Posted by: glenswatman | March 1, 2010

20100221-28 URUGUAY BRAZIL


SUNDAY 21 FEBRUARY – Rosanna and Nacho get up early to see us off.  Nacho drives us to the main highway to connect with the COT bus that Rossana kindly booked, U$109 (£3.50) to Maldonado.  We see more flooding en route suggesting that other areas got even more rain than El Pinar.  Host Alberto picks us up at Maldonado bus station and takes us to his apartment where we meet his husky dog Nerea.  We pop out to buy meat at the supermarket and he cooks us up a delicious lunch.  In the afternoon he takes us along to Puerto Del Este where he works.  He has his own estate agents business renting out holiday apartments,   He explains that the season here is really just January and February and the rest of the year the town is like a ghost town.  We set out to explore the resort frequented by many famous people including Bruce Willis.  It is a peninsula with beaches on both sides but once we walk around the headland to the Atlantic we are nearly blown away and have to retreat to the inner streets.  Most people seem to be just cruising around in their cars.  We can’t really see the attraction of the place ourselves even picturing it in nice weather.  On the evening news we see the flood in Buenos Aires (the third this week) and hear about people killed in Madeira following heavy rains so can’t grumble.



MONDAY 22 FEBRAURY – Alberto’s maid comes in for a few hours to clean the apartment but manages to work around us and even does our washing.  When she goes to get the washing powder she notices the gas bottle is missing.  It was out on the balcony by the washing machine and during the night it has been stolen.  Guess the machine was too difficult to take from a 1st floor!  We spend the day re planning as it would be a waste of time visiting all the coastal resorts in this weather.  I intended cooking us a meal tonight but this is impossible without gas.  Alberto drives us into the city for a meal.  It is raining when we park by the main square.  End up in a fairly basic restaurant but with expensive food and drinks – a small orange juice classed as “large” at U$70 (£2.40).  Steve is hugely disappointed in his famous Uruguayan “Chivitas” at U$295 ($10), which he read to be a steak sandwich with lots of layers of steak but appears as a small sandwich with a kind of thin minute steak in the middle.  Tonight’s news is about the flooding in Montevideo and a tsunami in Palermo Italy, whilst earlier in England Mum told me it was snowing again.  Guess we are not doing so badly here.



TUESDAY 23 FEBRUARY – Begin to think Alberto has died in bed as we keep hearing his alarm go off and into snooze mode then nothing more.  It is quite a relief when he appears at 1.15pm.  As his own boss this isn’t really a problem.  He leaves his dog at home with instructions to take him out when she indicates she needs the toilet.  All well and good but trying to call back a dog in that doesn’t understand Spanglish is a bit of a challenge.  Phone and book our COT bus to Punta Del Diablo for tomorrow.  Play a bit of poker in the evening for small stakes, 1 peso a go and with U$35 = £1. After getting up late Alberto stays up until after 3am watching TV – in the lounge where we have the sofa bed!



WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY – We catch the 11.10am COT bus to Punta Del Diablo, U$185 (£6).  The bus seats are closer together but comfortable and although they are supposed to have wi-fi on board we are both more in need of a snooze.  Arrival time of 2pm passes and we are still not there and around half an hour later the bus pulls over.  Mission control to Houston we have a problem, the driver walking round with the fan belt in his hand gives us a clue.  After changing buses we finally arrive just after 3pm.  Punta Del Diablo is a fishing village turned into a holiday village at the end of road.  The town roads are all dirt, go off in all directions and don’t have name boards.  Setting out to find a room we quickly realise most accommodation is privately owned cottages where you have to telephone the owner for availability and price.  This is difficult as we have no phone and our Spanish is limited.  We find a room at U$1500 (£50) and are offered a double in a hostel for U$1600 (£55).  With luck we stumble on Hostal Del Diablo where they have reduced double en-suite rooms inc breakfast to U$1000 or there is a dorm with beds at  U$400 (£13) pp and she assures us we would have the dorm to ourselves, so we check into our 8 bedded room and take our pick of the beds.  The hostal has a couple of lounge areas, wi-fi, a guest kitchen, grassy lawns and swimming pool but it is too cold to make use of that today.  It is a very windy afternoon so we set out to explore the town rather than the beach.  It is absolutely delightful, lots of interesting cottages, beautiful coastal area with lots of rocks and quirky streets.  Even in high season it feels quiet, relaxed and more like a backpackers place.  Although we are between lunch and evening meal times we enjoy a pizza, U$100 (£3.50) then buy wine and other drinks to take back to the hostal.  Steve is happy to watch football on TV whilst I have a late afternoon nap.  It is chilly in the evening so we snuggle up in bed watching a film on the laptop.

