Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Lazy Day in Punta del Este.


Original Post Date: February 22, 2017

I woke up feeling very sad today 😢.  Why?  Because today's our last day in Uruguay.  Tomorrow, we travel back to Buenos Aires via the Buquebus Ferry.  We have a few hours to kill, in the city, before we have to leave for the airport hotel.  My flight home leaves at midnight and Bro's shortly thereafter.  So hard to believe that our wonderful trip is coming to an end.  For now I didn't really want to dwell on all that.  We still have one more day to enjoy and we were going to make the most of it.

We spent our day in Punta del Este, a beach resort city located about a two and a half hour bus ride from Montevideo.

It was back on the CA1 bus to the Tres Cruces station.  By now, we felt like veterans of the local bus system in Montevideo.


We had already checked out the bus options day before yesterday, when we were heading to Colonia del Sacramento.  We settled on a company called COT.  We purchased our round trip tickets at the counter.  There really is no need to buy tickets in advance.  Punta del Este is such a popular destination that buses run very frequently throughout the day.


We had the bus routine down.  A few minutes before departure, we headed outside the terminal and stood in front of our departure lane.  The bus pulled up on time and before we knew it, we were on board and on our way!





Around 11:15a, we had left the countryside of Uruguay behind and entered the outskirts of Punta del Este.  I had no idea where the bus was going to drop us off relative to where we wanted to go.  Oh wait.  We had no plans for where we wanted to go.  So, wherever we get dropped off, we'll figure it from there. :-)


Turns out the bus station is literally located across the main road from what is arguably Punta del Este's most famous landmark....which we made our way towards.


As we left the bus terminal behind us, we stepped into a world that looks so familiar - lots and lots of tall apartment buildings but not a single tree sight.  Someone should think about planting some trees if nothing else, to provide some shade.  Yes, I know, it's all about getting sun but for some of us, shade is much appreciated as well.  Just a suggestion.



We crossed the road to the beach, Playa Brava, and like many other tourists, paused to take a photo of the sculpture titled, La Mano aka The Hand as is translated from Spanish.  Created by Chilean sculptor Mario Irrazabal, The Hand has five fingers sticking out from the sand. According to the artist, it symbolizes man’s awakening to life. 




Though this is the height of summer, I though the beach was remarkably quiet.  Perhaps because it's a weekday.  The sand was nice and soft and the view was of the calm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.



Punta del Este is situated on a peninsula.  On the east side, it fronts the Atlantic Ocean and on the west side the Rio de la Plata.  With no game plan in mind, we decided to just walk around the peninsula.  The spot labelled as "Los Dedos de Punta del Este" aka the Fingers of Punta del Este is where The Hand is located so that was the starting point for our walk.  We would eventually have to return to this spot to catch our return bus to Montevideo. 


We walked along the road, Rambla General Jose Artigas, towards the tip of the peninsula. 



Stretches of sand were intersected by stretches of rocky landscape.



We passed one section of beach that was especially popular I think because it fronted a small horse shoe shaped bay that had been created by the rocks.  My guess is that the waters here are calmer and therefore, better for swimming.


It's another hot and humid summer's day.  Perfect for beach going but not so much for strolling.  Where are the trees???  Every now and again, we took breaks in the shade.  Thankfully, we both had lots of water with us and I was gulping it down like mad!



Somewhere along the way, we decided we had had enough of walking alongside the ocean and so we  cut inland - we never made it to the tip of the peninsula.   We walked uphill for a short distance, walking through a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings, small homes and a few commercial establishments.  Based on the license plates of many of the parked cars, this is indeed a popular for Argentinians to vacation.

As the road made its way down the hill, the houses got bigger and grander.  It wouldn't surprise me if these were second homes for wealthy Argentinians.  


The road came to a dead end at Rambla General Jose Artigas but this time the water we were looking out at was the Rio de la Plata.  Definitely calmer waters on this side but it was a rocky shoreline so no beach and no sunbathers here. 



We stopped to look at a small colony of cormorants and egrets.


The egrets were particularly beautiful even though their bodies seem very oddly porportioned compared to their toothpick thin legs with their butter yellow colored feet.


