January 15, 2008

Punta del Diablo: Where all the young people go to party

After the most pampered couple of days around New Years (Thanks to the Lema family), Julie and I set off for Punta del Diablo, another beach town 3 hours up the coast, closer to Brazil. Our guide book described it as the anti Punta del Este, and they were right since it was cabins instead of high rise condos, although they forgot to mention that it´s the place all the young people go after New Years, so it wasn´t the small backpacker town we were expecting.

We showed up in the evening on Jan 2nd. I should take the time to mention that when traveling in high season, you need to think about arrival time in a new place. It´s something that I never really thought about until recently. If you don´t have a reservation, and most of us backpackers don´t, then you need to arrive around noon, when others are checking out. Since we arrived at night, it made finding a place difficult. That, and the fact that every young person from Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil had descended upon the town, to party it up for their summer vacation after New Years, and all the cottages were totally booked up for the season until March.

So, we went from the lap of luxury in Punta del Este, to staying in the crappiest hostel I have stayed in to date on this trip, maybe ever. Just to paint a picture of how crappy it was, they were originally an HI (Hosteling International) member, but lost their status. I wonder why! We stayed in separate dorm rooms. Mine had 23 beds, and a stench of mildewing bathing suits and towels. The showers, bathrooms, kitchen and common room were in disrepair, and god only knows when the place was last cleaned. The second day we tried to find a bungalow to rent or another hostel to stay at, but couldn´t find space. By the third day, I started to get used to the place. Ear plugs saved me from all the snoring people, and we had a parilla (BBQ) with the other guests, which made it more of a communal experience.

The town of PDD is massive. It is spread out with all these ski chalet like bungalows all over the place. There are only a couple hotels, as it seems most people rent private cottages. But as big as it seems, you can walk the town pretty easily...much easier if you´ve had a bottle or two of wine beforehand. The two main beaches are great for people watching, and they have good surf when there are waves. I spent 3 days hoping for good waves, but none came. Ah well. C'est la vie. I should also mention that the town has a little artists market, but the best thing about this market is that they have several stands selling the best empanadas I have ever tasted. Totally different from Argentine empanadas, these were deep fried, and so good.

One of the highlights of our four days in PDD was meeting some locals from Montevideo. One evening we met an American couple in our hostel. The girl had family in Uruguay and her cousins had rented a cabin in town with 9 others. I should probably mention it was 11 girls crammed into a place that could sleep a couple people comfortably. That´s how they do it here. At 12 am, after the parilla/grill was ready, we cooked a feast and danced to old 90´s music that I thought was forgotten. Oh, and dinner at this time is completely normal down here. At 3 am, which is prime time, we set off for a club that was a 20 min walk down a dirt road, outside in the forest. The place is to date one of my favorite clubs. About a thousand people were dancing and singing the lyrics to the spanish pop songs of the summer, all under the stars. By 5 am we were spent and headed home, but I think the locals stayed out until 9am or so, which is also normal. It´s my 29th birthday on Thursday, and already I feel old. Although, as my Mom constantly states, age is a state of mind. I guess I just need more training to keep up with the 21 year olds down here. To see what we´re talking about, here are my photos of PDD.

Go to Punta del Diablo, you´ll have a blast. Eat the empanadas like they are going out of style, find the clubs in the forest, but please book ahead so you don´t end up with a hostel bed in the crappy HI. Here´s a travel site with hotels and cabins for rent, plus other info on PDD.

I should also mention that we had a brief visit to Montevideo, the country´s capital on the way back to Buenos Aires. We had exactly 5 hours to see some sights before our night bus, so we went to the old city. My first impression was that this city is run down. There is more poverty than other parts of Uruguay, and Buenos Aires. There are all these beautiful old buildings that are unoccupied. It´s a shame. The city center was clean and modern, and the bus terminal is the best I´ve seen in South America, so maybe we didn´t see the best parts in 5 hours. Here are my photos of Montevideo. If you do end up going through Montevideo, you need to try the medio y medio. It´s a bottle of mixed champagne and white wine, and will refresh on the hottest of days.

Some of you have asked about how we travel, and the quality of buses in South America. The US and Canada could learn something from this. Ecuador and Bolivia aside, we´ve traveled most of the continent in first class double decker buses. The seats are similar to business class in airplanes. There are three seats to a row, they recline most of the way, have foot rests, and there are bus attendants that serve you a meal. Couple this with some good earplugs and an eye mask and you sleep like a baby, ready for sightseeing at your next destination.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi! I really have laughs reading your kind of "odyssey" in Uruguay, specially in Punta del Diablo. I'm an uruguayan, I really know what are you talking about!! ;)
So next time try -in october or november- to find a place to enjoy PDD. Try it here www.portaldeldiablo.com.uy
I see over the street the hostel you mentioned... Even for us (third world inhabitants) will be hard to be there!!
Peace and welcome anyway!...