PUNTA DEL DIABLO – HOSTAL DEL DIABLO Dorm $400pppn or Double room $1000, including breakfast less 15% for HI members


THURSDAY 25 FEBRUARY – It was very quiet here last night so we both caught up with our sleep.  It is still a windy morning so not a beach day.  The breakfast is buffet style, bread with jam and coffee.  Matt & Lucy from England are also staying here and we end up spending the morning chatting to them and then buying cheese and wine for a lunch together.  On line our book flights to Hungary so that we can visit friends and combine the stay with overdue dental treatment.  We are going with from Luton to Budapest at around £65 each return so a great deal.  Even with our bus fares to connect with the flight it will still be less than £100 each so with crowns there around £200 less than in England we get a free trip.  Take a late afternoon stroll around the village and again can’t resist the huge ice creams with 2 scoops at U$70 (£2.30), they are so big they have to put them on a tray until you have eaten most of the top scoop so plenty big enough for two. 



FRIDAY 26 FEBRUARY – Hooray it is a nice sunny day so after breakfast (better than yesterday as we had cereal and toast as well) we head to the beach.  This place really has something for everyone, by the main town there is a shallow beach where most people go, south is a windswept beach with few people, north of the town is the surfers beach followed by one with dunes where people sandboard, after that endless secluded stretches.  We settle on the town beach for a few hours.  It is really hot and we take walks and dips in the ocean to cool down.  Late afternoon I call for my daily ice cream then we return to sit on the grassy area by the swimming pool. 



SATURDAY 27 FEBRUARY – It is a poor morning which makes it easier for us to leave.  We catch the 1045am COT bus to Chuy, U$50 (£1.60).  You have to ask if you want to stop at the Uruguayan border as it is about 2km before the town.  After getting off the driver tells us we must make our own way onwards.   Exit formalities involve a quick stamp in our passports.  The official tells us it is 4km walk to the Brazilian border; there are no buses or taxis available.  We set out walking and try to hitch a ride.   The 3rd vehicle pulls up and he offers to take us into Chuy town.  With our luggage in the back and 3 of us huddle into a 2 seater cab we set off.  He speaks no English but we learn he is a dairy farmer and appears to know everyone in town judging by the number of people waving at him.  He asks where we are going and we tell him the name of the city in Brazil.  Next thing we know he tells us we are now in BRAZIL and a block later he drops us at a bus station.  Tickets to Pelotas R$37 (£13) with the bus leaving at 1pm.  Perfect timing as it is now ¼ to 12.  I walk up the street to find an ATM and realise the central strip of the main “dual carriageway” is actually the border between the two countries.   On each side of it cars are moving in both directions but there are no border controls.  After getting my money I return and find that Steve has worked out Brazil is now 1-hour behind (3-hours behind England) so we have a 2-hour wait.  Walking around we spend the last of our Uruguayan money on drinks and stuff to eat.  There are few people on the bus but a couple of km out of town we pick up more at the Brazilian exit border.  The driver has taken our passports and quickly deals with entry formalities.  We now realise that this point would have been the 4km walk from the Uruguayan border but going into the city was a little shorter but still happy we got a lift.  Our journey continues through very flat land with cattle, rice and soy fields and wetlands.  The bus stops almost every 1km to pick up or drop off a local so the journey is slow.  In the wetlands we see an animal like a cross between a huge guinea pig and a boar, (a capivara) and a wide variety of birds.  In Pelotas we phone our host Beatrix who arrives a few minutes later.  She is a 40-year old single lady and very chatty.  Her home is a very old building near the centre of the city and she has given us her room and moved into the single spare bedroom.  Her English is perfect as she lived in USA for 5-years working as a nanny to save money and improve her English.  She could earn more money doing that than working as a lawyer here in Brazil.  Now she has returned and bought a couple of houses and works as a lawyer and English teacher.  In the evening she takes us for a drive around the city where we see some very nice architecture.  The wealth of the city came from salted beef in the times before people had refrigerators.  We end up at Laranjal beach on the edge of the lagoon.  It’s too dark to see properly but looks very nice.  After a drink in a bar I cannot resist the ice cream buffet next door with many flavours of ice cream, sauces and decorative toppings.  The diet starts tomorrow.



SUNDAY 28 FEBRUARY – We are woken by what sounds like bad karaoke but turns out to be the local church nearby.  Today Beatriz is hosting a vegetarian feast where friends will all bring a dishes to share.  I am most surprised that I enjoy so much of it including the raw cold vegetable soup.  Carla works at Princesa Isabel bakery and has brought along a delicious dessert with chocolate oreo type base and kind of cheesecake topped with bananas.  Quite a few people speak English and we have some interesting conversations.  In the evening Beatriz takes us out to Nella pietra for pizza.  She orders a huge pizza with 1/3 tuna, 1/3 meat and the pièce de résistance 1/3 chocolate and strawberry with dulce de leche stuffed crust.  The diet starts tomorrow.



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