by me and my friends with no construction experience whatsoever. Our drain was clogged immediately in the bathroom so using the sink would fill up the floor. The shower had about -3 psi pressure coming out of it and the chairs on the deck were all sat on by an extremely fat person so when I sat on them, they just split and I fell on the ground. To compensate we gave ourselves facials!
The second night in Costa Azul was a precious night where we watched the sunset which was proceeded with fanfair by all the spectators. We then ate at this place on the beach, made friends with the owner, gave him booze, had him pick the food and wine, and spoke spanish the whole time. I tried to ride this girls horse but she didnt trust me since I was several beers deep. The best part about this night was the fact that his meal of choice for us was squid. The night before I argued with B for ages about why she refuses to ever even try squid. She wouldnt even give it a taste or a bite. I compared her stubborness to being a racist and all sorts of other ignorant things. So when he brought out this meal and she liked it, my argument had come full circle. I hope B doesnt find out that I was really friends with Ehrman and it was all planned years ago.
One of the days in Costa Azul we went to Cabo Polonio. I had heard much about this remote destination that had no running water and electricty and required you to take a horse or 4×4 truck over the dunes to get there. We bolt down the highway singing loudly to Madonna and buy some tickets for these trucks. It was a lot like pismo going out there I though except for a lot more trees. Eventually after 4 km you get to the beach and then get to the “town”. The town consists of all these randomly placed little houses, some were literally shacks while others had a direct tv dish and a generator. There were bars and restaurants and people renting umbrellas which B so desperately needed. We wandered the shore and rocks, scouting for sealions and other random things in the ocean. We layed on the beach for a while but the sun was intense and the wind was out of control bringing sand into every orifice and crack that was around.
Back to the main artery of the roads for a brief moment until we take a long dirt road to get back to the coast and on the way we pick up two more hitchhikers. Hitch hikers were everywhere and I hope my actions during this trip will come full circle whnever I am in that situation. These guys said they hitchhike everyday to get to work in this pretty little beach town. We get there and then have one final sprint to punta del este. Punta is a lot hotter than the rest of the country and known for its ludicrous all night rave parties and super expensive tourism. We ended up in a hotel in La Barra which is a Laguna beach ish type place outside of the downtown of Punta del Este. The downtown is filled with huge aprtment buildings and tourist stores so I was happy to be out there. We found a 4 star hotel not far from the beach which was actually really nice all though I am not sure they spent too much time on their noise cancellation in the insulation going in or out. Food was fantastic and the sunsets were even better over the skyline of the main city. One day we attempted to do some kite surfing lessons but learned that it would be $200 for a half day and you required a full day to be up and going on the board which we were not willing to pay even though the guy was trying to convince me that I only needed two hours since I have wakeboarded and fly large kites. More about my love for flying objeccts in the air in another blog.
The conversations were great the whole trip and B was a great companion for traveling despite her need to be in a minimum of three star hotels and getting sunburned the first day. Let me conclude with some pointers for those who may want to do this trip in the future:
- The sun is intense in this part of the world due to a rather large hole in the O-zone layer. This is caused from global wind currents as well as changes to weather patterns from Dubai creating islands in the ocean. Bring sunblock, in the shops there you can get SPF 70.
- If you are not making any reservations or plans, rent a car. Had we not rented a car and were trying to take buses the whole time, we would have been quite simply, fucked. If you are not going to make reservations or rent a car, have a tent at least. The rental car for 6 days was $360 with 3 trips to the gas station (gas is called nafta in this part of the world) costing $100.
- Hotels were pricey as far as I am concerned but I am on a fixed budget unlike my American companion. Montevideo was $85, Chuy was $40, Costa Azul for two days in a honeymoon sweet overlooking the beach was $260, Punta del Este for two days was $240. Alternatives of course are hostels and campsites which are numerous but fill up really quick during the first part of the year.
- Ensalada does not mean there will always be lettuce in the salad.
- It is expensive in Uruguay compared to Argentina. Mainly because it is the rich Argentinians going there and also the dollar is widely used so I lose my exchange rate advantage. All the ATMs will give dollars and most hotels expect it as a form of payment.
- If an ATM does not work for you, try it again in a new language and with differnt values. They will eventually work I found.
- Watch out for the corporate monsters who are willing to whore themselves out so they can sticker every car in Punta del Este. I mean honestly.
- Love life and everything in it