Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Uruguay by bus...Punta del Diablo

Uruguay by bus looks a lot like home...home with palm trees.
Lush and green. Pastures with fences, sheep and whole lot of cattle.
Punta del Diablo. A sleepy fishing village by winter and rustic getaway for Uruguayans and Brazilians by summer. It could be our favourite place in South America so far. Good (and cheap!) meat, excellent beer and friendly locals make it an easy place to forget about time and while away days, or I´m sure weeks and months. The pristine beaches and rugged scenery complete the package.
The area is also home to that one national park. More historical than natural, with an 18th Century (mas o menos!) stone fortress begun by the Portuguese and captured and finished by the Spanish. In excellent condition (it looks just like a bought one!) it is stunningly beautiful as a masonic marvel and more so when silhouetted against the backdrop of emerald fields, clear, open turqouise sky and brilliantly beaming golden sun.
An ´easy hike´ there was anything but in the heat of the summer sun and the walk back on tired legs and having run out of water was even less so. After a good 6 hours and having experienced the difficulties of hitchhiking in Uruguay (they must take car pooling seriously...no one has free space!) for some reason those physiology lessons on heat exhaustion and rhabdomyolsis began to spring forth from the ol´ memory banks.
When we finally rounded on a sign leading to the ´Mirador´ (lookout) we thought we were nearly home and hosed (having passed the Mirador on the way to the Fort).
Little did we know that there are two lookouts in the Park, and the one we eventually ended up at was seemingly in the middle of nowhere and was the guard station for a very surprised Uruguayan soldier keeping a lookout over a communications tower!
Back tracking is pretty gutting but eventually we found ourt way to a campsite with water, ice cream and best of all a short track to the beach, and it turned out that we were a lot closer to Punta del Diablo than we thought.
Fine Uruguayan Pilsener and an enormous slab of meat quickly righted the weary minds and bodies!
We were lucky enough to run into a Brazilian couple on the way to Punta del Diablo who had a spare bed at their cabin for a few nights (as the place was packed and it was impossible to find accomodation). We were even luckier that they were great people and we had an excellent few days chin wagging and waxing lyrical in the way that only travelling kiwis can!
Thanks heaps Jorge and Ro!
Despite the place being packed it still retains it´s unique character. There is little in the way of amenities outside a few cafes and general stores (no banks etc) and the accomodation is truly rustic. Local fisherman ply their trade over the winter and then rent out their cabins for the summer to holiday makers. Bare concrete floors, thatched rooves - it´s tranquil and laid back in the best way. Simple without being trying and basic without being uncomfortable. A place where you can go to bed kissed by the sun, wearied by the surf and numbed by a few golden lagers only to wake up with sand still on your feet, ready and willing to do it all over again!

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