When you step off the bus, you step in to a new world. And you read about it before you go, but nothing can prepare you entirely for that new environment. As a result, every traveller comes to understand that adaptation, and flexibility, and living out of a backpack , and the integration of new cultures and languages is all part of the package if you want to enjoy your trip. Travelling up and down the Uruguayan East coast was the most amount of environment change I’ve experienced yet. At times, it was like my life didn’t have time to breathe while I was chasing down fresh experiences. But the jam pack adventure was packed with quality. Uruguay hasn’t received much popularity in the past being in the shadow of Brazil and Argentina, but I believe that this Italian, bohemian gumdrop will get all the credit it deserves in the future. Just be sure to know beforehand at least that it is the most expensive country in South America, every one of its coastal cities revolves around surfing, and Uruguayans speak much quicker and smoother the Colombians with almost no pauses between their words.
Punta del diablo
As bohemian as Cabo Polonio if not more so, Punta del Diablo’s colourful houses are laid out to huddle around it’s fishing and surfing beaches at the northern most tip of the east coast. It creates a nice environment to socialize and learn how to surf, and you can listen to the waves all through the town even in your hostel room. There’s no concrete here, so as you walk through the town you will probably decide to dine on a porch or with the sand still under your feet. The devil theme has also been embraced through here as the most popular hostel is “Diablo tranquilo” and the library is called “El Diablo lector”.
Paloma, and La Pedrera
I got to Paloma at the tail end of the high tourist season. As such it was much quieter than it apparently is during January and February. A lot of horses populate the land though and one even came to eat grass outside my front door. However, this town is also built like a spring break getaway with a long stretch of beach peppered with surf spots, sports courts, plenty of campsites, and Uruguayan rock music in the background. I felt like I was at wasaga beach from back home. Furthermore, people from nearby towns drive their beat up cars to the beach all year round in order to try and catch some wider waves. Next door, “La Pedrera” hosts two beaches separated by a beautiful rock point. Naturally, this rocky shore creates point breaks which then produces more consistent surfing in contrast to Paloma. La Pedrera also has many retirement homes and as such is a more family oriented environment.
Punta del este
About two hours south of Paloma, you’ll find Punta del este. By far the most expensive and developed city, Punta del este has high rise building and a much larger port where sea lions come up to visit. Punta del este is also the closest metropolitan to Argentina other than the capital, and so its a lot more touristy. Like Punta del diablo and La Pedrera, there is a good point break at the end of Playa Brava, but unlike the other cities, you start to see the Italian influence in Punta del este. Twenty minutes outside of the city is the self-made workshop of famous artist, director, composer, and writer Carlos Páez Vilaró. This ceramic “Casapueblo” has thirteen floors, no straight lines, and took 36 years to make. Vilaró died two years ago and now Casapueblo, translated to “village house” is used as an art gallery, hotel, and restaurant.
The oldest city in Uruguay, Piriápolis, is the last stop along the east coast. Founded by a popular Italian business man named Francisco Piria, this town still has the old Italian architectural buildings, albeit his castle has been restaored. Here too, there is multiple beaches and surfing, but Piriápolis also has mountains that you can climb which you don’t find elsewhere on the east coast. I only spent a day here, but it was very interesting to see the Itialian influence coming out in full-force in Uruguay.
Some last final facts about Uruguay so far: Contrary to popular belief, many Uruguayans on the east coast eat vegetarian because its cheaper. It wasn’t until I reached the capital, “Montevideo”, that I actually saw the meat culture in full swing. Also, Uruguay is very safe. In Punta del Este especially, I felt like the environement was safer than Toronto’s. In any case, I’m really grateful for Uruguay’s east coast where there is always a beach close by. I will always remember it as the place where I survived in the waves and learned how to surf thanks to some friends.
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