Monday, January 29, 2007

Punta del Diablo, Rocha, Uruguay

Punta del Diablo, is a little fishermen's town, five kilometers away from Santa Teresa, and close to the border with Brazil, in the state/region/department (departamento, i'm never sure how to translate this) of Rocha, Uruguay.

I don't know how to put it, but the place is weird, like good weird, is like is not Uruguay. I remember the first time I went there, after a lengthy walk from Santa Teresa around seven years ago, it struck me the scene I've found there, like nothing I had seen before in my country. I saw shored fishing boats by the beach, one little pub playing reggae, plus like about a block of hippie stands in a row, selling handcrafted earrings, collars, and such, close to a peninsula shaped by big rocks.

Nobody knew the place ten years ago, while now in summer a rent there is about 60 bucks a day, for a crumbling small ranch, close to the beach. This year I even spotted some foreign tourists, which was unheard of some years ago.

Even though it's getting trendy, and more sophisticated, it still retains the jamaica no problem vibe, with the hippie little shops, surfers, seafood restaurants, lack of paved roads, and everybody in summerwear style.

If you go there you must try "Buñuelos de alga" (something like seaweed fritters, or fried doughs), since it´s the specialty of the town.

Check what Chuck Stull in his blog writes about it. The few pictures I have were taken in the afternoon, and in cloudy days, so they are no the best, but I hope you'll find them illustrative.


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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cabo Polonio, Rocha

There's a place in Rocha, Uruguay, called Cabo Polonio. I've never been there myself, but I've always heard all sort of things about it, some people love it, they says it's a unique place in the world, while others can't stand the lack of civilization and services there.

The fact is that there this place called Cabo Polonio, that can't be reached by car, it's about 7 km from the closest highway, people get there walking that distance, or in all terrain vehicles. Another way to get there is by the beach, in a 3 hour walk from Valizas.

There you can find: sea lions, a lighthouse, the beach, and sand dunes. The place has no electricity, no running water, few and rustic constructions. The funny thing is that from january to march it gets crowded with tourists, and the rents are sky high, even though almost no basic services are provided.

Topless is a common practice there, and even some nudity, or so they say. My girlfriend says she saw there (I hope from far away) some guys playing beach soccer in the nude. Well that's the type of things you don't see everyday.

I came across this articles about Cabo Polonio in Uruguay, in gaston in suecia's blog, which has some nice pictures, and I think captures what seems to be the escence of Cabo Polonio.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Santa Teresa, Rocha, Uruguay

Santa Teresa, Rocha, Uruguay

In the region of Rocha, Uruguay, more specifically at the km 302 of the 9 route, there's a national park called Santa Teresa. The place is a beautiful forest with some of the best beaches this country has to offer.

The park is named after a hilltop fortress built in the 1762 by the Portuguese, early captured and finished by the Spaniards. The place has witnessed battles between Spanish and Portuguese, Spanish and British, and civil wars. The fort has been restored and is one of the attractions to visit in the park.

Santa Teresa has wide area available for tent camping, and has some bungalows to rent. It's very popular among camping fans. It's ridiculously cheap to camp there, one parcel that can be used by up to 7 guys, costs 150 pesos, about 6 american bucks. Being so affordable it gets crammed with youth in summer, well, not really crammed, the place is 1054 hectares wide (2064 acres), so it's big enough to host an army of camping fans. The beaches are great, oceanic, big waves (in uruguayan terms) I'd say waves up to 2 meters tall, surfing is a popular sport there.

The place is run by the army, and management is not very good. The supermarkets (there are 2 of them) run out of supplies rather quick, and if you ask "where can I find a free spot to camp?" you won't get very clear directions. On the other hand the place is safe like no other, and the park is very well taken care of.

Santa Teresa is a very popular destination for the uruguayan middle class, surfers, and teenagers, providing a good blend of natural resources, peace, safety, adventure and low costs. It's a humble type of tourism, the spirit among the campers is of camaradery, usually older campers (families) lend the tools to the groups of unequipped teenagers that try the camping experience. It also attracts a great deal of tourists from the south of Brazil, and from Argentina, in particular people from Cordoba.

The park is only 5 km away from Punta del Diablo, another seaside tourism hotspot in Rocha, and about 30 km to the border with Brazil, El Chuy, a border town with half a dozen of duty-free shops. Actually the trip to Punta del Diablo can be done by the beach which is one of the popular things to do there, in a walk of a couple of hours.

It's a place I'm very fond of, which I visited all my life, first as a kid with my parents, and later on, in my teenage years, we would go there with a bunch of friends every summer. When I think of Santa Teresa, lot of memories come to my mind, memories of campfires, beach soccer, walking in the beach for hours, fetching wood, making up excuses to visit the girl's neighbor camp, the night as one mantle of stars above the trees, hideous toilets, hitchhiking back to Montevideo for hours, and so on.

Here is a photo album that I hope will help you understand what's Santa Teresa like,


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