Monday, September 16, 2013

Uruguay, so far.

We're in Punta del Diablo, Devil's Point, in the north of Uruguay, close to the Brazilian border. It started storming the day we arrived, and it hasn't stopped, not even for an hour. Overnight, the weather went from 30 degrees and sunny to 12 degrees wet wild and windy.
The horrible weather didn't stop these Punta del Diablo locals from enjoying the beach.

Punta del Diablo is a tiny fishing village with dirt roads, a handful of sheds, small shops and eateries, and the sort of picturesque cabins us tourists swoon over until the roof starts to leak.

At the frutería just outside a local supermercado.
We're told the village has a permanent population of more or less 1000. In summer, the number can swell to tens of thousands of mostly Brazilians, Argentinians and local Uruguayans who come to party, enjoy the summer sun, and surf. Because it's so small and fairly isolated, we've come here strictly to chill, not to see if it's a place we can retire in. (But who knows.)

 "¡Uruguay es muy caro!" locals have been telling us all week. Uruguay is very expensive. Who would have thought. But they're right. Prices of many things here, like petrol and utilities and even eating out, are surprisingly only slightly cheaper than in Sydney. 
These chewy caramelised coconut macaroons were 30 Uruguayan pesos each (about AUD1.50) and worth every centavo.

Here in Punta del Diablo, the Brazilian border town of Chuy is less than 40 kilometres away and locals drive there to shop and pump petrol. It still works out cheaper. As an affordable place to retire in, Uruguay wouldn't make our list. But in every other way, we love it. We can even imagine living here in this (currently) soggy village with gaping potholes carving up the dirt roads, no medical facilities to speak of for us oldies, and no permanent vet services for our precious pigdog.
Could cheap caipirinhas and good apple crumble be valid reasons for moving here?

As in other places we've visited in Uruguay, there are many street dogs in Punta del Diablo. The locals don't seem to mind them and, in fact, are very tolerant of their coming and going. Some wear collars and belong to people but are free to wander. 

"And this is how you dry yourself off when you haven't got a soft fluffy towel and hair dryer."
"You rub against the wall like this, up and down...
...up and down...

Others are collarless, thinner and presumably strays.
This little tyke scored a bone from the butcher in the supermercado.
We thought she was a stray, but the fruit and vege lady knows her and says her name is Maria.
"Don't you feel sorry for me, turista. I might be little but I know how to take care of myself."

In Punta del Este further south, the Riviera of Latin America and a bit like our Queensland Gold Coast (over developed, bloated, jaded and lacking anything interesting for me personally), we were told that many of the street dogs actually belong to people. Punta del Este, like many beach towns in Uruguay, only seems to have a small permanent population. Visitors come during summer, especially in January. When they leave, their dogs get left behind, so we were told, and the people who actually call Punta del Este home, then randomly feed and take care of them. Presumably until the errant owners return.
"Hola! Could I please come in for a pat and some food?"
"Gracias señora."
"Oi turistas, don't forget to leave me some scraps, okay?"

I can't verify this story and I'm not sure that I agree with this practice if it's true, but it seems to work, so who am I to judge.

What I can say is that the street dogs we've met so far, are not nervous of humans (as dogs that have been abused can be). Some are very naughty and like chasing and barking at cars and motorbikes which can be a problem. But apart from that, they're affectionate, well behaved and seem to understand their boundaries well.

These 2 came to our cabin for a feed today. There must be a local doggy grapevine because we find more and more dogs waiting for us each day.
"¡Buenos días! Are you the Cushion we've heard so much about?"
"What's on the menu today? Kibble? Bikkies? How about some bones?"
"Don't worry, we won't come in. You can feed us out here."

Honestly, their manners would put Georgia's to shame.

A few other perros del Uruguay.
The picture above and the 2 below, from Maldonado.
Can you spot the doggy in the picture above?

Picture A: The doggy below was in La Barra. It looks like she may have had a litter not too long ago.
Picture B: This dog lives in Punta del Diablo. Many (maybe even most) male dogs here are intact, which could be the reason why there are dogs like the one in Picture A.

This is Ollie from Barcelona, who now lives in Punta del Diablo with Sara and Leo, the lovely young couple we're renting our cabin from. (If you're thinking of visiting this place, I can't recommend them enough and you can email me for their details.)
Ollie's learnt to be a real dog here, Sara says, and is happier and more tranquila. Could this happen to Miss Pea if she comes here to live? The mind boggles.

Ollie kindly shares her home with 2 street dogs, Negrita..
...and Clarita.
Negrita and Clarita are free dogs who come and go as they please. They get fed every day by Sara and Leo. If Sara and Leo are away, they get fed by other families in the area. 
On cold rainy windy days like today, they also have a welcome spot by the fire at Sara and Leo's home.

I have to include these 2 pictures of Cushion in La Barra, cooing in his sweetest voice, trying to coax this dog to come up to him.
This might be the first time ever Cushion has been so pointedly ignored by a dog.
Look at his face! If looks could kill, the man would be dead.

Here are some other favourite shots from last week -

In Punta del Este.

In Maldonado.

Lots of vets and pet shops around.

In Jose Ignacio.

On the bus from Jose Ignacio to Maldonado.

Tomorrow, we head off down south again, to Piriápolis, then Atlántida, Montevideo and back across the Río de la Plata to Buenos Aires on Sunday. I hope the rain doesn't follow us! Until the next time we get good internet connection, adiós mis amigos! X


sagechronicles said...

Sage must have been one of those Uruguanian doggies drying their furs on a wall in a previous life. :) Love the pics--keep them coming!!


Los Perros of Uraguay are beautiful yet haunting.

