Monday, December 13, 2010

Punta del Este, Uruguay, Mile 1,118, December 13, 2010

Tonight I am in Punta del Este, which is probably the premier beach resort in all of South America.

I was awakened this morning by the sound of my room in La Paloma´s fan shutting off.  The UTE (Uruguayan government electricity company) was doing something to the transformer on the pole outside my window.  I got up, got dressed, retrieved the clothes I had had washed, packed up my bike and paid off the owner (Who, incidentally, refused to charge me for washing the clothes), and headed out.

Today had absolutely the strongest winds I have yet encountered on this trip.  They were not in my favor.  From La Paloma, I had to ride about 18 miles up Route 15 to the intersection with Route 9.  Unfortunately, Route 10 stops in La Paloma (Due to a huge lake in its path) and does not pick up until some miles west.  I had to ride north and a little west up to Route 9.  The wind was blasting straight out of the west, so strongly that several times  it literally moved me off the pavement and onto the shoulder.  Even though the wind was not in my face, it took me over two hours to get to Route 9.  The scenery along Route 15 was pastoral, lots of cows to keep me company.

Arriving at Route 9, I turned left and got the wind full in the face.  I tried this for half a mile, got nowhere, and decided that this was not going to work.  So, I headed back, and rode a mile north of the highway into the town of Rocha.  I made it downtown at about a quarter to twelve, found the bus terminal, and spent 72 Pesos for a ticket on the 1 20 PM bus east to San Carlos.  Rocha has a pretty tree lined plaza in the center of town, I walked the bicycle around this plaza and found a newspaper vendor from whom I bought the paper, and went and sat in the plaza reading it until the bus came.  The wind whistling threw the park was impressive.  I threw my bike in the baggage compartment of the bus, climbed on, and in an hour was in the very small town of San Carlos, which is about12 miles due north of Punta del Este.

In San Carlos, I retrieved the bike, and headed south on Rt. 35.  To my great joy, the wind now shifted and was roaring out of the south.  I eventually made it through the town of Maldonado, which is where everyone who works in PDE lives, and then on a few more miles into Punta itself.   Punta del Este is an extremely upscale resort, with prices to match.  To save myself from this, I found the bus station, and then checked into one of the hotels near it, which are always cheaper.  "Cheaper" is relative, my room cost $40 US, but it has AC and is clean, so I can live with that.  Unlike the rest of Uruguay, most prices in Punta del Este are quoted in Dollars, not Pesos, because there are so many people from so many countries visiting here.

This is the third time in four bike trips here that I have been through PDE, and I like it, for a day or two.  This would not be my choice to spend a two or three week vacation because the idea of hanging out with the Beautiful People does nothing at all for me.  Punta del Este itself is like a thumb sticking about a mile south out of the mainland.  The north half of this thumb is full of upscale hotels, casinos, restuarants, VERY expensive stores, and discos.  The south half is full of houses, but nobody lives in them.  They are for rental, at astronomical prices.  The left (east) facing beaches front on the Atlantic Ocean, and the right (west) facing ones on the Rio de la Plata (River Plate).  At the very bottom of the peninsula, where ocean and river meet, is a little monument to the "Commonwealth of British Nations" in honor of the events that occurred in full sight and hearing of Punta del Este, curiously, exactly 71 years ago, on December 13, 1939.  I will not repeat what I wrote three years ago about this, but, in a nutshell, this is when the Royal Navy caught up to the Graf Spee, damaged it and forced it to put into Montevideo the next day.  The Uruguayans, exercising international law as a neutral, gave it 24 hours to get out (The government was terrified that the British would come right into the harbor after it.), but get out it did, and it was scuttled somewhere off Montevideo.  On the west side of PDE is a marina full of some very expensive boats.

The streets are full of cars with Argentine plates, and all the newstands sell Buenos Aires papers as well as Uruguayan ones.

After getting my hotel, I rode my bike around the peninsula, for the fun of it, and then walked same.  I also walked through the hotel district, and found a TRUE sign of civilization.  On one corner there is a McDonalds on one side of the street and a Burger King on the other side.  One of the things I like about this place is that there are several very good bookstores.  In 2007, I bought the first two books of what I thought would be a three volume political history of Uruguay called "Orientales", and I went in to a bookstore to see if I could find volume 3.  I found volume 4.  The cost was enough to make me give live birth.  I figured that when I get to Montevideo I could look for volume 3, but, when I looked carefully at the book, it mentions a volume 5 as well.  The three of them, if I find them all, will set me back over a hundred bucks.  Oh well, it is only money.

It is now 8 35 PM, is still broad daylight, and most restuarants are just now starting to open.  So, I will now go and try to find some food.  Tomorrow I may move on to Montevideo, or may just go to Piriapolis, depending on the vagaries of the wind.

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