So, we fly into Montevideo. And then we drive two hours to Punta del Este. I know that Punta is in Maldonado, as I’ve been told so. I assumed that the town was Punta del Este, but that’s not the case. Maldonado is a city. And it is right on our doorstep. This place is the Hampstead of Maldonado.
This morning I drove into the capital but I avoided the shopping district. Didn’t have time. I had to drop Dougie and then mission it back to the airport in order to carry extra luggage for ladies I’ve met before. The crew knew I would be empty on the rebound though, so I got a shopping list.
I’ve been issued with a company Pleo card. It makes things infinitely more pleasant. After Saudi and Sardinia I had to spend hours sorting through sweaty receipts. Here with Pleo it prompts me to add a receipt as soon as I buy something. Today I got the usual avalanche of random things, but I ended up in central Maldonado. Montevideo had not been very yielding of useful shops and the traffic was terrible, so I headed back and hit Maldonado, surprised to find it was a city. Evening found me pounding the streets looking for things that should be simple. 25 litre canisters and a simple clear A3 plastic folder sealed with a popper. Those were the elusive things. I started the old familiar game of ping pong. You go into the shop and ask for the thing. You show a photo. They shake their heads and try to sell you a slightly different thing that is no good. You shake your head. They point down the street and say words. You follow their finger and try the next place. You keep doing that until you go back on yourself and when that happens you change district.
I know the city of Maldonado pretty well now. It’s unusual.
A businessman called Pedro has put speakers on top of his car like out of The Blues Brothers. He has called himself “Pedro Publicidad”. He’ll drive around advertising whatever you want.
The streetside parking is on a very very quick turnover, and someone has issued homeless people with high vis and given them the brief of helping people park. It is actually quite useful most of the time. I’m going to remember to have cash next time. They stop the traffic so you can reverse, they tell you when you’re about to touch the next car. I found myself in a position where the car in front of my pickup had parked touching me and the one behind had left an inch. With one guys help I was able to get the thing out of that squeeze much easier than it would have been without him.
It’s a CITY in there though. Like a US city but pedestrianised better. I crossed the town square a few times in my quest. It is dominated by General Artigas, hero of Uruguayan independence. This place was Spanish, then annexed by Brazil, then in federation with Argentina, and since 1828 it has had independence.
I like it here. It’s quirky and whoever is in charge is clearly idealistic and trying to dig people out of poverty. The mood is upbeat. Even the graffiti is considerably less angry than Sardinia – much more tagging, art and jokes, less politics. It’s strangely happy here on the surface. Everything is much more expensive than I could have imagined though… And I’m only scratching the surface.
I got the canisters. The A3 pouch is proving elusive…