By now, it was long past lunch time. When we arrived at the boat dock, we decided to eat at one of the restaurants nearby.  We took a seat at one of the tables out on the patio which was positioned over the water - it had a great view of the waters of Rio de la Plata and the island of Isla Gorriti.


I was still stuffed from breakfast and all I really wanted to do was gulp down some water so I let Bro order his meal.  Bro decided to with some pasta though we both agreed that the sight of the water really made us miss our seafood meals in Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales.

I had a bit of the pasta. It was simple but delicious though seeing the size of the portion, I know I would've never been able to finish an entire dish on my own so good that I skipped out on the meal.


As Bro ate his pasta, I kept thinking about the gelato dessert.  You get a choice of 5 different flavors.  As much as I wanted to resist, I couldn't so I ordered it.  I had ice cream for lunch.  Nothing wrong with that.   Of course, even though Bro had his own dessert, I let him have a taste of my five scoops - raspberry, chocolate, hazelnut, sambayon with cherry and lime.   They were good but not as good as what we had had at either Bortolot (in Colonia del Sacramento) or Volta (in Buenos Aires).  I will miss the gelato, especially the sambayon, when I leave South America.  Hopefully, I'll be able to find a recipe on the web so I can attempt to recreate it at home.


After lunch, we continued our walk - essentially heading in the direction back towards the bus station.  That took us past the boat dock.  There are some VERY luxurious boats anchored here!  I have come to the conclusion that Uruguay is a beach destination for the wealthy who are a bit more reclusive and are more interested in a quiet place to escape to.



Looking down at the piers, I spotted a short row of shops selling fresh seafood.


Even though we weren't going to be buying anything, we had to check them out....just because we were curious to see what kind of seafood they have for sale here.  It was a nice variety of seafood and if were staying nearby, I would definitely buy food items here - especially the shrimp and the octopus.  I was drooling just at the thought of grilled octopus served with just a slight splash of olive oil and lemon juice.  Oh....I die.





Moored nearby to the seafood vendors were the fishing boats.   Maybe it's a tradition here to paint the boats red, white and black because that's how they were all colored.


In a covered area adjacent to where the boats were docked, were the fishermen.


They were busy at work baiting their fishing lines.  I had never seen anything like this before so I stood around for a few minutes watching them in action.  Pieces of fish are cut up and snagged onto the hooks that are already attached to the line.



The line is then coiled up.  I don't know what they're catching but it has to be big to swallow that size of bait!


Trolling the waters around the fishing boats and seafood stalls was one very healthy looking and presumably, perennially hungry sea lion.



This must be his territory and he's one lucky sea lion.  We watched him devour the remains of a large fish, tossed out to him by one of the seafood vendors.



Past the dock, it was a long walk through a residential neighborhood, primarily apartment buildings.  The usual stores, restaurants and cafes were there as well.  The one thing I did not notice was a lot bars.  Perhaps, the raucous bars are located in another part of the city?

Nothing really much to want to take a photo of, to be honest so I did not take a single shot on our entire walk.  I think I'm photo'd out. After 30 days of snapping away, I had had enough.

Even though we were walking on the shady side of the street, it was hot and humid.  Somehow that made our walk back to the bus station seem all that much more interminable.  But, all things do come to an end and we eventually did make it back to the beach.  From first sight of sand, we walked for a short distance past the The Hand, to a small restaurant where I found myself a table to enjoy a drink and just relax while Bro hit the sand and surf.  I told him to linger in the water as there was no need to rush.  The bus station was no more than a 10 minute walk away and we only had to be there in time to catch our ride back to Montevideo.


Flash forward a few hours and we're back in Montevideo. I decided we should end our stay here with a steak dinner.  So we dined at one of the restaurants situated just outside the Mercado del Puerto.  I ordered a petit filet and I got a massive chunk of meat!  They don't fool around here.  You want me, you got it!  It was so much meat that I actually ended up taking the leftovers back with me to the hotel.  It'll make for a good snack tomorrow as we return to Buenos Aires.


It was a fun day today but I am ready to go home.  Off to take a shower, pack and get a good night's rest.  We have another long day ahead of us tomorrow!

Goodnight from Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo!