After a heavy couple of nights in Montevideo I had to hit the road north to the windswept hippie haven of Punto Del Diablo. I’m a bit disappointed that I hit this place overtired for just one night. Everyone speaks very highly of the place but I just wasn’t really in the frame of mind for it. I do struggle at times with the sometimes self-indulgent hippie counter-culture ethos. Trust Fund public school kids “dropping out”, or people scraping by by selling beads or somesuch to pay for their weed. Anyway I recognise these are my prejudices so thought I may as well throw myself in at the deep end and challenge these by sleeping in a VW and shitting in a bucket. I kid you not.
A rusty old car with doors that won’t close, allowing a range of bugs to visit, is probably not the best idea when trying to recover from two heavy nights and hours on the road. But no sympathy please, it’s all of my doing and I’m very fortunate I know. Maybe I should have helped myself to some of those strange looking tomato plants that spring up in these kinds of places, that might have lightened my mood..
Punto Del Diablo itself is pretty windswept, wild and undeveloped by usual seaside standards and this adds to its charms. The commercial seafront centre is made up of wooden huts topped with grass roofs and pedestrian only sand/mud footpaths. Of course the inevitable handmade jewelry sellers and hair corn-rowers are there, but not overbearing. The weather was overcast and a bit wild and woolly but that added to the vibe rather than detracting from it.
Uruguay, Brazil, Uruguay…erm..hang on…!!??
My journey got off to an “interesting” start the following day. As usual I plonked the co-ordinates into my every reliable sat-nav and headed on my merry way. Pretty weary from lack of VW sleep, but delighted to be hitting the road for a pretty long leg across the middle of Uruguay. I had to do a second take though when I saw signs fast approaching ahead for “aduana” (customs) – what the hell? I knew I was near the Brazil border but have no intention of going to Brazil, I haven’t got the right bike paperwork for a start.
A quick cross check on Google Maps confirms that actually the road just approaches the border town of Chuy then takes a sharp left, staying inside Uruguay. OK then. I carry on following the sat nav and pick one of three lanes, but very quickly things took a strange turn. I entered a town centre, a town centre that looks pretty run down even by the standards of some of the run down centres I’ve already seen. Hang on, all these number plates are Brazilian, wait… the people look different, bollocks!! I think I’m in Brazil. The sat nav then sent me onto a dirt road heading into an even shadier looking part of town… this shit just got serious! I’ll end up like one of those stupid gringo tourists taking a wrong turn and getting jacked through stupidity. What if I get stopped by the cops? I haven’t even had my passport stamped. They’ll want a bribe. Or worse. Wait I don’t even have any Brazilian money. Why are those people looking at me? For a few brief moments, I was in an unhappy place.
Anyway, the road firmed up into tarmac and seemed to be leading out of town. Maybe that was just a left turn like google suggested. Hmmm… the roads look a bit better now, maybe I will be OK. Oh NO! “Aduana”, “all vehicles must stop”. I dutifully stop and a man in uniform approaches. “Sorry mate!!! What country am I in?” “Where does this road go?”. Mercifully, I establish that I am in fact in Uruguay and the road continues into Uruguay. If I want Brazil (I don’t) I need to turn back to the town I came through.
In this world of Brexits and Mexican walls, it turns out that the border between Uruguary and Brazil is somewhat porous to say the least. A very soft (non-existent) frontier. Google suggests that the border actually runs down the middle of the town but for all intents and purposes it’s a Brazilian town. Well at least I can tick off another country from my list of those visited, even if it was by accident!!!