Friday, December 2, 2011

Montevideo to La Paloma via Ruta Interbalnearia (interbeach route).

Uruguay is reckoned to have one of the most attractive coastlines in South America and virtually all the country’s major tourist destinations are on the coast. Linked by the Interbalnearia, most of the beaches are easily accessible and so we planned to spend a week or so getting acquainted with some of them. After passing the eastern most beach of Carrasco where the very run-down Montevideo Casino and Hotel was closed due to massive renovations we left metropolitan Montevideo and had an easy 45km (28 mile) drive to Atlántida. Surrounded by a windbreak of cypress and eucalyptus, this is a small upscale community. We parked and camped on the beach access road which is separated from the ocean by massive sand dunes but there are plenty of wooden walkways to get to the sand and sea. Except for some surf fisherman we had the beach to ourselves and Winston ran free. We also found a great supermarket “Tienda Inglesia” which had a high quality delicatessen, meat and seafood dept. and some hard to find products like sesame seed oil for when we cook Asian. Seeing the sand dunes did forewarn us, the wind here is quite fierce at times. From Atlántida, we passed through Piriapolis, a beautiful town with a curving bay and old fashioned promenade. The largest building is the huge Argentino Hotel built in the 1920’s complete with stained glass windows. Absolutely stunning. But we are headed to the most famous beach on the Uruguayan coast, Punte Del Este. Located on a peninsula where the Rio de la Plata empties into the Atlantic Ocean, it has two long, beautiful beaches. The tranquil bay side and the more windswept ocean side. Popular with richer Uruguayans, Argentineans and Europeans, Punta is visited by the proverbial “jet-set” and make it more expensive than beaches to the north and south of it. Since it is still the off-season it is quiet and less expensive and the beaches are indeed gorgeous. Before going to our campsite, we stop off at the point in Punta Ballena just outside of Punta Del Este, to see the “casa blanca”, the white adobe style home of painter Paez Vilaro. Built into the sea cliffs above the ocean it is very reminiscent of ocean homes in Greece or Italy both in architecture with the rounded, flowing structure complete with turrets and in style with lots of windows opening to ocean views. Quite unique and stunning. The campsite turned out to be disappointing. Far inland from the ocean, it was open but undergoing renovation for the summer. We decided to spend only two days and then head further north. Before leaving town there was one other famous site for us to see. Built into the sand at Punta Brava on the north end of Punta Del Este is Los Dedos (The Fingers). Designed to resemble a giant hand reaching out of the sand, it ranges in size from about four feet (thumb and little finger) to about 16 feet (middle finger) with a span of about 25 feet. Grey in color, the joints and finger nails are clearly visible in amazing detail. We agreed that this was one of the most strange, bizarre sculptures we have ever seen. It was also a great photo op! Our final beach spot was just a little further north at La Paloma. A small old colonial town with a pretty lighthouse. We spent two nights camping at the port where Winston could run free and we had nice picturesque views of the ocean and lighthouse.

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