Published: May 11th 2009May 11th 2009
I made it out of Cabo Polonio. Finally. After saying that I would probably only stay for one night in this tiny fishing village on the coast of Uruguay I left after three nights. I could have stayed for much longer. There is magic in this place. In the sand dunes and stucco walls and tin rooves of the huts where 70 locals live year ´round. Magic in the plants that have evolved over thousands of years to be able to grow in such salinated soil and are specific to the area. Plenty of magic in the picturesque lighthouse and the ¨bar¨ that had concrete with the bottoms of class bottles sticking up serving as a floor and flowering vines laced together serving as a roof so that you could still see the moonlight through the leaves.
I heard about this place from a Uruguayan girl my first night in Uruguay in the hostel dorm we were sharing. She said that I just had to go and that was that. I had to. There was no questioning it. So I went - headed out from Punta del Este on a roundabout bus route as they all seem to be and
watched the sunset from my window seat. Cabo Polonio is quite remote and the bus can't actually make it out there so it leaves you some 8 km. from the village and I had heard that there was a system wherein a 4 x 4 would take tourists the rest of the way. I started to get apprehensive, though, as everyone but one girl with dreadlocks got off my bus. I was coming to a place that I had really only heard rumors about, where I thought there would hopefully be someone to meet me, without any Uruguayan pesos becuase the ATM wouldn't let me take anything out, and without a reservation for a place to stay or anyone knowing I was coming. I was arriving in the dark and getting dropped off in the middle of nowhere. The dreadlocked girl didn't even get off with me.
So I got off the bus in the dark of the country, saw a light and headed towards it, managed to pay someone with my remaining Argentinian pesos and climbed aboard a beast of a truck with seven or eight other people. This contraption looked like the love child of a tractor
that might offer hay rides and a 4 x 4 Land Rover. It was huge. And so we all went bumping along in the dark across sand dunes, sometimes lurching a bit violently. For a while we were right on the shore, occasionally slowing down to wait for the ocean to receede. It turned out that there were five tourists on board - two guys from France and two girls from Barcelona and me. There were a few locals also and it turned out that one of them had a posada, a little inn, so we all went with him. That first night was quite the adventure wandering around this town being shown it through a local's eyes by the light of the moon. Beginning to see the magic.
After getting a mere three hours sleep I woke up to watch the sun rise over the ocean. I won't even try to describe the beauty. The colour. The stillness. The moon was still up and almost full and when you have been using only candles the return of natural light is simply breathtaking. I took photographs but they can't compare to the real thing. I just had to sit
there and take it all in.
After returning to our inn and drinking some traditional Uruguayan mate, which is ubiquitous here, I headed out with the two girls from Barcelona to walk up to the point. We continued along the beach for about two hours, stopping to pick up particularly beautiful shells and shedding layers of clothing. It was cold at night but got quite warm during the day. By the time we had made it around a point we were ready to stop and we lay out in the sun and went for a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, body surfing on massive waves. We climbed a particularly large sand dune and could see the surrounding area - white sand beaches in all directions. I decided that I couldn't leave. At least not that day.
The next couple of days in this paradise involved more sunrises and sunsets, siestas in hammocks, local palm liquor, sand that lodged itself in my scalp, hours on the beach reading my book, La Mala Hora by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I picked up second hand in B.A., and similar adventures. I really planned to leave for sure my second afternoon there
but I met two girls from Vancouver, a guy from Argentina and a girl from NYC plus two Colombians and two Spaniards who convinced me to stay with them. So we rented a house right on the beach, paid something like $20 for all of us, and bought freshly caught fish and all the fixins for a great dinner. I went with the Canadian girls to climb the lighthouse and saw an amazing view, plus got invited back by the three lighthouse keepers to turn on the lighthouse at 6 p.m. Our afternoon adventure was five of us walking for two hours to a forest on the edge of the desert, collecting wood and carrying it back to have a bonfire. When we returned we headed to the lighthouse (el faro) and I actually turned it on, after thinking I had broken it for a moment. The three of us Canadians ended up having quite the evening enjoying the hospitality of the lonley lighthouse keepers who took us night fishing with nets in the sea and cooked up an amazing dinner. We ate and chatted, all in Spanish of course as almost no English is spoken in Cabo Polonio. So
I was translating for the two Vancouverites who pretty well no Spanish. We made it back to our bare-bones beach house at about 1:30 a.m. and fell asleep immediately.
I picked up a card in my posada, inn, and it said ¨rustico pero autentico¨ - rustic but authentic. I think that is really the truth about Cabo Polonio. It is a Uruguayan fishing village with hospitality and sand and no luxury of any sort but plenty of adventure. If you're not fussy about such unnecessary things as bathing or eating something other than fish or having electricity then it is truly paradise. It made me think about some of the things that I consider necessary and the stress they cause me. Some day I will return to this place. For now I'm briefly in a slightly larger town, Castillos, and spent last night in a cheap hotel that had glorious hot water in my shared bathroom. My bus leaves for the coast again in 20 minutes so off I go to Punta del Diablo, this time with electricity but not much more. Thank you for your comments and support - I am truly having the adventure of a lifetime,
and hopefully will have many more in this lifetime.
There are more photos below