Before we got there, however, we had to leave Brazil. Our bus from Florianopolis turned from 6 into 8 hours, leaving us just enough time to buy food for our overnight ride from Porto Allegro to Punta del Diable. Sometime in the middle of the night we passed through customs, the easiest we've ever encountered. We gave our bus stewardess our passports and customs form, slept through the night, and woke up to the sun rising and our passports in hand. If only it could always be that easy!
Resting in a quiet corner of the Porto Allegre bus terminal. Note the power cord coming from Kristin's backpack - we're recharging our computer without while trying to hide the fact that we have one.
Punta del Diablo (Devil's Point)
We arrived at our "bus stop" at 6am. This means that our bus dropped us off on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. We hiked a kilometer or two before we found our campground. Closed for the season? Yep. The beaches are packed from Christmas through the end of February. Then these beach destinations become ghost towns for the next nine months. We arrived in Deadville, population 700.
We walked another two kilometers to "town," which consisted of a smattering of tiny cabanas and a lot of stray dogs, who, true to tradition, like to follow us around. All the stores were still asleep. Passing motorcycles and cars kicked up dust at us. The sun was becoming oppressive. All other campgrounds were closed for whatever reasons. We were considering leaving within our first few hours of walking aimlessly.
The turning point came when the first "bakery" opened and we found homemade raisin granola bars that were the size of my head. For a dollar. We sat in the shade, ate, and weighed our remaining options. We decided to check one more hostel that we passed on the way into town. It was advertised as an HI (Hostelling International), which we generally avoid as they are generally more expensive and have a more sterile culture. Anyways, this place was obviously not HI related. The owners probably stole the logo of the internet and put it on their sign out front, hoping it would help attract backpackers. We rented a two-story suite with bathroom, kitchen, living room, deck and ocean view for $30. This was one of the more expensive places we stayed in, but it was totally worth it.
The next two days we hiked on the beach, read, and relaxed. Oh, and we ate several more of those delicious (and healthy) granola bars.
Punta del Este (East Point)
A few hours, and a world, away from Punta del Diablo and we found ourselves in one of the premier beach towns on the whole continent. I'm not sure why Punta del Este became the place to be, because the beaches aren't that great, but it is every bit chic that people say it is. Crowded with rediculously expensive high-rise apartment, bordered by expansive estates, and filled with chic boutique shops; this is not a place Kristin and I thought we would like. However, we came here for three reasons: we had someone with whom we could stay, it made a good stop before Montevideo, and it's part of our continuing education - to experience the full spectrum of South America.
Lo and behold, we actually liked Punta del Este. Without the celebrities and their entourages, the streets were empty. We borrowed bikes and explored the town, riding on a mixture of roads, bike paths, boardwalks and the beach! More importantly, though, was that we had such great hosts. We have a good friend from Davis, Janie, whose mom relocated to Punta del Este. Karen and Kenny live in a 100 year old house that Kenny is rebuilding himself. Karen is, amongst other things, starting a bike-taxi business. They taught us so much about Uruguay and updated us about world news. They treated us so well, fed us local organic food, and inspired us with their own world-travel stories.
So, two different sides of Uruguay and both were quite enjoyable.
Typical thatched-roof white houses that dot the coast of Punta del Diablo.
Getting up close and personal with the strong waves. I did not escape this walk in the least bit dry.
Um . . . that sucks.
Hippie dream come true: a funny shaped house, a tent, and a VW van with a bike rack.
Biking on the hard-packed beach in Punta del Este. Sweeeeeet!!!
Kristin's favorite church interior.
Houses in Punta del Este don't have street numbers. Rather, they have house names. Apparently, Obama has a secret getaway.
Apartments sell for up to $7 million USD. And houses? Who knows. There are people who buy houses here but have never even visited them. Uruguay is known as the Switzerland of South America. Not for the mountains as it's as flat a Davis. But because it is well known for privacy. Wealthy people use this as a shelter for their money. Additionally, because the countries and currencies can be so volatile, real estate is looked at as a commodity and Uruguay is thought to be quite stable. There is even a neighborhood here called Beverly Hills.
Thanks again Karen and Kenny!