Between jetlag, the visa issue and cloudy weather, my time in Rio was pretty anticlimactic. Copacabana Beach was picturesque but, apart from that, Rio was mostly rainy and on the whole I was glad to be on my way when the time came. Brazil is a huge, diverse country though and definitely worthy of a more thorough and better-planned exploration than I was able to give it in a layover.
My arrival into Uruguay was just as effortless as Brett had described over Skype; they took my picture and my fingerprint and stamped my passport and I was free to go. We had booked a cheap hotel for the night (and we got what we paid for!) and the next morning, we headed for the bus station to catch our coach along the coast.
Uruguayan bus travel was just as slick as we had been told; modern coaches, fairly spacious seats and, despite the number of on-demand stops, kept quite well to schedule. The coach had Wi-Fi on board although, like the UK intercity trains, it was virtually useless. I didn’t much want to be surfing the web anyway and my phone (newly equipped with a local SIM) was fine for occasional checking-in.
The weather, which had been grey and damp in the morning, brightened as we got further north and was warm and sunny by the time we reached our destination, Punta del Diablo, on the Atlantic coast.
Our hostel, El Diablo Tranquilo, is quite lovely. A beach-surfer-style construction of wood and stone, but modern plumbing and a comfortable, warm bed. We’ve paid a bit extra for a private room, with en suite facilities and a balcony, and it’s worth it; we can watch the sun rise over the ocean from the bed and there’s a hammock on the balcony which gets the sun all morning.
It’s still spring here, so when the sun goes in it gets cool. The other neat feature of our room is the fireplace; the local supermarket sells cheap firewood and the last two nights we’ve built a fire in the evening, which has been really cosy. There’s something deeply satisfying about building a fire and then just sitting watching it.
Our plan while we’re here is to do very little. The aim is to decompress a bit from London life and also get into some long-term travel habits. So far, we’ve spent most of our time in the hostel, enjoying our fireplace and hammock and generally soaking up the sun. The average high is low-to-mid-twenties Celsius (in the seventies Fahrenheit) which is just the kind of temperature we like.
We’ve taken a few strolls along the beaches which are quite clean and undeveloped. There are three main sections of sand within striking distance of the hotel; the one at the end of the road, which is very accessible, and a smaller one to the south which completes the arc of this bay. That one seems to be both a small working fishing community and the hub of the tourist catering facilities, with a few shops, bars and restaurants. Beyond this bay, across a narrow rocky promontory, lies a larger, uninterrupted arc of sand, called Playa de la Viuda, backed by forty or fifty meters of sand dunes. We took our lunch and had a sunbathe over there on Sunday. It seems to be popular with locals coming for a day out by the sea, and with surfers.
There’s a national park, Santa Theresa, nearby and the hostel advertises horse trekking excursions through it which look enjoyable, so we’ll probably do that one day. For the most part, though, we are happy just enjoying the warm weather, relaxing with a book and not really having anything pressing to do. It makes such a welcome change.