• Christmas in Punta del Este, Uruguay

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogBubbles on a Uruguayan beach isn’t a bad way to spend Christmas Day

    Punta del Este is a sweet little peninsula city on the southern tip of Uruguay that we were told would be ONE GIGANTIC WILD PARTY during December. It’s the place where famous models hang out on the balconies of million dollar condos and where the wealthy set of Argentina flock to party away the summer. During the year there’s only 15,000 residents but in the warmer months that figure swells to around 200,000 people all looking for a good time.

    So, WE WERE EXCITED. Mainly at the possibility of partying with Snoop Dogg because, of course, Snoop Dogg would most definitely be there. We scored an over-priced taxi at the airport and made it to the hotel that we would call home for a week. After fumbling through yet another conversation in a language we didn’t speak, the receptionist led us to our room on the 9th floor. We could see the ocean far off in the distance so headed towards it in the hopes of finding something to eat. Now at this moment you would love us to tell you that we stumbled on into Claudia Schiffer’s house party and sipped champagne until the wee hours, right? We wish we could tell you that too. Unfortunately this long, winding walk to find something, (anything!) to eat was the beginning of a very quiet week. We walked for about 40 minutes before we managed to find a restaurant that was actually open and serving food. No beats blaring from beach parties and no sexy models in sight. We put the lack of action down to it being a weeknight relatively close to Christmas. There will be parties, we told ourselves, there will be gigantic wild parties.

    As the week cruised along and Christmas came closer we hired bikes to get around (Punta stretches across a large area and if you don’t have a car, you simply can’t get around) and began exploring the city. The coast is lined with houses that you could only dream of owning – each one complete with their own personal gardener and sprinkler system – majority looked as though no one had entered them for months. We continued our mission to find some nightlife and rode our bikes around town until our legs hurt. We asked barmen, waitstaff and anyone who spoke English where we could find the parties. One night we rode an hour and a half to La Barra where we were told the clubs were, only to eat a chivito (the national dish, which is essentially a steak sandwich) and ride straight back. PUNTA WAS DEAD. THERE WAS NO PARTY.

    By the time Christmas rolled around we’d grown used to the sleepy atmosphere – we ventured to the beach, read books, slept and watched films. On Christmas morning we exchanged gifts and ate a supermarket roast chicken. And then, on the day we left to catch our flight out of there, we saw scaffolding being built for concerts and vehicles piling into town. The party was about to start.

    If only we’d stayed a week later. It’s safe to say, we really missed the party. And Snoop Dogg.

    Punta del Este really is a stunning place – the streets are immaculate and you feel safe at all times. If you’re after a super chilled quiet time, it would be ideal any time of the year. But if like us you want to see the nightlife and party atmosphere Punta is so famous for, plan your time well – don’t do a Chelsea and Stu. Make sure you arrive towards the end of December and definitely DON’T spend Christmas there (unless your wealthy uncle has a mansion and people who will cook you roast turkey).

    Thing to do in Punta del Este:

    • hire a car
    • stay in La Barra
    • don’t expect big parties over Christmas
    • eat a Chivito Canadiense (Uruguayan steak sandwich)
    • visit the giant fingertips sculpture

    We are producing these posts as participants in Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders community.

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogStu took this beautiful shot of the pier the first night we were in town

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogWe cycled everywhere and most of the beaches were empty

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogFancy boats crowd the main port area of Punta del Este – there were hundreds (if not, thousands) of them

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogThe quiet rocky shore

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogWe have no idea who built this table in the middle of the water, but it made a pretty good pedestal 

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogThe walkway out to the table

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogMuscle shells covered some areas of the shore

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogJogging along the water

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogRest, Punta del Este

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogMonumento al Ahogado – this giant hand sculpture is constantly flanked by people taking photos

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogStu downing beer by the beach – we could get pretty used to this

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogIndulging in a local “chivito” which is basically a steak sandwich

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogPunta was deathly quiet the entire time we were there

    Hunting the Bungle Travel BlogThe sunset as viewed from the top of the curvy bridge which joins Punta del Este to popular La Barra 

  • The city of São Paulo

    HuntingTheBungle-4804Derelict building, São Paulo

    Our quick visit to São Paulo acted as a stopover for us. After wrapping up a restful three days in Paraty, we hopped on a 6 hour bus towards the largest city in South America for just one night before our flight to Uruguay. From what we experienced the South American buses are incredibly comfortable – the seats recline so far back that it feels like you’re in a bed and the much appreciated pit stops seem to happen in two hour intervals. Stu decided it was culturally important to sample every weirdly-shaped fried food item he came across at the roadside diners along the way.

    People had warned us about safety in São Paulo and, as the bus entered the outskirts of town, we began to understand why. Around 10 million people live in the city and it seems as though there isn’t enough space for them all to go. There is an abundance of homeless people; women with small children in their laps begging on the sidewalk; people sharing tents in parks and some souls permanently setting up home beside highways. Graffiti is everywhere and an expat told us that in this city it isn’t unusual for wealthier families to have a bodyguard protecting both them and their houses at all times.

    We arrived at Lobo Urban Stay in Cerqueira César, our accommodation for the night, and rang the doorbell. No answer. After a couple more tries we smiled at the group of taxi drivers milling next door and managed to ask them where to get a beer while we waited. Through a series of hand signs and mimes (our Portuguese still had not improved by this point) they directed us to a local bar two blocks away. The streets were filled with Christmas spirit – crowds poured into stores for their last minute gift purchases, and groups of young people swarmed around outdoor tables at corner bars drinking in the festive cheer.

