Punta del Este, Uruguay

Trip Start Jun 07, 2009
Trip End Aug 23, 2009

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

"Wax it, tan it, buff it at the gym and then go to Punta del Este", thats how the Lonely Planet begins its describtion of Punta del Este, a beach resort city that attracts loads of visitors from Montevideo but it even more from Buenos Aires.  Argentians jokingly refer to it as a suburb of Buenos Aires, which is not too kindly received by the more laid back Uruguayans.  In fact, many of the condos an mansions by the sea and above the beach outside of town are owned by wealthy Argentinians.  I suppose its the same as Massholes flooding Maine each summer or New Yorkers invading the Hamptons.   

The popularity of Punta del Este stems from it being the eastern point of the Mar de Plata, and the closest town to Montevideo and Buenos Aires with direct exposure to the Atlantic Ocean and its clearer water.  Over the past this drew the Argentinians, which then built up the tourist infrastructure, including fancy night clubs, restaurants, shops and yacht clubs, which subsequently drew other wealthy South Americans.  More recently, Punta's draw has not been limited to this continent.  Oscar de la Renta reportedly just purchased a condo for $8 million USD located above the beach outside of town. While we were having dinner one night, we overheard a Russian speaking to a local real estate agent, in english, about a mutual Russian friend who had bought a lot for $6 million USD.  Cha-ching!

Luckily for us, the vibe in Punta is very low key in the off season and the place was almost a ghost town during our stay. We pulled into the bus station at 9 pm, found our hostel and grabbed some food. The hostel, Hostel 1949, was the nicest one we've visited on this trip so far and at $25 per night for a private room with private bath it was a steal relative to the hotels and pousadas in town.  It was located at the begining of the peninsula that comprises the older, main section of Punta del Este, which has some highrises but most of the buildings in this area are only a few stories tall.  On one side of the 1 km wide peninsula is the Bahia(bay) de Maldonado, which was visible from the hostel lounge, and the other is the Atlantic Ocean.

We had to log a 12 mile run for our marathon training, and this was a perfect place to do it. We´ve found that running is a great way to see a city, even if it means dodging charging stray dogs. You get to see a lot in a short period of time with a more focused perspective than that from a car.  The highlight of Punta del Este is the rambla, or waterfront walkway,that circumnavigates the peninsula. Towards the halfway point of our run, the rambla followed sand dunes that stretched for another 10 miles or so up the coast.  We decided to run back along the beach and from this side it seemed that the dunes were taking over the city in a man versus nature kind of way. 

After one night, we decided to catch a bus farther up the coast to a small seaside town, La Pedrera. 

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