Devils and Widows...

Trip Start Feb 10, 2012
Trip End Feb 11, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hostel de la Viuda Punta del Diablo
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Santa Teresa National Park

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Monday, August 13, 2012

Why is Sebastian smiling?

Sebastian shares ownership of a great hostel, Hostel de la Viuda, in Punta del Diablo, Uruguay, with his girlfriend, Guada. This was potentially the best hostel we have stayed in throughout our travels so far and the most socially conscious hostel owner that we have come across. They carefully considered many things in the development and building of the hostel to make sure it was as suited as possible for travelers and backpackers. This included great spacious bathroom, big lockers for backpacks, high ceilings, a ginormous kitchen with tons of cookware and dishes, a pool, a pool house with a pool table, and a three story lookout. Having constructed perhaps the best hostel in all of Punta del Diablo, they considered what they should charge. Instead of just picking something near the going rate for surrounding hostels, they calculated what they should charge, so that they could live well, pay all the bills and save enough for upkeep of the hostel. When they finished they came up with a rate around 40 to 60% less than the neighboring hostels. They were again faced again with the decision to charge what everyone else was charging or charging what they needed. Resolute to have a great hostel for travelers and give them an optimal experience, they stuck with the rate they calculated. They serve as an inspiration for us, when faced with the decision to charge what the market will bear or what would fulfill their needs, they opted for a socially conscious decision. In the future if we face similar choices, we hope that we will be able to make similarly just decisions.

Leaving from Tucuman on what very well could be our last 20+ hour bus ride, we spoiled ourselves and spent the extra $15 per person to get the upgraded seats (really more of a bed). Once again we vegged out watching way too many movies and being spoiled with meals and wine along the trip. Our journey ended in Buenos Aires, where took a short walk along the port to jump on the next ferry to Uruguay.

Our ferry dropped us off in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. Colonia was originally settled by the Portuguese, but changed hands between Spain and Portugal many times in its 330 year history. Much of the time it served as a smuggler's outpost for getting items into the Spanish colonies along the coast of Argentina. As per our usual itinerary we walked up, down and all over Colonia. Our most enjoyed and scenic walk was along the coast to the Plaza del Toros Real de San Carlos.  We were excited to see the bull ring, which opened in 1910 with a capacity of 10,000 people. Unfortunately for the owners Uruguay outlawed bull fighting 2 years later and the building was abandoned. We arrived to find the building fenced off and inaccessible to the public. The massive structure was still impressive and left us wishing that we could explore it.

While it was a remarkable and historic town, we will remember Colonia as our mid-point in the trip. In true style we celebrated by drinking the Uruguayan liquor, espinillar, while watching the sunset from our front row seats on the rocky coast. We were cautiously optimistic about espinillar, as it had been described to us as a mix of whiskey and rum.  Well we should have let our caution win out, as it burnt our throats and nearly instantly gave us a hangover. (Disclaimer – we do tend to buy the cheapest or near cheapest variety of any liquor, so we can’t completely blacklist espinillar, but we certainly aren’t choosing it anytime soon). We went extravagant on our six month dinner as well and added sausage to our pasta that night!

Moving on from Colonia we headed to La Paloma, described as a nice beach town, without the tourism of nearby hotspot Punta del Este. Well we were wholeheartedly unimpressed with both the hostel selection and the town (given we arrived in the dead of winter) and after one night and a short beach walk we took a late bus to Punta del Diablo. Here we picked our way through sandy, muddy streets to find Hostel de la Viuda in the dark and rain. We entered, once again without reservations, to find Sebastian, Guada and her father slightly startled. There seemed to be a bit of confusion while we were asking if they had rooms available. Turns out they were actually closed, while they finished up some painting and building new furniture for the hostel.  However, they didn’t turn us back to the rain and quickly found a room for us. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the hostel, whether we were sharing meals with them (we made a true American dish, beer-can chicken and they reciprocated by making us tasty and traditional sausage sandwiches)or laughing with them when our hair clippers finally failed, leaving Dan with a half shaved head for a day.

We expanded our usual walking through town to nearby Santa Teresa National Park. It was a bit odd to walk through the park during its off-season. Instead of beaches, campsites and cabins packed with vacationing Argentinians and Uruguayans we were stared down by grazing cattle and chirped at by massive communities of birds that didn’t appreciate two gringos disturbing their otherwise quiet day. The park also had something akin to a zoo, and unlike many other "zoos" we have seen in South America actually appeared to try and create natural habitats for the animals. On our way out of the park we walked by Fortaleza de Santa Teresa, a fort built in 1762 by the Portuguese, and an exquisite greenhouse that reminded us of the conservatory in Longwood Gardens. Our remaining time in Punta del Diablo was spent walking the beach to the Widows' House, watching surfers and drinking beer at a well-placed bar overlooking crashing waves.

Sad to leave Punta del Diablo we headed on to Montevideo, we had a plane to catch in a couple days and wanted to explore the capital of Uruguay. We walked up and down Montevideo, walking along its coast line, through the city’s center and to the old port district. We also sampled two other common types of Uruguayan alcohol. The first, media y media, which is part sparkling wine and part white or red wine left us fairly unimpressed.  The second, grappamiel, which is made from alcohol and honey received mixed reviews. Dan found it too sweet, but Heidi liked the traditional version.  Neither one of us was a fan of the flavored versions. We had perhaps one of our favorite meals so far in the trip - chivitos. Chivitos are the national sandwich of Uruguay, and consists primarily of a thin slice of churrasco beef (or chicken), with mayonnaise, black or green olives, mozzarella, tomatoes, and commonly fried eggs and ham.

Our time in Uruguay passed very quickly, 10 short days, but we had a flight out (our first in six months) to head up to Manaus.  We were very excited to head up to the next stage of our trip, because we would be going with Heidi’s family to explore the Amazon.

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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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