A Gloomy Riverfront and a Walk Along a Peninsula

1 Dec

Punta del Este is a resort town perfectly situated on a peninsula, which means no matter what direction I walked, I was almost guaranteed to run into a beach. The beaches are bordered with what look like brand new highrises that must have amazing water views. Indeed, most of Punta del Este’s seaside is under construction, which I think is because it is a booming holiday destination. Oh, if only I had a few extra hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in a vacation home here.

New highrises across the street from the beach in Punta del Este

Located on the southern coast of Uruguay, Punta del Este is reachable from Buenos Aires via ferry and bus. The ferry from Buenos Aires over the ugly brown Río de la Plata to Uruguay drops its passengers off in Colonia, a quiet and quaint town that is the oldest in Uruguay.

A jostling ferry that would have derailed any seasick prone passenger (thankfully, I’m not) and did derail an entire wall of duty-free perfume for sale, took Daniela (a German girl I met at my hostel in Buenos Aires) and I to Colonia. Unfortunately, we only had about an hour to explore the charming historical town before we had to board a bus to our respective destinations in Uruguay. (She was heading to the beaches of Piriápolis, while I would be spending the next day in Punta del Esta.)

Wind attacking me on Colonia's gloomy coastline

After a quick lunch at a cafe, we hurried down the main street of the tiny town to the murky river. Colonia is a cheerful and inviting town but its coastline is not. We had time to take a few windy pictures of the gloomy river before we had to head back to the bus terminal. We doubled back through the town on a pleasant tree-lined cobblestone street, passing a stark white lighthouse, a city gate and drawbridge, and a neighborhood of immaculate flat-roofed houses, and made it to our bus with plenty of time to spare.

The Colonia lighthouse

The bus deposited me in the middle of the peninsula of Punta del Esta, so I did not have an immediate view of the beaches. It was late and I was quite exhausted from my early morning wake-up for the ferry, so I hurriedly dragged my suitcase the few blocks to my hostel and conked out to a Keeping Up With the Kardashians episode on E! (Yes, there was a TV in my hostel room with channels in English and no, I cannot resist watching the Kardashians when they are readily available on my TV.)

Now that is a nice view to run by.

The next day I decided would be the day when I would begin running again. For a few years now I have wanted to run a marathon. In fact, it’s on my list of things to do before I’m 30. Since that big day is looming quite near now, I won’t be knocking this off the list in time, but I see no harm in being just a few months late in this accomplishment. I do tend to procrastinate with most things, anyway.

It is much easier to go for a run when you have oceanfront scenery to look at. I started the morning with a short jog along the shoreline near my hostel. The view of huge waves clamoring onto khaki sand and an iTunes selection of Christmas music helped me through the painful run.

The Hand

After a shower, I decided to traverse the perimeter of Punta del Este’s peninsula. I hit the beach and just started walking. At Brava Beach, I encountered an enormous sculpture of a hand that reaches out of the sand. “The Hand” is said to be situated in the spot that the Río de la Plata ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. I stopped and stared out at the walloping waves of the ocean (or river) for a while, getting lost in the fierceness and yet peacefulness of the thunderous water.

Brava Beach

When I reached the tip of the peninsula, I detoured inland up a hill where a lighthouse stands watching over a small park and a neighborhood of intriguing houses, each of which has its own unique allure and a creative name, including one cleverly named “The House.” The houses are new and modern or old but maintained, colorful or white, charming or swanky, sharp and simple or adorned with intricate carvings and embellishments. It must be really fun to be an architect in Punta del Este.

A house called "Land's End" in the charming hill neighborhood of Punta del Este

The neighborhood felt like such a happy, calm, quiet, safe, and sunny place, it seemed like nothing bad could ever happen there. All I could hear were birds, the ocean, and far-off intermittent construction noises.

I strolled back down the hill to the edge of the peninsula and continued on my beach walk. When I reached the yacht marina on the other side of the peninsula, it was time for lunch with a view of the luxurious boats.

The yacht marina

Fully satiated with a blue cheese baked potato and fruit cocktail, I kept walking on a boardwalk that hugged the beach. The beaches were surprisingly uncrowded. (I think I was about a week too early for the summer holiday crowds.)

When I had successfully circled the main part of the peninsula, I rewarded myself with an afternoon sprawled on the warm sand of the Mansa Beach dozing and attempting to read Les Misérables.

Boardwalk on Mansa Beach

On the way back to my hostel that evening, I happened upon a reputable-looking hair salon. In desperate need of a haircut, I charaded with hand gestures to the friendly Spanish-speaking stylist my desire for a trim. I’m not sure how, but she understood me and gave my hair a respectable pick-me-up.

A successful haircut despite the language barrier

Despite my luck that we were successful in communicating, I realized that I need to learn Spanish. I’m not sure how this will be accomplished, but I must do it.

It was 8pm, and my new hair-do and I were ready for dinner. I passed restaurant after restaurant, but they were all completely empty. Well, I guess all the restaurants are closed, I thought. I stopped in the supermercado for some snacks to tide me over until breakfast the next day. Only later did I realize that the restaurants were all open, I was just way too early for dinner. It seems many Latin Americans don’t eat dinner until 10 or 11pm. (Now these are my kind of people!)

Tomorrow I will catch a bus to continue my tour of Uruguay’s southern coastline.

One Response to “A Gloomy Riverfront and a Walk Along a Peninsula”

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  1. Colonia Express | Lucas Learns to Tango - January 17, 2012

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