Punta del Este is a very modern resort town with lots of high rises, designer shops and a harbour with loads of expensive boats – I love wandering through and looking at the sailboats. One day we’d love to get a sailboat and head off round the world – complete with dive gear!! It’s very popular holiday location with rich Argentineans and Brazillians as well as local tourists. It’s also the location of the famous ‘hand in the sand‘ sculpture. I have to admit from what I’d heard I wasn’t expecting to like it a lot, but to my surprise there was a very relaxed atmosphere to the place. There are several pretty beaches, due to the location on a peninsula there are calm waters on one side and bigger waves and lots of surfers the other side, even the landscape changes between the different sides. There is a fairly large population of friendly sea lions that come to the harbour every day when the fishermen come in to sneak a free meal when they gut the fish. Another suprise in Uruguay was the prevalence of Mate, it seems to be a national obesssion here. I thought that the Argentineans loved it (which they do) but the Uruguayans take it to the next step and everyone walks around with a mate cup in their hand and flask tucked under their armpit – there seems to be no-where that its inappropriate to take your mate, walking round the supermarket, the cinema, driving in your car, in restaurants. everywhere you go you see groups of people just chilling our sharing mate too! It’s a very social thing and there are unspoken customs around it although as a foreigner they won’t mind as much if you don’t know them.
After the rich upmarket area of Punta del Etse we headed next to Cabo Polonio, a small village on a headland further up the coast. It’s a bit of a hippie village and there are no roads or cars in the town. You can either walk in like we did, it’s about 7km and an hour so walking or you can get a truck in. The walk is pretty, over the dunes and we even spotted a couple of sand owls. There’s a lighthouse there and it’s a a pretty place to visit, we just popped in and had a look around for the day but there are places to stay if you wanted to stay longer and relax.