The “Point of the East” in Uruguay, famed for beaches, celebrity spotting and well just for being the best thing to do in Uruguay. I was pretty excited about Punta del Este because the weather was expected to be sunny.
Getting in and where to stay
Just a short bus ride from Montevideo Tres Cruces (less than 2 hours) and just UYU268 pesos to get there. The main terminal in Punta del Este is right next to the beach with the “famous” hand reaching out of the beach.
From the bus station you can walk south onto the peninsula where all the shops and restaurants are.
Or you can walk north like I did towards some hostels. I was actually headed up Bvar. Artigas for El Viajero Hostel, but then I stumbled across The Trip Hostel on Emilio Sader street (UYU300 pesos for a dorm, but I think there is only one shower per gender). It had a good vibe and the guys got people together to watch the soccer.
Hit the beach, as you doob
If there’s anything to do in Punta del Este it’s pretty much just hit the beach. Maybe you can shop and eat too, but I’m pretty sure Uruguay is only known for its beaches. Oh, and it’s former, much loved president Jose Mujica legalised marijuana as well as just generally setting an example for all the chump leaders of the world (seriously, look at Australian politics in the last decade and America’s trump-maggedon that’s in progress).
The western beach, Playa Mansa is really really long! I ran along it for 6km (half way to Punta Ballena) and still wasn’t at the end of it!
The eastern beach, Playa Bravo seems to be softer, but gets all the battering of the winds in the afternoon. But maybe you want to come here and surf the waves!
The weather was actually pretty crappy so I was keen to head on to Gramado and Florianopolis, but unfortunately the only night bus service was full and I was forced to stay a another night. The weather was just as bad the next day so there wasn’t much to do, but stay inside and keep cosy.
A good place for that was La Fusion, a little pizza bar near the bus terminal. They seemed to be one of the few places open through winter and had great music, great pizza and complementary wine (that’s complementary not complimentary).
Copa America was also on so a big group of us gathered in the hostel to watch the game. Soccer has never been my thing, but the South American and European teams are always much better to watch than Australia’s A-League. Plus South Americans go off when they watch their football haha.
Lastly, when there’s nothing else to do or if you need an excuse… eat cheese! Why not eat the food I’d picked up previously at the Montevideo markets.
If the weather was nicer (maybe next time) I would have gone to Casa Pueblo in Punta Ballena. Just take a local bus from the bus terminal and it’s not far away. Apparently it’s the best place to watch the sunset and in a Gaudí-like setting.
Jose Mujica – “The Pauper President”
Given the weather was pretty bollocks, I spent a bit of time reading about Jose Mujica. Perhaps he wasn’t as presentable as the poster boy Obama (I actually like Obama by the way), but the guy was responsible for a lot of positive change for Uruguay and he was a really cool dude.
Known endearingly as “The Pauper President”, Mujica donated 90% of his salary as president to charity because he believed he should not need to live on anything more than the average Uruguayan wage of USD$775/month.
I have a way of life that I don’t change just because I am a president. I earn more than I need, even if it’s not enough for others. For me, it is no sacrifice, it’s a duty. – Jose Mujica
He lived on a farm, shunned luxurious lifestyles and drove his 1987 VW Beetle to work in Montevideo. He wore casual clothes, allegedly never wore a tie and picked up hitchhikers along the way.
Unlike other politicians he didn’t become one for money, power or ego. He also didn’t get sucked into the lavish lifestyle that others succumb to.
A president is a high-level official who is elected to carry out a function. He is not a king, not a god. He is not the witch doctor of a tribe who knows everything. He is a civil servant. I think the ideal way of living is to live like the vast majority of people whom we attempt to serve and represent. – Jose Mujica
He’s also one tough mofo, surviving six gun shot wounds, solitary confinement and a total of 14 years in prison for opposing the country’s former dictatorship.
He managed the country’s economy well and left it in good health, backed social policies like abortion and same sex marriage and legalised marijuana for sane reasons.
When he handed over the reins, Uruguay was on the up whilst her neighbours were in a downturn thanks to their fantastic leaders (who embezzle the country’s money for themselves).
In Australia, I don’t think our politicians are corrupt, but they certainly aren’t that cool… or useful either.