    After the managers of the hostel let us in an hour later, we went for a sushi dinner (by this stage of the trip we were seriously craving fresh food) and then spent the rest of the night bar-hopping before retiring to bed and then jumping on a plane the following morning.

    We are producing these posts as participants in Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders community.

    HuntingTheBungle-4618Crowds line the streets, waiting for tables to free up at restaurants and bars
    HuntingTheBungle-4676Christmas yarn bombing on a tree in the city centre
    HuntingTheBungle-4742Looking like real-life backpackers/nerdy tourists
    HuntingTheBungle-4697Hire bikes, São Paulo 
    HuntingTheBungle-4712Straight lines
    HuntingTheBungle-4745In a cab on our way to the airport
    HuntingTheBungle-4721Pastel building, São Paulo
    HuntingTheBungle-4736The common area of Lobo Urban StayHuntingTheBungle-4749Some were certainly in full holiday mode, despite no beach in sight
    HuntingTheBungle-4851Stu shot this from a moving cab as we left the city
    HuntingTheBungle-4902São Paulo was our final Brazilian stop off before Uruguay. Thanks Lonely Planet for your useful tips!

  • What to do in Paraty Brazil

    HuntingTheBungle-3981If you don’t want to trip over while in Paraty, remember to keep looking down

    I told Stu we were stopping off in Paraty because, let’s face it, any destination that has the word ‘party’ in it’s name is most definitely worth a visit. He agreed, so we kissed Ilha Grande goodbye, hitched a boat ride to the mainland and awaited our bus, which turned out to be overbooked. For 20 minutes we stood watching the bus boss and the booking dude argue in Portuguese about what to do with us, before we were thrust into a taxi (complete with ‘I love Jesus’ stickers on the back windscreen and constant Portuguese gospel tunes blaring) and driven the entire 3 hours south to Paraty, at no extra cost. Thanks bus company!

    Paraty is a small colonial town which was put on the map during Brazil’s 18th century gold rush. Set against a backdrop of mountains, nowadays there is no gold to be found, but if you’re searching for relaxation, this is the place to be. Everyone seems to be kicking back; even the waiters at restaurants just hang out in doorways – you pretty much have to wave a flag to order a drink. Without a single skyscraper in sight, it’s a charming place to wander through and as the lazy beach area blends into the historic town, you discover the real beauty of Paraty’s architecture and realise why it’s referred to as “the jewel in the crown of Costa Verde”. Of all the cobblestones we have tackled in our travels, this town has the most difficult impressive. You almost need ninja-nimble feet to tackle the streets without hitting the deck. It’s entertaining to watch but hard to look up and stroll at the same time.

    We decided to book in three nights at a quiet place on the outskirts of town called Praia Selena and arrived close to dusk. While our taxi driver made the most of his large fare by heading to the beach (who wouldn’t!?), we checked in and met the owner Simon, a quick-witted Brit who told us he suspected he had a case dengue fever and might die. We gave him a pat on the back and he gave us the lay of the land, recommending where to get the best Thai food, pizza and beer.

    Travellers we had met told us the one thing to do in Paraty was to take a boat tour around the surrounding islands so we booked in a trip, lathered ourselves in sunscreen and headed out to sea on our second day. The waters are a piercing blue and if you hire snorkels, you can get a clear view of the tropical fish swarming below. The tour stopped off a number of times at isolated beaches where everyone jumped into the sea and fed fish for photos. For those who chose to stay on deck, there was a live band crammed beneath the stairwell playing tunes all day long.

    The truth? Paraty ain’t no party town (that we could tell), but it didn’t matter one bit. It’s a beautifully regal village and, apart from the street dogs brawling for your leftover food, is one place where the serenity is in abundance. Three nights is the perfect fit – we spent the remainder of our time attempting to kayak and sitting by the water reading books, wondering when we should order our next beer.

    What to do in Paraty Brazil:

    • Book a boat trip around Paraty – they normally go for 7 hours or so and you feel pretty deluxe. They’re full of leathery Brazilian men drinking too much beer and young families, but it’s ridiculously fun.
    • Eat at La Luna restaurant along the shore. The food is fantastic and the view is even better. Just don’t kick the dogs that hang around your feet, they bite.
    • Sample Cachaça Gabriela – it’s a locally made spirit that tastes like honey and cinnamon. The locals are extremely proud of it and are always willing to give you a taste!
    • If you’re tired of Brazilian food (we were after 3 weeks), eat at Thai Paraty – it’s better than most of the Thai joints back home.
    • Stay at Praia Serena - it’s a little out of town but right on the water and the Simon’s hospitality is fantastic. You’ll be pleased to know the doctor gave him the all-clear for dengue fever.
    • Learn how to pronounce ‘Paraty’ – locals actually call it ‘Parachi’.

    We are producing these posts as participants in Lonely Planet’s Pathfinders community.

    HuntingTheBungle-3945The seaside soccer pitch near our pousada was eternally busy
    HuntingTheBungle-4532The town centre is full of stunning architecture
    HuntingTheBungle-8226Headless Chelsea
    HuntingTheBungle-4041We ate pizza at Miracolo restaurant off the main square and taste tested the local Caborê beer
    DCIM116GOPROSnorkelling selfie in front of our boat 
    DCIM116GOPRONo fish were harmed in the making of this photo
    HuntingTheBungle-4120We continue to be baffled by Brazilian food menus. Just guess and point at what you think you will like
    HuntingTheBungle-4545Hanging out in front of a grand old buildingHunting the Bungle Travel BlogOur massive kayaking adventure
    HuntingTheBungle-4578Dirt tracks and Paraty sunsets
    HuntingTheBungle-4591The view from La Luna restaurant