Trip Start Nov 13, 2007
23Trip End Feb 23, 2008
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We reached our hotel last night in the dark, and Gail rang the owners of the hotel. they told us it would take only two minutes to walk, but Gail pointed out firmly that it was now dark, and would they kindly come and collect us!
At six-thirty this morning I went out and found that we are right on the sea, just a walk down the grassy slope and onto a sandy track running above the waterline. I also found a lost soul who had arrived in the middle of the night and couldn't find her hotel. There but for the grace of God go we, I thought, as I had made a mistake and booked the coach from montevideo for 2.30am in the morning instead of 14.30 in the afternoon. She stopped a motorcyclist who shook his head, and she wandered off disconsolately. How well Gail had stuck to her guns..
The beach isn't somewhere for a real swim, but good for surfing and very rocky in places. A constant fine spray gave the coastline a misty sheen at that hour in the morning, so , fearing for my camera I headed in the opposite direction up the road towards the tiny village. I saw a chap with a rucksack getting instructions from the 'Policia' and trotting off happily. Then a girl and chap with musical instruments strapped to their backs approached the policeman with querying gestures... All this before 7.00am on Christmas Eve.
The shoreline is divided by a line of rocks into a beach and a landing area for fishermen. Boats were pulled up high on the shore, and in the huts behind the fishermen were starting to move, drinking mate out of the mate straws. Mate is a thickly crushed leaf which fill the entire cup and doesn't seem to leave much room for the fluid. So they drink it out of straw-type piece of wood with a silver oval bottom which is studded with holes. Drinking mate is like a religion here - there is a whole mate kit which people put in a leather case and hang it around their body. I must find out more about it.
Further up the village several houses are being built...I sat on a high decking to look at them and found myself watching two humming birds - hidden by the leaves they were hovering under, then darting out and sliding down the long palm-like leaves, and darting to the next place..
To describe the housing in Puerta del Diablo is difficult. Two houses are under architectural supervision, according to the boarding in front of them. One is interesting, a modern top on an old building, with a sympathetic approach. The other has an old purple Volkswagen outside it, a chap with a black and white sombrero working on the door of the house. He waves at me instead of the usual Hola, out of respect to the handful of nails in his mouth..
There are thatched roofs, slated roofs, tin roofs, wooden roofs, no roofs. There are roofs with large chimney effect galss and wooded additions, to give people a view of the sea. The village sprawls in all directions, every house unique, going up and down the higglepiggledy roads.
Here's the Policia, the Touristic Informacion, The Real Estate office, the Cyber-cafe - now that's a thing of glory. The cyber cafe is closed, but through the glass door about 14 computers sit on roughly hewn shelves out of some local wood, probably eucalyptus judging by the bark when we visited it later...exposed wires dangle over the computers, and by the way, there's no cafe.
Under a sign of a black bucking horse opposite the police station, a man is tacking up his rather scrawny horse (Harse! to some..) and lowering the shafts of the cart over him. The horse doesn't look as if it has it in him to buck. I take a photo, then out of courtesy go over to chat to him. He and the horse are just about to go off trimming things with a petrol hedgeclippers. The cart is back shortly afterwards without the horse so I hope there was no horrible accident.
I wander into the open patisserie, there are many of these, selling breads and gorgeious sweet pastries in Uruguay, one in Diablo. The woman comes out and I tell her I am only looking, my money is back in the hotel. She smiles and nods, then turns, and points at the clock - it's a quarter to eight she tells me, kindly pointing out the big hand at nine and the little hand at eight. Thank you, I reply.
That interchange reminds of a few weeks ago when I asked a man in Quito for directions. He looked at me oddly, and then replied, my mother is seventy-five years old.
So it' back tothe Michel Thomas CDs for me.
But back to the village. Maybe it's because it's Christmas Eve, but the village makes me feel sad. In most ways it brings me back to times even I don't remember in Ireland, but know by photographs and descriptions. Wooden boards over shops with badly written and faded painted signs, bits of arrows indicating shops, and sometimes the only thing that let's you know there's a shop is the window with the wares and a hidden, open door..
And, interspersed with all this, the threatening face of new apartments in the background, all the same size and shape, new houses angled perfectly for the most rooms with seaviews, commercial propositions. Then the sites for sale - so many. Sad, because one can almost see the changing of this little fishing village like time-lapse photography.
At this stage I reckoned breakfast should be ready, and headed back. we have our presents ready for each other, and Gail got a little antler-shaped branch and stuck it in a wine bottle, and we hung baublets out of it, and put candles under it and our little presents..
I love Christmas in Sth America - it's like Ireland 30 years ago, simple decorations and Christmas trees, the run up starts in late November instead of early september at home, and there isn't that sickening rush of commercialism and greed pushed at us by television and shops that is so hateful.
Well, back to the village after that little tirade, maybe it will be the saving of it that the sea is not great for swimming. But then there's a lovely beach less that a kilometre away...must I take responsibility for Uruguay's future? On the other hand, it could be a good investment...
At breakfast I watch surfers on the beach - all two of them. Running, stretching and finally making the plunge into the water. It actually needs patience, I realise, as they wait what appears to me to be ridiculously far back in the sea.
It rains gently. I decide to try to catch up with my communications and go off to the internet cafe - ther's no internet...whenwill it be open...shrug, maybe three hours.(The shrug is hopelessness in the face of forces far greater than they can cope with - the rail) Somehow the rain has knocked out every cibernet cafe in town. I call to the furthest one away that the police, who of course I asked, guided me to.
No Internet - it is raining. I go out into the verandah. The proprietor teaches me how to say it's raining in Espanol, and I try to teach him to say it in Inglis. He just cannot. His friend comes over and tried to tell him, but he's no better with her. She chats to me, then asks in wonderment why I am spending Christmas here. I reply that I am beginning to wonder myself, but we agree we are being cynical and it's great altogether.
The owner brings out water for me. I'm waiting, thinking the Internet will come back at some stage.
The owner comes over to me - Irlanda?
What? Where am I going?
Ira! (louder, with gestures of shooting)
Oh IRA yes, yes.
Ha ha! He holds oput his hand and I realise I have to whack it with mine. He grips it and looks deep into my eyes, then clenches his fist and raises it in a salute. Yes! He looks at me...and I clench my fist and raise it in a salute. HaHa! He hold out his hand again and again I whack it and laugh. Then he mimics shooting guns again and I do the same, nodding my head. Oh Lord I'm exhausted, but I don't think he's interested inhearing about peace treaties...He locks up the shop and goes off smiling, and that,s the last I see of him. I haven't paid for the water. It's lashing down now.
A chap comes over and stays to chat. I have finished the water and am dying for a pee, but he is interesting and talking about the different attitude in Uruguay to outside investment, than in Argentina. For example, when Chavez got angry with Bush last year he closed down all the McDonalds for 5 days. Who'd want to invest in a country like that, he asked.
And it is obvious that Uruguay looks after its infrastructure much better than Argentina, where you could easily break your leg on the pavements in the capital. On the other hand, Argentina is quite big.
Gail and I met him again at lunchtime, and he and Gail chatted about Jersey for ages. Gail has organised dinner at a restaurant for Christmas, and we invited him along. Then it was back to our hotel and phone calls to loved ones, and now I've just written up this latest exciting chapter in... ( The wooden Internet cafe that is not a cafe..and chairs a bit hard on the backside, but otherwise excellent).
And now, if I don't get back to Gail she'll have the Policia on a much more exciting mission than guiding tourists...Happy Christmas to All, and to All a good night.