We arrived into the sleepy dirt road town of Punta del Diablo in the early afternoon to find the centre of town with a few restaurants & some signs posted with different names of hostels & restaurants. El Diablo Tranquillo that we had booked ourselves in was nowhere to be found. Dan headed to a house which also had an information sign outside to ask for directions. There were lots of dirt roads, and we didn’t get detailed directions, but we knew which way to head out of town. We walked in the hot sun for about 10 minutes stopping to ask for directions a couple more times and then found ourselves at the big red house that we had seen pictures of on Hostelworld.
Most of the staff were American (there was also one Canadian) and even those who weren’t spoke English. This was by far THE most organized hostel we had seen. Together there were two hostels run by the same people. One directly on the beach (which we read had a mosquito problem & had decided against) and this one 3 blocks away. There was breakfast served at both hostels, but if you wanted warm food you could head to the beach hostel where they were serving up scrambled eggs the day we went over. You could even use your paypal account in the hostel to withdraw money – they gave you cash & took a payment from you. As soon as we checked in they asked if we wanted to book any additional nights. We hadn’t decided what our plan was, but we had a few extra nights in Uruguay to figure out and by the looks of things we were going to like this sleepy beach town. It was Carnival time, and things were booking up fast, so the following days we booked in for another 3 nights. 7 in total in Punta del Diablo. We had read that many people would book a hostel for a few days & then find a small cottage to rent for even cheaper, but we didn’t have any luck finding one that would rent for less than 5 days.
The first couple of days we spent walking around, exploring the area & hanging out on the beach, and meeting all the English speaking people at our hostel – lots of the people staying at our hostel were people living in Buenos Aires who were away for the 4 day weekend. Lots of interesting people!
The town didn’t have much to offer besides a few small restaurants & a couple grocery stores, so we stuck mainly to our hostel area and the beaches – which were amazing. You had to climb over sand dunes to get to the main beach, but it was great. A bit too windy for our liking, but at least it wasn’t too hot. There were a few beach cafes along the main stretch where we grabbed lunch a couple times. They had fresh juices, nice salads & even hot dogs. We even found a cute little bakery/cafe on a small street near our hostel which had great cakes – including the ‘Banana Split Pie’ which was actually just Banoffie Pie, but that was all the local people knew to call it. It was delicious whatever it was called!
On our 2nd night there we bbq’d with some other people from the hostel – including the nice two German & two Argentinean roommates we shared the room with in our 8 bed room for the first few nights.
One night we booked to go for an evening sunset horse ride. The guide picked us up with the horses from the hostel and we headed out of town into the national park, past campground walking & trotting along. There were five of us in total – the guide, Dan & myself & 2 other Canadians who were staying at our hostel. My horse was moody, got all worked up when the other female horse came near her, and kept stopping to eat along the way – finally I was given a stick that I could tap her with to keep her going which seemed to work. Everyone else seemed to get along fine with their horses. We stopped for wine & some cookies part of the way thru the ride and then headed back galloping along the beach. It was a lot of fun & Dan’s first time on a horse which he really enjoyed.
Besides spending our days lying in the hammocks at the hostel, or on the beach we also went one day to the nearby town of Chuy/Chui. This town is ½ in Uruguay & ½ in Brazil. We needed to go here to the bus stop on the Brazilian side to buy our bus tickets for the overnight bus into Brazil. So, we spent ½ a day heading to Chuy (the Uruguayan side) then walking over to Chui (the Brazilian side) which isn’t divided in anyway, besides the main street (you can just walk freely in either side of the town) getting our bus tickets, and also tickets for our German friends (Phillip & Julian). We had time to check out the duty free shops in town as well before our bus back to Diablo & there were lots of shops. Everyone comes here to do their shopping & there were lots of typical airport duty free items to buy.
The border crossing into Brazil we were told was a bit complicated. When you take the local bus in Uruguay to Chuy you need to ask them to stop at customs. They stop & you get your passport stamped to say you are leaving the country. You then get on the bus in Chui to head into Brazil & there is a stop where you get stamped & checked entering Brazil, but only the people who need to exit Uruguay or enter Brazil get off the bus at these stops. It sounded complicated & we were travelling at 11pm, so we hoped it was going to work out ok. Our German friends were heading out the night before us, so we could at least hear from them before we went ourselves.
On our 2nd last night there (or so we thought) it was the last night of Carnival and there was a small parade in town. We went down to the town to watch the one float with the band for a little while. It was nice to see lots of people dancing in the streets. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like in Rio or any major town in Brazil. Most countries in South America celebrate Carnival, but no one has a parade or Carnival fever like they do in Rio. We met an English girl who on a previous trip to South America had lived and volunteered in Rio for 3 months, and the job she had volunteering was helping make the Carnival costumes. She told us about the hours the local people spent making the costumes and all the effort that goes into creating and designing each one – they start again pretty much as soon as Carnival is over. Our tamer, no costumes, small town version meant that it was safe for us to take out our cameras & mingle in the street.
Our last day in Uruguay we hung out at the now much quieter hostel & beach – most people had headed back to work since the holiday was over – and we were off to Brazil. Or so we thought...