Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Written by Toby Cowling
Montevideo to Piriapolis
This bus would cost 168 pesos ($8) for about 1.5 hours of travel. Not exactly cheap on travel here.
I initially had my mind set on staying at a campsite near Pan de Azucar but when I saw that the campsite across the road from the Bus Station was nearly empty (only 1 other tent visible) I changed my mind and stayed there (170 pesos / $8) for the night.
I then caught the local bus (25 pesos / $1.20) to the entrance to the Pan de Azucar park where I would find a really good animal park. This was all for free and had some really interesting animals that weren’t hiding. There were lots of cats such as mountain lions, leopard, tiger and so on. There were some foxes and even several types of owls that were out in the open.
I knew there was rain in the forecast, so I got on quickly with the hike. This is Uruguay’s 3rd highest point at 425m in altitude. The highest peak is nearby at some 600m, so an easy one to tick off if you can find a way to get there. I got to the top after around 40 minutes of hiking. There were some quite large rocks to climb up and over, but the trail was very clearly marked with yellow arrows. Considering it was free, it was really well maintained. The high point is marked by a rather large cross that you can climb inside. Definitely worth the extra 5 minutes.
I got quite lucky when I was up there. I got a photo and then a matter of 3 minutes later a huge set of clouds surrounded the top of the hill causing a near complete white out. I took this as my signal to get out and quickly. I was down at the highway in around 30 minutes. I ended up walking all the way back to town, around 6km and mostly downhill.
I imagine this town is very popular in summer but was very quiet when I was there. The beachfront was quite nice, but they were doing major renovations on the waterfront road and sidewalk while I was there. It still made for a nice sunset location.
My next destination was more awkward to get to than I’d hoped. I needed a 6.25am bus (32pesos / $1.50) to the town of Pan de Azucar followed by waiting for 40 minutes and a 7.30am bus (221 pesos / $10) to La Paloma taking 1.5 hours. This is again a small town with not much to do. Luckily with it still being quiet season and most campsites still closed, a local told me I could camp anywhere for free and not get in trouble. So far accommodation had been a big budget killer, so I didn’t pass up the opportunity.
I spent the rest of the day wandering the town and finding a secure location to camp.
The lighthouse is probably the highlight of the town.
This had been talked about as off the beaten track and really natural. I think this is very misleading. It once might have been, but now it’s full of people on the tourist trail. There was even a group of school kids doing it as a day trip. I took the 6am bus (95 pesos / $4.50) that would take 45 minutes to get me to the very new and very tourist oriented entry to the park. The bonus of being up this early was the stunning sunrise that came up over the beach as we drove past it.
The option at the entrance is to take a big truck (170 pesos / $8 return) or walk the 7km each way. Again trying to stay on budget, I took the walking option. It was 7am and I had a full 24 hours to be back at this exact same point, so I was in no rush.
This park has no entrance fee either, so it could turn into a very cheap day. I did have all my gear with me, so walking in loose sand with 20kg+ was not a lot of fun. You should carry in your own water which if it’s hot and sunny should be a couple of litres per day. After about 3km, I found a spot to drop my big pack so I could come back and get it that night and find a spot to camp for free. This meant the remaining 4km of walking was a whole lot easier.
The first view of the beaches and town were really quite nice after coming through the dunes.
My mind did quickly think there were a lot of holiday homes on the main hill next to the lighthouse. When I eventually reached the town itself, there are a whole lot more holiday houses around.
The major attraction again was the lighthouse. Do you see a theme here? The other thing is the sea lions that are in front of the lighthouse. This was actually quite good and with it being free, I felt a little bit like I was in the Galapagos again.
The weather was not behaving today and it looked like a storm was closing in. I knew I had an hour or more hike to get to my pack plus another 30 more minutes to find a camping spot. I abandoned my plan for sunset viewing and left around 3pm to get setup for the night. The rain got stronger until I finally had my tent up around 5pm and the rain would storm for the next few hours.
Punta del Diablo
I was waiting for the 6.45am bus to arrive and trying to dry my tent out. Last night rained a lot with lots of lightning. At one point I woke up wondering if aliens were attacking because there was a lot of white flashing lights but no sounds of thunder. I would arrive at Punta del Diablo around 8.15am and have a 15 minute walk to the hostel of my choice, Hostel de la Viuda. The rain was slowly clearing but the day would be full of heavy storms followed by sunshine until late in the afternoon.
I again was met with the typical Uruguayan problem of not being able to check in early. At least check in was at 11am here so I could keep myself busy with wifi and figuring out where to next. The plan was only 1 night here before a long trek to Iguazu Falls.
When the weather cleared in the afternoon I went to the bus terminal to buy my outgoing ticket and then go exploring a bit further. The only real thing I found of interest was a pair of woodpeckers and some potential life threatening cows who were very interested in what I was up to.
Santa Teresa Park
The next day would be a full day out to the nearby Santa Teresa park. Thankfully this place is free because there is next to nothing to see. You pay to see the fort (30 pesos / $1.50) and this is worth it. Nothing else in the park is worth seeing. Just go walk the many long beaches instead. Inside the park are a bunch of roads designed for cars to go on from point to point. Realistically, there’s nothing to see at any other point in the park. If you like hiking long kilometres on straight roads in the blinding heat, then you’ve found your heaven.
I started the hike from the hostel and hiked all the way up the beaches to the fort. You can cheat and take a bus from town to the fort and hike back if you wish. Ask when the opening hours are, because on Sunday it wasn’t open until 1pm. The beach hike was fantastic and leaving the hostel at 9.30am there were very few people at most beaches unless it was a point with road access through the park.
In the end I spent a total of 10 days in Uruguay and got the cost down to US$20.50 per day. This is about as cheap as you could go without hitchhiking and not paying for accommodation. This was split by these categories averaged per day:
As you can see, even with 3 free nights (1 spent on a bus and at a bus terminal, 2 camping) plus another night of camping at $8 for the night, accommodation was still not cheap. Transport really hurt and probably not helped by trying to cover around 1,250km in that amount of time. Compared to other countries though, transport is really expensive and prices are set amongst companies, so no discounts to be found that I know of.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/