Friday, April 17, 2009

Cabo Polonio, Uruguay - As rural as it gets!

April 13, 2009 I’m not sure we knew what we were getting into when we decided to visit Cabo Polonio on the east coast of Uruguay, just a few miles from Brazil. We left Montevideo on a public bus with just our 2 backpacks. We were told that it was a 3½ hour trip. We were looking forward to the ride because we had never been to that part of the world and didn’t really know what to expect. It turns out that much of the country looks a lot like Missouri and Illinois, but with a lot more sheep, a smattering of palm trees, eucalyptus forests, dirt roads and an occasional view of the ocean. After 4½ hours, the bus dropped us at the bus stop for Cabo Polonio (a stand made out of a few wooden poles). We walked across the road and saw a truck loading people on the back, so we bought a ticket and hopped on. There are no roads to Cabo Polonio, a village of 50 permanent residents, and the only way to get there is to walk or buy a ride on one of the shuttles that take you in over the 10 miles of sand dunes. The ride takes about 40 minutes, since the vehicle sometimes gets stuck. We arrived about 3PM and were surprised to see tons of people there. It was the Saturday of Holy Week and everyone was on their last day of vacation. There were beach bums in dread locks, temporary stands put up to sell shell jewelry and beachwear, a surf shop and a row of one room huts along a makeshift road. Was this the isolated get-away we had heard about?!? But by 6:30PM the town was almost empty, because everyone left before the lights went out, literally. There is no electricity! We had called the lady who owned the Mariemar Restaurant and asked if she had a room to rent, since there are also no hotels in the town. She agreed to let us rent a room above her restaurant for a couple of nights. Well, no surprise, the place was not a five star – or even a one star. But the view was incredible. From our window (no screen, even the glass didn’t meet up – so we had a nice ocean breeze going through the room all the time), you could see at least 4 miles up the pristine coast. And there wasn’t a building on it; just huge, beautiful sand dunes. Every time we wanted to complain about the room – like the bathroom drizzle shower that spit out about ½ cup of water per minute – we looked out the window and said, “Wow!” At dusk, the village started glowing with candles and the main activity was star-gazing and looking at the full moon. The next morning, we headed up the beach past the few people there and then it was just us - alone and barefoot on the beach. Yes, that’s why we came.

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