Uruguay – Punta del Diablo and Montivideo

Back in Buenos Aires I went back to the American del Sur hostel, it’s fairly soulless but it was close to El Banco Rojo which is my new favourite restaurant. I went s little crazy and ordered the burger and chicken wings-but I’m glad I did as I didn’t have another opportunity to return. The chicken wings are some of the best I’ve ever had. The burger…meh.

After I hunted down some empanadas and went to bed for my early start the next day although the city was coming alive and I wished I could get out and enjoy it. Rush hour here seems to last about 4 so after walking down to the metro and seeing how crowded it was I decided to take a taxi to the port.

To get to Uruguay you take the boat from the river, which looks more like the ocean, to Colona del Sacramento and then the bus to Montivideo which is another two hours. It’s all done through Burquebus but if you can handle the Spanish then book cheaper tickets via SeaCat. I was a little tired, anxious and grumpy during the first part as I’d been pretty much alone for a few days but I was proud with myself when I arrived in Montivideo.

Punta del Diablo

There was a connecting bus to Punta del Diablo at 2:30, I arrived at 1:30 and within 15mins I had a ticket, had found the toilets and brought some apple juice-remember kids always buy water. The bus journey was a further 5 hours and I arrived just after dark at around 7pm.

The town is really small and was a little shock after being in big cities for the past few weeks. I followed Google maps to the supposed location and must have taken a wrong turn as I couldn’t find the hostel. I decided to follow a path around the houses and slipped in the dark, but I didn’t fall over and realised I have a light on my phone. The path ended at the beach and after walking around for a few minutes I found the hostel. It’s weird that in the dark everything changes and although it was still early it felt really different.

I was greeted by Federico who lived in the US for 20 years and I was told I was the only person in the hostel. I headed to the Supermarket to buy some water and by this time I had a bad headache so I decided to take a rest and woke up in the morning to a full hostel and a beautiful sunrise.

Over breakfast I met some guys from Brazil who offered for me to join them to Cabo Poloniowith then that day but I had already paid for my three nights accommodation so I declined and I wanted to explore the beaches and fort. After some deliberating I decided to take the bus to the national park, hike for a while, visit the fort and then walk back along the beaches.

I hiked the 2km to the bus station and in the process nearly trod on a snake. I was checking my progress on my phone and I tend to walk quite fast. I looked up and another two steps and I would have been on it. Luckily I reacted and jumped to the side around the snake which changed its stance and slithered into the bushes so fast ensuring that both of us would not have a bad day.

The bus driver dropped me off at the first entrance to the national park and despiste being told I should go to the second i spotted a route and was happy to walk the extra distance. This is the path that I started my journey.

I passed some horses and despite the paths proximity to the main road, around 50 metres, as I could hear the traffic I became increasingly worried. I generally don’t get scared here but it didn’t help that i saw a bunch of guys in army uniform who all cane from nowhere pushing an old beat up car. When the engine started they jumped in and drove past me. The path split and the direction i wanted to take was a locked gate. I backtracked and the other direction was also locked. I didn’t think it was a good idea to jump the gates and follow the path and k didn’t want to backtrack the two kilometres adding an additional four to my journey. As the main road was close I decided to cut through the jungle hoping I didn’t meet any snakes on the way. After jumping a fence and narrowly avoiding a small bog I was on the main road with 1km to go to the main entrance.

On the side of the road road was a man chopping wood with an axe and a chainsaw on the floor near him. I pushed on past but it’s not really something you want to see. I found the entrance, spoke to the army officer on the gate who gave me s card-I have no idea why and then headed to the fort. On the way were two dogs lying in the road. Now stray dogs are normally friendly here but I didn’t like the way these two were looking at me so I was reluctant to pass them until they came running up and decided to guide me until an hour later they saw s guy riding past on a bike with a surfboard who was much more fun to chase.

The fort wasn’t really up to much so I had a look, ate my lunch and decided to hit the beaches.

On the way I passed all the holiday homes. Punta del Diablo is a fishing village and holiday town. In the summer the population increases from 1500 to 20000 so at this time of year there are lots of closed restaurants and empty houses.

I soon arrived st the beaches, took off my shoes and socks and walked back to the hostel. I was to leant that walking barefoot across 10km of sand becomes painful after a while. Also at the end of each beach where you have to cross grass there are lots of spiky things. But the beaches were largely empty, especially the first and I got to see lots of wildlife.