Ruby said...

OMD!!! How amazin'!! What a lovely place!! I always wondered how doggies who didn't have carpet or furniture to dry off on, did it!! Now I know!! BOL
Now, Ma wants one of those delish cocktails, and I would like some scraps all the doggies seem to be scorin'!! (is is wrong that they have better manners than me????)
I love your shots of the girls (both shots), just great smiles!! Beautifuls. Made Ma smile real big!
Ruby ♥

Jean said...

As one who hates to travel, I do so enjoy living the life of a tourist vicariously! I especially enjoyed hearing about the street dogs there - we have a big brou-ha-ha here because so many people are bringing 'street dogs' home with them and/or importing them as rescues, instead of letting them live their culturally-different but apparently happy lives where they are. Thanks for helping me to better understand how they survive and how the locals relate to them.

Rose ~ from Oz said...

A post without featuring the local doggies just wouldn't be right, and you did not disappoint!
Love all the pics, fascinating place!
I'll be watching closely for your updates T!
(thank you for your sweet, sweet comment)
Take care of you and Cush!

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

Hey Typist, have you still got a roof? Geez, while I love reading about and seeing the local street dogs I can't help but wish someone would organise a spay and neuter drive. That's just me though. It seems the local dogs and people have got a good system going :)

Gorgeous colours for the shop fronts!

Frankie nearly had to dry himself off against a wall today after the foster dog stole the towel I was using on Frankie right out of my hands, lol!

Stay safe, keep dry and have fun :)

Molly The Wally said...

Looks like a brilliant adventure. We hope the weather improves for you. Have a marvellous Monday.
Best wishes Molly

georgia little pea said...

JEAN - I think you're very brave to tackle the situation in Canada, and I'm so sorry to hear about the fallout. I'm sure there are many badly treated and emaciated strays here in South America too (of course there are! as there are in Australia, Canada and the States). Puerto Montt in Chile immediately springs to mind as having some of the saddest street dogs I've ever EVER seen in my life. But I agree with you completely. I think local education and rescue would be the way to go, as opposed to exporting a few to other countries. Some issues are too complicated for a quick fix and it actually strikes me as being somewhat patronising.

I think many Westerners shake their heads at the, shall we say, "relaxed" style of dog ownership in Asia, South America and such places, but you know what? often, the dogs are (or appear to be) more independent, happier, less cranky and, to use the words of our host Sara, MORE LIKE DOGS. I love seeing how the dogs here handle tricky social/pack situations without human interference! Cultural differences in dog ownership is not the same as abusing a dog.

I hope you get a civil debate and a good resolution in Canada over the situation! Buen suerte! X

SUE - very good point! I didn't mention it and should have. There is a lady who organises a spay and neuter programme here in Punta del Diablo. A vet comes round once every few months (can't remember exactly how often) and does the for strays and at a nominal cost for dogs with owners. As you can imagine, there is some local resistance to neutering the males, especially among the men folk. Machismo! But Sara tells us they are slowly beginning to understand the merits of the programme.

I should also mention, there are no sweety poochy vets in the local area, only the sort that handle livestock. It was hilarious to hear Sara describe how her previously pampered, Barcelona bred dog Ollie gets "handled" at the vets here!

YES! We still have a roof but it was rough. The wind seems to have blown away some rain clouds. A sliver of sun this morning :D

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a cool post. That looks like a very interesting place to visit. I love all the doggie pictures.

Taryn said...

Thank you for sharing your trip! What a fascinating look at that part of the world. It is so very different from here in the US!

Anonymous said...

What an interesting post. I'm shocked that the Cushion could have a dog walk away from him. I would have thought he was known throughout the dog world.

altadenahiker said...

I really can't complain about your time between posts, since we get a NY Times-worthy photo essay when you do show up. `Is the dog with the big cojones a boxer?

Gotta love a village that takes care of it's own.

georgia little pea said...

JAN - I guess, like us humans, some dogs are not celebrity worshippers ;)

ALTA - it is indeed a boxer, named Ulysses. Impressive nuggets eh.

GizmoGeodog said...

Thank you so much! Uruguay is one of those places I know so little about and i love the tour...It's so interesting how relaxed the attitude is towards dogs and how well the dogs seem to adapt to this different from the uptight USA ...With all that foul weather I bet Pea is happy she's back on the farm, but one day she may be a friend of Oliver's never can tell...We'll be staying tuned for the next update

Barb said...

Cannot believe that Cushion was so blatantly ignored by a Golden Retriever! Looks like you're having an adventure (or - going to the dogs!). Stay safe and well.

Sherri said...

So great to hear from you again! Thank you for sharing the pictures. I enjoy seeing what other countries are like, and chances are I won't ever get to South America. "Is cheap caiparinha a reason to move?" Quite possibly...I got to go to Costa Rica a few years back, and I'd move there for the cheap and GOOD mojitos. Haven't had one that good since then. Thanks for dropping by and commenting on my blog....I am so irregular with updating it these days I'm surprised any still reads it. Lol. Safe travels for the rest of your trip and back home.

sonia a. mascaro said...

What a great reportage!
As I travel very little, barely, I enjoy seeing all these places you visit and I love your great photos too. Love principally the pictures of these dogs. Looks they are very free!
Muitos abraços!

Kirsten (peacefuldog) said...

To me those street dogs are just some of the most adorable ever. It's a certain somethin' about them, the ears and the markings and the diversity, that you don't see everywhere but that I just love. I adore the pittie mixes ubiquitous in my local shelters but I miss my Guatemalan street dogs and New Mexico reservation dogs...similar to many of the ones you show here.

What Remains Now said...

So good to be reading your posts again!