Moving onwards from Montevideo, we started our trip east to the beach towns. First stop Punta del Este. Known as the Rivera of South America, playground of the rich and famous from both Argentina and Uruguay. We had high hopes for the beaches here. The beaches are definitely improving as we head east along the Uruguayan coast but not enough to tempt us to go for a swim. Even though I know the water is clean, I’m not a fan of the darker brown/blue waters of the Uruguayan coast, where the blue Atlantic ocean waters mix with the brown of the Rio del Plata. Despite not swimming, we loved our time in Punta del Este.
As always, the first thing we did was set off on a random wander to see what we could find. We ended up walking around the point (or punta in espanol – hence the name), which took a couple of hours. It was very hot but a beautiful walk along the coast. The most random thing we saw was a small beach covered in mussel shells. I still don’t understand the how or the why. Our walk ended at the harbour which had a great mix of amazing looking boats – from colourful fishing boats to the yachts of the rich, docked in port. We also caught a quick glimpse of a seal swimming about the boats.
The main attraction on the Playa Brava in Punta Del Este is La Mano en la Arena (Hand in the Sand) sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal. Originally installed in 1982, it’s looking a bit worse for wear but is still a lot of fun and the focal point for many tourist photos on and next to the sculpture. It was fun watching people trying to get their perfect picture – lots of random climbing and jumping off the structure. Not to miss an opportunity, we of course both had to have a go.
Even though we are travelling on a budget, we dressed up as best we could and had a couple of cocktails at the Conrad Casino on our last night in Punta del Este. We considered trying to double our money so we can travel for longer but then remembered we could just as easily lose it and have to go home early. In the end, we settled for the drinks and spent the night people watching.
On our last day in Punta del Este we decided to go and visit the Casa Pueblo building outside of town. We hadn’t seen any pictures but had read that the house had been built by local artist Carlos Paez Vilaro, who saw the house as a living sculpture, that he had continued to add to over the years. It is also said to have been built as a homage to his son, who was one of the sixteen survivors of the plane crash in the Andes that the movie Alive is based on. You know the one? Plane crashes in the Andes, they debate whether or not to eat their fellow deceased passengers in order to survive. Ethan Hawke. It’s a really good movie. Anyway, we’d been told you could get a bus to the property but we couldn’t find where the bus stopped, so instead we decided to walk the beach route until the bus passed us. It never did… and so we kept walking. Hot, tired and without water or sunscreen, about 18 km’s later we reached Casa Pueblo after crossing beaches, highways and climbing one very steep hill. VICTORY! And well worth the effort. The Casa Pueblo building design is amazing. With the white-washed walls against the blue of the ocean and sky, it was breath-taking and it was fun to explore the areas of the building open to the public. Thankfully we also managed to get the bus home.
Punta del Este has one other claim to fame or travel award from us, which is yet undefeated after a lot of competition. We have been eating a lot of helado during our time in Argentina but it was here at Gelateria Arlecchino we had the best healdo of our trip so far. Every flavour we tried here was outstanding in flavour, texture and creaminess – and we tried a lot! I would go back to Punta del Este just for this helado.
A bit more:
When we visited: 3 nights mid February 2014.
How we got here: 4 hour bus from Montevideo
Where we stayed: Hotel Dolar. A cute, basic and fantastic hotel (especially for the price) very close to Playa Brava and the bus stop. Best breakfast of our trip so far and we even had a resident hummingbird outside our window.
Food & Drink recommendations: Helado!!!