Why see the world when you've got the beach?

Trip Start Oct 17, 2012
Trip End Mar 27, 2013

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Where I stayed

Flag of Uruguay  , Rio Negro,
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Our next stop was Cabo Polonio, a "primitive" beach town Lydia had read about. There is only a small dirt path leading in, not much electric or plumbing, and only 55 people stay year round though in high season there are thousands. People had been building little shack houses out here on the beach next to the sand dunes out of scraps of whatever they could find around, but it is now a national park and no more building is allowed. We were both really excited about seeing this place, but we really only had one day to spend here.
So, the boys dropped us off at the entrance of the park and showed us around the map room to prepare us for our journey into town. There is a truck that drives in at 2pm, but it's 11am now, so we've decided to walk the 7k from the road to the beach. Hiking through the desert should make arriving at the beach that much more worth it. Except we ran into a couple of townies with a broken down truck on our way and they offered us a ride in the back of their truck once it was fixed- to which we happily accepted. So we watched for 15 minutes as this guy reattached the alignment to his front tires using a pocket knife, a piece or wire, and half a rubber tube. We drove through the sand dunes and across the beach toward town, and then the alignment fell off again, so we decided to walk the rest.
We passed two people as we crossed town to a hostel where we got our own room right on the beach with breakfast for $40USD. We spent the rest of the day walking around the town, which was dead, climbing rocks to spy on seals, looking for washed up sunken ship treasures in the completely empty beach, and walking across sand dunes. It was so quiet and peaceful. That night we had some drinks at the hostel with the owner and other guests. The owner used to have a restaurant here too, and cooked amazing looking meals for his friends that were staying over. His friends were a couple and their two little girls from Montevideo. The woman had started Uruguay's first free magazine detailing upcoming events when she was younger than we are now. The magazine made its profits mostly from Marlboro ads, but when Uruguay outlawed cigarette ads, it bankrupted (but she got out of it before that). Now she runs her own hostel in Montevideo. Another guest at the hostel said he worked in social policy for employment opportunities in Amsterdam now but had started as a case worker. He said that the more he works the more he learns how interconnected everything is- education, employment, homelessness, welfare- but that most people who make policy didn't start at the bottom and don't understand how the policies they make can play out or not play out given the connection between so many socio economic factors... I guess this problem exists everywhere. Anyway, we spent most of the night drinking, talking about music, and watching the waves crash on the shore in front of us. Then we went to the "bar". The bar is a house with the city's only garden, which we had passed several times during the day and had no idea it was supposed to be a bar. The bar is run by a blind man who opened the doors for us even though he wasn't really open. So we sit there in the dark and have another beer. It took a minute for me to realize he wasn't turning the lights on because he doesn't have any.
From what we can tell, days here are spent watching the waves and the seal, drinking mate and beer, and smoking marijuana. We asked our hostel owner about the abundance of weed that seems to be around and he tells us that here, in Cabo Polonio, "we don't use drugs, we smoke them."
The next day we were supposed to leave, but the sun was out and it was so nice and relaxing here, so we stayed another day walking around the town, which was dead, climbing rocks to spy on seals, looking for washed up sunken ship treasures in the completely empty beach, and walking across sand dunes. That night we drank a few beers with the owner an he pointed out something glowing in the water off in the distance. Every several seconds a green light would appear in random places and it was coming closer to shore. Once it reached the shore you could see this glowing algae all around your feet in the water. It was like something out of Avatar. So we decided to go for an ice cold swim. Amazing experience.
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