Arrival in Punta

Punta del Este. Two hours drive eastwards of Montevideo. A long time ago this little patch of Uruguay was favoured by what I’ve had described to me as “dirty money people” from Argentina and Brazil.

Driving out from the airport it was the familiar South America vibe of semi lawless streets with full pick-up trucks vying with each other as they pass angry roadside gardens loaded up with scrap and old fridges and dead cars. I’m driving a pickup as well. I fit right in but I’ve got no acceleration so I’m useless in the language of the road. It’s 2WD petrol. There’s no purchase in first and second gear, it just revs and rolls until it finally gains momentum in third. It has no numberplates, front or back, but the guy at Enterprise assured me that the stickers in the window were enough. He might be right too. The toll gates open for the benighted thing.

About an hour into the drive the suburbs begin to yield to agriculture. Pigs and chickens in gardens at first, then crops and vines, or grazing for cattle. You cross many rivers. The coast is always on the right but rarely visible from the road as the strand and the sea view has been taken up with properties. The further you go the wilder it gets until you swing into a slow turn and you start to notice the gates getting more impressive and forbidding. This is you approaching Punta del Este, and all the houses on the right suddenly have huge footprints, set back from the road, screened by trees, opening on the sea. Great big low rise clustered villas with panic rooms in case they work out what you did. Vast seaside landscapes, fifteen to twenty million a pop, where you can flip burgers on the barbeque in your Hawaiian shirt and fall asleep on your bed made out of cocaine. As the paunch spreads and the drive wanes you can live out your Scarface or Tony Stark fantasy overlooking the same patch of ocean as the good people of Buenos Aires just across the bay, but you can be in a country where you’re considerably less likely to have to deal with a weapon wielding psychopath that wants your coke-bed. It’s pretty safe, Uruguay. Or so I’m told. I’m not wearing my Rolex. But I’ve got my Fitbit on. I don’t think someone will cut my arm off for it here.

It’s a strange mix of money and poverty here. It’s also incredibly branded, mostly with banks and monetary instruments. These three photos were taken from the same place.

That’s my pickup without plates

Visa and American Express are everywhere, and Santander gets a good look in. Some smaller names and boutique banks get their signage too. But signage is LOUD here. All down the roadsides are great big billboards, often marring otherwise gorgeous vistas.

Nevertheless, cash is still king here in South America, as it is in much of the world. I’ve withdrawn 200 quid in Pesos. 10000. Unlike London, the people working the tills can still count. They don’t resent you for having to cash up at the end of the day. And I’ve worked out a quick conversion. Deduct two decimal places and double it. Pesos to pounds.

My first purchase was a Panama Hat. My second purchase was two empanadas. Now my jet lag is setting in and I might have to find food before I sink into a proper sleep after that plane. I’ll find out more about what is actually going on tomorrow.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: