Recently, I spent a long weekend in Uruguay. It was an amazing, refreshing adventure with a bunch of other Pitt students from my program and only a little bit of sun burn.
Our destination was Punta del Este––a fashionable beach town on the coast. To get there we took the ferry from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, then boarded a bus that took us to Punta del Este. You know when you’re there because, across the street from the bus station, right as the sand starts, an enormous hand reaches into the air. The prominent sculpture is called Los Dedos.
After my rapture with the giant fingers wore off, I noticed something strange. Punta del Este was entirely empty. Nobody was on the beach. Nobody was walking in the streets. Although the weather was still nice off season had struck. Already, at the beginning of March, all the beachgoers had returned to their lives back in the cities.
Near the port of Punta del Este, boats bobbed up and down in the docks. In the earie quietness, I could hear the wind blowing. We explored the empty beach town. We stopped and admired an open air religious monument.
Only a trickle of bars and restaurants were still open. The group spent a lot of time at Moby Dick—a bar/restaurant that stays open year-round and serves fancy cocktails and tasty sandwiches. Other meals consisted of delicious chivito (The Rex had the best chivito and a review from Anthony Bordaine himself), milanesa, pizza, french-fries, and milkshakes.
One of our nights was spent in a trendy hostel on the point of Punta del Este, the F&F Hotel. The other two nights, we stayed in a rustic airbnb in La Barra. La Barra had the perfect waves and sported a fun, young, laid-back surf culture. One morning we walked down to the beach and a surf competition was just starting up. People were chilling on the sand and rocks with their mate and cervesa. Tom Petty and the Beatles played on a big speaker, set up with a portable generator. There were at least 50 colorful surfboards resting in the sand. Out in the water ten to twelve surfers were always bobbing up and down in the water, waiting to catch waves and expertly ride them in.
From our towels on the beach, the Punta del Este lighthouse was just visible in the distance. At one point, a boy from our program stared off into the distance and said, “You know, with landscapes like these, I get how authors do it.” Sorry, Hemingway. We’re a little less impressed now.
The trip ended with another bus ride, a night in Montevideo, and one more ferry ride back to Buenos Aires. But, the relaxed, chill, coastal culture of Uruguay still fogs my memory.