Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rule 1:  Don't talk about fight club.  Oh, wait, that's a movie.  This is travel. Rule 1:  Don't lay out in the sun right after a long flight!  I broke this cardinal rule in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.

I'd just come off a long flight from the states, did some work in Sao Paulo, Brazil and then had a couple day layover all to my own before heading on for work in Buenos Aries, Argentina.

I wanted to go to Iguazu Falls but couldn't get any last minute flights so I opted for Punta Del Este.  I'd heard it was the "San Tropez" of South America.  A lot of Argentinians came over there for summer vacations.

Arriving in late morning I immediately checked into my hotel and then promptly headed to the beach.  Why not?  It was summertime here and winter where I had come.  But in doing so, I'd completely ignored my cardinal rule not to do much other than site-seeing right after long flights when I am jet-lagged.  

Sure enough, I fell right asleep under the warm beach sun.  Asleep for 4 hours!  Luckily I carried a dark tan through a decent fall and it hadn't disappeared entirely by early winter so I didn't look like this guy...but I did have the classic sunglasses mark.

Sunburns...don't try this at home...
Beyond my stupidity, the visit to Punta Del Este was a good choice.  It's an awesome coast line and I explored a fair bit of it.  When you look at an overview of the city, it sits right at the southern most point so you have coast line on both sides.

The actual city of Punta Del Este, Uruguay goes right out to a point
But looking inland from the point of the city, the coastline stretches out East and becomes less and less populated the further out you go.

As you drive up the Coastline, the beaches are less and less crowded
You can easily walk around the actual urban portions of Punta del Este and if you want to go further, they have an easy bus line that you can take.

Part of the urban beach.  Still early enough that it isn't jammed packed with vacationers
Right on the beach, one of the first things I noticed is the iconic "Mano de Punta Del Este" or "Hand of Punta Del Este" in English.  It was built by a young sculptor back in 1982 during a sculptor's convention.  He didn't have room in the open area assigned for the sculptors so he opted to do his on the beach.  His was the only one that survived and is now internationally known.  In fact, he has done replicas in Madrid, the Atacama Desert and Venice.  This one is the original.  Here's what it should look like:

Pre-2005 shot without the graffiti that now plagues the palm side of statue (see my photo above)
What many don't realize is that the sculptor was signifying a warning about the dangers of swimming in the water as it is more suited for surfing and the sculpture is that of a drowning person and reaching out.  A bit morbid for an international icon...

The towns beyond Punta Del Este are small and laid-back surf locales
Now, heading Northeast passed the city, the scene changes quickly.  It first goes into that of more laid-back surfing villages.  I've enjoyed surfing before in the United States but don't seem to ever try and do any when I travel internationally.  That's weird because I seem to zip line and river raft wherever I go if I have the opportunity.  Perhaps the time when I almost broke my neck boogie boarding in Hawaii now subconsciously turns me into a wimp when it comes to ocean adventure.

Quieter areas with less people the further you go up the coastline
Once you leave the surf villages, you reach the Faro de Cabo Polonio lighthouse.  It's a an 1881 lighthouse that is on their registered historical marker list.  You can visit it Tue-Sat.

I was just off from having the lighthouse as a "stupid" hat in the photo...
The lighthouse also marks the last time you're going to see much civilization at all along the beach.  After this, you can pretty much have the beach to yourself.

Sing it with me..."Where have all the people gone..."
He's hard to see but notice the bike carrying the surfboard.  Who says you need a car...
On the way back I noted a couple of your typical houses along the way.  They are mostly of wooden construction and many have thatched roofs.

So if you want to sit with the masses, come in December or January and you can be among the Argentina, Brasil and European tourists.  As with anywhere else, if you come on the buffer months you'll enjoy good weather AND less people.

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