We feel far to at home in Uruguay’s gem…Punta Del Diablo
We were dropped off at midnight in the town of “Chuy” which we thought was in Uruguay, after some debate with the locals it turned out that one side of the street was in Brazil, the other in Uruguay. Walking round the next day the dearth of “Duty Free” shops and lack of border told us we must infact be in no-mans-land. Worse, no-mans-land where none of the ATM´s took our card!After a tour of every single bank we eventually found a machine which gave us Brazilian Reales which we then had to change to Uruguayan Pesos.
Chuy had the feel of a border town – the streets were full of hawkers trying to sell you knocked off Brazilin CDs and every other shop claimed to be duty free. It was dusty, dirty and hot. Horses and carts trotted along next to cars that looked like they belonged in a museum, yet the “duty free shops” sold products that would surely have cost a months salary here – La Prarie and Lancome cosmetics, Nike, Addidas etc. We may not have been in Uruguay proper yet but the difference in the people was incredible – without exception the Uruguayans have been the most helpful, genuine and friendly people I have met so far. They will almost always strike up a conversation with us wherever we are and try their best to understand our faltering Spanish.
It was quite hard to see where Punta del Diabolo (Devil’s point) got it’s name from when we arrived. It’s a tiny fishing village built on sand dunes next to a long stretch of wild, rugged beach. Against a backdrop of a blue sky it seemed to me to be a perfect little place. You can feel it´s remoteness instantly and it is such a breath of fresh air to see a place that tourism has barely reached yet. There are very few backpackers hanging around here, no hostels, no shops selling tacky souvenirs, no boat trips being pushed in your face and almost NO ONE on the beaches…. After some asking around we met Laura and Fernandez who own the only B&B here (with 6 rooms!)and had a house to let behind it. It´s not just any ordinary house. It´s 150m from the sea, built on stilts, is 2 storeys high and the front and sides are all windows: our glass house! When I saw the bedroom upstairs I knew we just had to stay here. I feel that photos could never do this place justice – the beaches are not your classic `white sand, blue water` paradise, but it`s something to do with the sense of a `times past` here as well as its wild-west feel. The sound of the waves crashing in is always there, and I will never forget going to sleep and waking up to it each day, then drawing the curtains back to see ocean all around the room.
In the village locals mill around chatting. Horses are tied up everywhere and the 3 shops sell their simple wares. The one or two streets are made of sand and there is almost no distinction where the beach ends and the village begins. When night falls the village becomes silent except for the wind and waves roaring.
You stumble around in the sand with your torch and choose between one of the 2 restaurants, both completely olde-world style (cooking our own food at home was also still a huge novelty for us though!). We heard about a third restaurant by a beach which took alot of wandering down pitch black sandy pathways to find. It was lit with candles and was basically an old man`s house. He cooks a different dish each day and serves it at a few tables in his front room. It was so cosy and romantic – filled with shells, candles,fishing nets, postcards from past customers and trinkets.
Its strange to think there could be criminals in a place like this but it seems there are. Two nights ago, after a long game of poker with some other travellers and locals we wandered home at about 4.30am and could see a man walking around on the lower balcony in the torchlight. He didn’t see us and was obviously startled by our arrival. He spun us some story about being lost and looking for a road.. blatantly impossible in a village of about 2 roads and a beach. We were sure he wouldn`t have been able to get in anyway so felt lucky, but the next day I realised he had stolen 3 pairs of my knickers off the washing line! Fernandez asked us to give a description of the man to the police and there followed a comical police interview with me trying to describe my 3 pairs of knickers in Spanish to them!
We had planned on 3 days here, we left today after 6 days and even that was hard.We were just getting to know the people and beginning to feel right at home. It really is my favourite place in our trip so far, and not somewhere I will ever forget!