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Published: August 5th 2012
The bus pulled into Punta del Diablo just on dark. As we collected our luggage a lady asked us where we were going. When we told her, she chuckled and she said it was on her way so she would give us a lift. This turned out to be a blessing because the hostel was some distance from the bus stop over dirt roads with very few street signs. We had not made a booking so we sighed with relief when the young woman at reception confirmed she could offer us a room.
The Hostel offered evening meals so we decided the “chicken wok” for NZ$12 each was a good option rather than wandering in the dark to find food. It was good value not only because of the price but also because watching the young American staff members doing the cooking provided plenty of entertainment – a three hour process from start to finish! Eileen’s comment about hostel young people cooking by committee applied here.
Punta del Diablo is a pretty little beach town where the population swells to 25,000 in summer so we were glad to be visiting in the off season when it is quiet and
the pace is slow. It has only one small section of sealed road in the town, which is really just the end of the road into town, and this is where the bus stops. We spent our time ambling along the beach and about town where many of the businesses are closed during the off season.
A highlight was watching the fishing boats come in and be manually winched up the beach while planks were placed on the sand underneath the hull. It was a team effort. During the winching process the crates of fish are unloaded and carried to buildings on the waterfront. On closer inspection we discovered the buildings are fish processing stations. We walked along watching the fish being prepared for sale and we chatted with the fishermen and their customers. Eventually we made a selection and purchased a filleted fish for dinner. Although we did not know the fish variety at least we knew the fish was fresh!
After checkout the hostel owner Brian offered to drive us to the bus stop. While we were waiting at the bus stop we chatted about business in Uruguay. He explained that the labour laws discourage good
employee working practices e.g. the local people just stop turning up for work then they take you to court and are awarded 3 months ‘severance pay’. He said the courteous ones let you know when they are going to stop turning up! The tax on employees for other benefits is so high that he negotiates the number of employees that he pays for! He says that inflation in the past has been so high that no one saves, and that mortgages to buy housing are generally not available. It effectively creates a poverty trap and a lack of social mobility.
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