Devil’s Point

14 Dec

With the outskirts of Montevideo behind us, we join Uruguay’s Ruta Nacional 9, a lightly trafficked, two-lane affair, which rides the country’s southern rim, connecting it to the Atlantic coast. Hemmed in by sprawling ranches or estancias, the highway meanders through gently undulating countryside, as it makes its way east.

The estancias here are known to rear some of the best cows in the world, and as a result, the tastiest beef too. In this, the heart of Uruguay’s farm belt, don’t be too surprised if you come across signs displaying crossing times for cattle…

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The 290-mile (~470-km) slog to Punta del Diablo has taken us the better part of six hours, and by the time we get there it’s pitch dark and fairly chilly. Good thing Il Tano, an Italian restaurant that comes highly recommended, is right around the corner. Its cozy dining hall and crackling fireplace offering the perfect antidote for our long journey.

On the recommendation of a friend, we’ve chosen to stay at Cabañas Los Bossas, and at first light, we are more than thrilled with our decision…

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The town of Punta del Diablo is little more than a patchwork of dirt roads, all of them eventually leading to the ocean. Zoning regulations have thus far kept it free of high-rises and chain hotels, and just as well. Nestled on a gently sloping hill, the cabañas, typically never more than 3-stories high, ensure that pretty much anyone living here gets at least a sniff, if not more, of the Atlantic.

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We’ve showed up here in November, which is technically the tail end of the low season. High-season kicks off next month, running through Easter, and during those months the towns population will swell to over 20,000 sun-seekers. For the moment though, it’s in the low hundreds, meaning that we practically have all 3 of Punta del Diablo’ sandy stretches to ourselves…

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Punta del Diablo means Devil’s Point, the town getting its name from a rocky promontory that extends almost 600-feet out to sea. The point is marked by a monument to General Artigas, the country’s national hero. Surrounding that little monument are large, clam-studded rocks, so beautifully-weathered that they appear to have been sculpted. This is, for all practical purposes, Punta del Diablo’s open-air gallery…

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The little hamlet first appeared on the tourist map less than a decade ago, when Lonely Planet ranked it amongst the Top 10 places to visit in 2008. Before that, it was known only to locals interested in surfing, and to those Brazilians living within earshot of the border. Its beginnings are even more humble. It started out as a fishing village, inhabited by immigrants from the Galician coast, whose descendants persist to this day with the older tools of the trade.

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So tiny is this town that there’s really only one named street here, Avenida de los Pescadores, or Avenue of the fishermen. As you’d expect, there are a handful of fishmongers to be found along it, who receive their catch each morning, when the fleet returns from sea. A smattering of restaurants can be found around Avenida de los Pescadores – many more open their doors during the high season – and almost all of them buy their seafood from these very fishmongers.

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So make no mistake, that fillet on your plate this afternoon is as fresh as it gets – sea to table, done right!

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Mornings in Punta del Diablo invariably begin with a visit from one of the local canines. The town has no shortage of them and they’re also some of the friendliest your likely to encounter, anywhere. They’re some of the healthiest you’ll see too. Plenty of Vitamin D for the taking; a dip in the ocean if they feel like cooling off; a gentle breeze to lull them into slumber, and plenty of crowd sourcing at hand for their nutrition and TLC needs. Life, sometimes, really is a beach…

#puntadeldiablo #uruguay #oceanoatlantico #dogsofpuntadeldiablo

As it turns out here, humankind can have it almost as good. Sleep in every other morning; lounge in your hammock most of the day, and if your feeling especially energetic, brave the waters (its a tad chilly this time of the year) for a refreshing dip in the Atlantic. Or then simply take leisurely, purposeless strolls along the town’s beaches, where the off-season headcount typically doesn’t exceed single digits…

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Despite very respectable surf levels, even the surfing school here is closed during low season. So if your hankering a little more activity, drive about 20-minutes out of town, along the road leading north towards Brazil. Halfway along that road lies Parque Nacional de Santa Teresa, one of Uruguay’s premier national parks. Its sprawling acreage, rich in flora and fauna, has plenty within to keep you occupied for the better part of a day.

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Towards the northern end of the park, no more than a dozen miles from the border town of Chuy, stands Fortaleza de Santa Teresa, a grand fortification begun by the Portuguese in 1762, but only completed some 3 decades later, after its capture by the Spanish. Its custodian today is the Uruguayan military, but back then, it really could have gone either way!
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As you’d expect, Parque Nacional de Santa Teresa is a seaside park, with several miles of coastline to its credit, home to no less than four distinct beaches. Hard to believe, but they’re even less frequented than those at Punta del Diablo! In the half hour we’ve spent wandering these sands, this surfing duo and a couple of local canines are all we’ve encountered. Pristine, redefined.
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On our way back to Colonia del Sacramento, we break for lunch at Punta del Este, the country’s most visited destination, and the crown jewel of the Uruguayan Riviera.

With an expansive marina sporting the latest watercraft, poser cars cruising along its main drag, manicured promenades, and Miami-style residential towers, it’s a far cry from the rustic environs we’ve left behind in Punta del Diablo…

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For its convenient location, and a large sun-drenched deck, we’ve chosen Virazón for lunch, and while the seafood here is definitely palatable, it’s their Caipirinha that really shines. Besides, when you’re this close to the Brazilian border, that’s one drink they’re least likely to screw up. Saúde!

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A full set of pics from my visit to Punta Del Diablo can be seen on my Flickr.

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One Response to “Devil’s Point”

  1. Rangachari Anand January 23, 2016 at 8:05 am #

    Loved this travelogue. I had to look up the places on Google Earth to see where all you had gone 🙂

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