The third beach was called Playa Grande, and got good reason as it was huge! It was really good to walk in the Atlantic along the shore, until I thought I saw jelly fish, and the beaches and dunes are beautiful.

At one point I even saw, what I think was condors feeding, although it was probably vultures. Some other people walking towards me in the beach disturbed them. I took some pictures and waited for them to land again. One started to follow me and after reading a story in Bruce Chatwins book I decided I didn’t want to be attacked by a bird of prey and walked on.

I returned to the hostel and watched the sunset when Julieta invited me to have dinner with her and her friends Daley and Tefy who all spoke good English, and Augustina who kept shouting “London” at me. Although I suspect her English is still better than my Spanish. We went to another hostel with Hanole from France. There was a lot of Argentinian music playing and Han and i went on a mission to find some beer. When we returned I contributed to the worlds worst game of pool where by the end no one knew who was playing for each team. I got the opportunity to dance to salsa badly after Tefy taught me the steps. When the music stopped we headed to the beach and met some Brazilians who had a camp fire. I spoke to a girl who had just gone got a swim in the freezing ocean who had lived in the US and was given some good tips on Brazil should I go.

The next day I woke up in a storm which lasted all day. It was possibly a good thing as I was tired and needed a rest day. I was slightly annoyed as there were a few things I wanted to do, especially see the house shaped like a head. I sat down and played with my Spanish apps hoping that I learnt something. We played a little Perudo and the girls and I decided to just head out in the rain and it was s little further than we though but we managed to get some photos before it was too dark. And of course completely soaked, except me who went if full gortex.

That night was Daley’s birthday party. We ordered pizza and drank beer and wine and I had my first taste of dancing to raggaton. It was really fun dancing outside to a nearly full moon with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. After a while we put on some English songs and I managed to kill the vibe and soon we were back to raggaton. I am now hearing the songs everywhere and they sound like old friends which I really like. I just need to learn what the word mean!

I crashed out early around 2:30 and ended up waking at 6:30. I noticed the sunrise was beautiful so I grabbed my camera and headed down to the beach.

I can’t decide which ones I like best so that’s all of them! On the way back up the path I ran into a not so friendly dog do had to walk the long way back to the hostel. I fell asleep again and woke up really groggy desperately searching for my water.

It took me a long time to get ready and we all made it on the 2:30 bus to Montivideo.

Montivideo

We arrived at 7pm and I marched off in the wrong direction to my hostel. Which I seem to be doing more. I’m not sure if my phones GPS is failing or if my inbuilt “SatDav” is getting worse in my old age. I found Montivideo a little run down and didn’t enjoy the are of town I was walking through which is when I found I had gone the wrong direction. Still I add it to the hostel and decided to go to a restaurant in the guide book as I hadn’t eaten out yet. It was a few kilometres away so I decided to walk. I made good progress and somewhere towards the end as the neighbourhood took turn for the worse I realised I was in the middle of a housing estate. It was easy to correct my course but it didn’t feel right and when I got to the restaurante it was closed. There was another I had passed on my way to I retracted my steps for five blocks and ended up in La Cocina de Pedro.

I decided to have the steak recommended by the waiter which was delicious. But as I was sat at the bar overlooking the kitchen I was jealous of all the seafood with vegetables and salads being served. Still it was delicious and I decided to have dessert to treat myself.

The next day I got up early ready to hit the city. It was at this point when someone mentioned it was May 1 and a holiday. In the UK we take the first Monday on Maya’s a holiday but many countries have May 1 as workers day. I was still hopeful that shops, restaurants and museums would be open but as I walked the four kilometres to the Museo Andes and my hopes were dashed the closer I got as everything was closed. Even McDonald’s and Burger King were closed. I had a little walk around the town and then needed the toilet but with noting open to help me I headed back to the hostel.

In the afternoon I decided to go for another walk to see if anything the other side of town was open but alas not. I did see some fun graffiti and for some reason I really like this McDonald’s sign shot.

One thing I really wanted to try in Uruguay is the national dish that is a chivito. I’ve linked in the story as this is long enough but it is basically a sandwich with all the meat-steak, han, bacon, eggs, cheese, tomato and lettuce. I added some chips to mine so it was a little more balanced. I had wanted to go to the cafe where it was invented but it was 11km away and I expected it would be closed so I went to a place that was open which the hostel recomendad.

In the morning I spent the last of my Uruguayan dollars on food and headed to the bus back to Buenos Aires for the last time.

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