Uruguay is a sleepy little country. In a book I’m reading (see below) one character calls it the “Switzerland of South America.” Well, maybe. Really it’s more like a tiny version of Argentina where things cost just as much as in the United States. There isn’t a whole lot to do here, which is actually what I was looking forward to. We’re about to dive into Brazil, which may prove challenging due to the language barrier and the incredibly long distances between all the dots on the map we’d like to connect. (Truth: We just bought plane tickets from Iguazu Falls to Rio to cut out about 24 hours of bus travel.)
I’m writing from Punta del Este, Uruguay’s resort city. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll remember that I’ve been craving a nice, warm, comfy beach where we could sit and stare at the ocean for hours ever since we left Bolivia last October. In Uruguay we finally got there. But first, we spent a few days in Montevideo.
Montevideo really is just like any city in Argentina except for the climate, which was perfect when we were there. Highs in the upper 70s/low 80s, cool at night, often with a pleasant but not blow-you-over breeze. It did rain on our last day there, but even so it wasn’t terrible. That said, Montevideo doesn’t give you much to do except visit museums and eat large portions of meat. We did both, visiting a gaucho museum, a photography museum, a cannabis museum, a sculpture garden, and a grill that seemed heavily favored by the locals.
One neat concept that we’ve come across in both Montevideo and Punta del Este is the outdoor photography exhibit – the photos are literally displayed on glossy posterboard in an outdoor park. In Montevideo the photos were from past Carnival celebrations, while in Punta del Este we found an exhibit highlighting the effects of humans on the environment around the world.
The hostel we booked in Montevideo was in the Barrio Sur, a veritable ghost town. In Punta del Este we found a hotel that wasn’t on the expensive peninsula of the city proper, but was instead nestled in a residential neighborhood halfway between the public beach and a shopping mall. We’ve spent a lot of time on that beach, but we did wander into the tourist trap part of town in a fruitless search for postcards and affordable ice cream.
The beach is fine, white sand; the water is cool, clear, and full of tiny jellyfish. Vendors wander up and down selling their wares, but to my frustration they’re selling the wrong stuff – clothing, empanadas, toy airplanes. Not one person walked up to us with a cocktail menu. That was a missed business opportunity. More than once I would have dropped a dollar or ten on a caipirinha or a frozen margarita.
And if I had, it would have been pricey. Like I said before, prices in Uruguay are equivalent to those in the United States, and there’s nothing in Punta del Este that makes it different from any place on the Florida coast. For a long time Uruguay has had very friendly policies toward American expats, and the increased prices are apparently a consequence of welcoming so many retired Yanks.
Still, I’m glad to have finally got my beach time. Brazil promises even more, and also (we hope) new activities to engage in as well. Catch you next week from the other side of the border!
P.S. My Book Recommendation for Uruguay
Right now I’m enjoying The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis. I’m not going to finish it before we leave the country, but that’s okay. Uruguay is so small that even in the book the characters have to run away to Argentina and Brazil to have anything interesting happen in their lives. The Invisible Mountain reminds me a lot of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. Both depict their country during the 20th century through the eyes of three generations of strong, unique women. The difference is that De Robertis is a much better novelist than Allende. Allende wrote with the cold detachment of a historian. De Robertis lets you experience her characters’ lives more intimately, and with more poetry. Once I’m done, my full review will appear here on Goodreads.
P.P.S. Our Route Through Uruguay
Here’s the road we took (or will have, after tomorrow night) including our “round the Rio Plata” bus ride from Buenos Aires. We’ll cross into Brazil sometime in the middle of Tuesday night, and we’re led to believe that we don’t even have to be awake – the bus company will handle our exit and entry and return our passports in the morning. That’s a little nervous-making, but apparently that’s how it’s done.
P.P.P.S. Lea’s Macrophotography!