Beach Hopping in Eastern Uruguay
Beach hopping in Eastern Uruguay is an exprience not to be missed if travelling around South America.
The beaches are long and sandy, the water is cool, as is the vibe, but the crowds – OMG the crowds in summer are huge.
Prices for accommodation triples and it still gets booked out. It’s definitely better to visit out of season as Brazilians, Argentineans’ and Uruguayans’ flock to the coast in summer to soak up the sun. If you are a party animal this is the place to be – but be prepared to book in advance and pay through the nose or buy yourself a tent and queue for hours to get into a camp site.
The trip started out shakily. We crossed the Brazilian border by bus and the driver didn’t wake us up when he stopped at immigration, which meant that we ended up in the border town of Chuy without an exit visa for Brazil and an entry visa for Uruguay. The subsequent search for an ATM and a taxi in the rain was unpleasant and the ride backwards and forwards between the two borders crossings was expensive. Although crossing the same borders 6 times within an hour must be a world record.
Back in Chuy we waited until the tourist information office was open. The girl running the place was very helpful but couldn’t find any available accommodation. She advised us to camp, then told us that the sites didn’t hire tents out. Luckily, Chuy was full of duty free shops and we picked up a one for 35 dollars. Things were beginning to look up. We caught a bus and headed to Punta del Diablo. After a four hour wait in the hot sun we finally found a pitch and settled in with 1,500 other campers on a site designed to accommodate 500 people.
We stayed 5 nights and people were friendly, welcoming and able to put up with 3 hour shower queues and long waits for the loo. They partied hard, drank and sang and not once did a fight break out on the camp site. We moved onto Punta Del Este and La Paloma where the beaches were less crowded and more laid back.
Free concerts on the beach were normal and music ranged from Jazz, blues, rap and hip hop during the day and rave music as the sunset. Entertainers juggled bats, balls and tennis rackets in time to the music and venders sold cheap teeny weeny bikinis to scantily clad women – they are not shy in Uruguay .
The food was a let down, consisting mainly of huge chunks of meat at ridiculous prices. We ended up, buying a pan, hiring a grill from the site and cooking our own. It was fun, more nutritional, there was plenty of free fire wood in the surrounding area, and we could afford a bottle of wine as well.
We took time to wander away from the beaches and walk around the back streets and woods – there were huge monitor lizards wandering around, some amazingly colourful birds (hundreds of humming birds) and wild guinea pigs.
The people of South America love their matte de cocoa and a common sight is the thermos flask that they carry around for hot water to brew the concoction with. If you want to save money buy yourself a cheap flask. Shops, camp sites and restaurants are all willing to fill it up for free (or a small cost) and you can drink tea and coffee to your hearts content all day. We got very attached to our pink one.
Night markets set up late in the evening selling all sorts of arts and crafts. Wander along the street and stumble upon an impromptu musical event of traditional dancing and singing.
Take long walks along the beaches and you will find the isolation your are seeking. Young locals often come here as a rite of passage and rough it in the shacks built on the beach for a number of weeks. No water, no electricity, no toilet and often no windows. A bit different to Schoolies week in Australia where self indulgence is the priority.
I loved the place and have every intention of returning when the season winds down, is less busy and more affordable. I want to beach hop down the coastline a little more. One problem is that most of the shops and restaurants also close down but then I can live without the DJ’s and restaurants as long as the supermarket stays open. Just give me:-
An environmentally friendly dustbin for food waste.
Someone to party with
Something free range to eat
Or junk food if desperate
Something to drink
Something cool to combat the heat.
Somewhere safe to leave my money
And, in the immortal words of Arne, I’ll be back