Noches by Candle light

Trip Start Jan 12, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Del Cabo Hostel

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Sunday, January 23, 2011

Set on the peninsula of a Nature Reserve, Cabo Polonio is probably more likely to be the place The National Geographic was talking about as 'the' place to visit in Uruguay this year. In order to get to this remote spot, you have to board a large 4x4 truck which then takes you across the sand dunes for 30 minutes before pulling onto the final stretch where the beauty of Cabo Polonio is for all to see. This ride, at the best of times was up and down, from side to side and very bumpy, so hanging on to camera, bag and belongings was a challenge the say the least.

It was our host at El Galope, back near Colonia who had pointed us in the direction of this quiet, almost inaccessible and electricity-less place, which would soon turn into one of the best places we’ve visited to date. The charm of this small, once fishing orientated town was for all to see as soon as we stepped off the 4x4. With a lighthouse at one end, and a sprawling beach as far as the eye could see to the other, the first task at hand was to find our beachfront accommodation.

It was basic to say the least, but had it’s own charm all the same. We had been told to find a guy called Pancho, who would be our host at the hostel, yet even to this day; Pancho is as mysterious as he ever was. So without electricity or toilets which flush the first time, Cabo Polonio is not a cup of tea for all, but we made it our home for a couple of nights and could have easily stuck around for much longer.

A place without electricity and a beach will certainly attract a certain crowd. By day, day trippers would make themselves at home on the beach and in the small town but by night, the place had a real lure, with the only form of light being that of candles. Walking down through the main strip the dim flicker of candlelight meant making out all but silhouettes was difficult. I’m sure there are not many places in the world visited by people that can boast such an aura.

As you can imagine, not a lot gets done here, or at least very quickly. The peninsula meant that there were in fact two beaches with two very different reasons to visit each. The first, and the one of which our hostel was situated, had warmer water and more crashing waves, ideal of body boarding. The other had much nicer sand and far more tranquil water but it was bitterly cold. It also held a key component for many South Americans, the sunset. One of the many easy evenings we spent in Cabo Polonio we had a wander down to this beach in question. We had decided to go and watch the sunset, and as the sun just went out of sight, the whole beach erupted into rounds of applauds, whistles and laughter. There is a strong sense of community within Uruguay where if people share a moment like the sun setting, they should all congratulate it together. It’s somewhat of a comparison to they way we behave in London when we share similar things but are in a way to conservative and conformed to not show outward emotion in such a way.

When we had been in Montevideo, we had met a lovely Chilean couple on their summer holiday. They had a seven-year-old daughter who was always full of beans, running around, from the moment she woke to the moment she slept. We bumped into them again on the beach, just after sunset and then once more when we had sat down for dinner later that evening where they joined us. It was very pleasant talking about the differences between all the South American countries from someone who had visited plenty, but also get the low down on what we were to expect from Chile. We were also offered the chance to go and stay with this lovely family when we visit Chile to experience a side of life I’m sure it is hard to as a tourist. The plan for the rest of that evening had been to finish dinner, grab a bottle of beer and get some much needed blog writing done, however plans never pan out how you expect.

Just as the Chilean family said good night and went off to bed, we heard "Hey Chicos" come from the table behind. We turned around to find a group of rather attractive young ladies sitting on the next table. It turned out that they were Argentinian and in fact staying at the same hostel so we got chatting. It is very important when in a country where you do not speak the language to practice listening and speaking, so you can improve all the time. The blog writing was put on hold so we could make the most of practicing Spanish and in exchange, we became the professors of a famous but rather rudely names card game we all like to play from time to time.

There is one great thing about being in a country where you have trouble reading or understanding the language, you can actively ignore signs and rules and then use the excuse that you didn’t understand what they meant. This came into it’s own when we went to check out the sea lions by the lighthouse. In order to get close enough for a few photos, we had to pass a sign which I’m sure said ‘feel free to climb over this broken down barb wire fence’. There seems to be a culture in Uruguay, that no one really wants to be the first to do something, and would rather follow others. For example, when we first embraced the sea, there were hardly any people in at this point, but after being in it for 10 minutes or so, behind us people gradually started to enter but not past the point we had swam out to. The same situation happened with the barbwire fence by the sea lions. After making our way past it, gradually more people followed until so many had done so the sea lions got scared and slipped off the rocks into the water. Luckily for me, they slipped off just after I had got a few shots of them.

James, signing out.

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