Cabo Polonio, Uruguay
Over the past four years I have spent a bit of time travelling through South and Central America and sometimes things get a little same same. Same type of markets, same type of food, same type of buildings. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it just means when I come across a unique destination I get that buzz of excitement to explore something a little different. I felt that buzz when we showed up to Cabo Polonio, a tiny bohemian’esque fishing town without electrical wiring, roads or running water located on the north east coast of Uruguay.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I knew next to nothing about Uruguay and perhaps it was a good thing. With no expectations, there’s a lot of room for surprises. This off the grid coastal town, in all it’s rugged simplicity, was certainly a surprise.
We made a day trip from our temporary beachside home in Aguas Dulces by bus to the entrance of the Cabo Polonio National Park. There are no paved roads from there to the town, instead you take a huge monster truck meets jeep type thing through sandy tracks, then along the expansive coastline, arriving in the town about twenty minutes later.
I don’t really know if ‘town’ is the right word, it felt like the kind of place I might have like to be the Fairy Queen of when I was eight years old. Rustic huts, hostels, colourful market stands and cafes all so randomly scattered about it’s as if the sea just spat them out and where they landed, they stayed. If there was a planning process for construction on Cabo Polonio it seemed to be something like this: ‘Looks good here, let’s put it up!’
We visited Cabo Polonio during high season so the place was popping with tourists, I read in a few sources afterwards that during low season it is super quiet with only the hardcore residents sticking around to be battered by the winter Atlantic winds during May to September. We stayed for the afternoon, long enough to wander about the town, snap some photos, have lunch and soak up the atmosphere.
In spite of the fact there is no wired electricity, running water, banks or ATM’s there are accommodation options for those keen to stay overnight and find their way around with candles and torches. You aren’t stuck for food options either, with a few cafes spilling over the sandy grass like someone’s lounge room on the outside, someone’s very boho styled lounge room, with little bits and pieces everywhere.
The structures were equal parts ramshackle and delicate looking, I wondered how anything possibly stayed down in a storm. Generators are used for cafes and some accommodation options but many people do without, collecting rainwater for showering and using candles to light the night.
Unsurprisingly, there is not a whole lot to do in Cabo Polonio, an attraction in itself for those looking to switch off from the outside world, but there are walks to be walked and horses to be ridden for those keen on some physical activity. A lighthouse peers over Cabo Polonio keeping watch on the haphazard buildings and the sea lion colonies that call Cabo Polonio home, making sea lion spotting another popular activity. I only saw dead ones washed up on the beach though and the smell of a larger one sent me walking as far from them as possible while trying to keep my lunch in my stomach.
Cabo Polonio is surrounded on all three sides by the Atlantic Ocean, the fourth side, sand dunes. Jair was keen to walk through the dunes and Ombus forrest beyond for eight kilometres to reach the next town, Barra de Valizas and take a return bus to Aguas Dulces from there. I was a little apprehensive at first, there was no track to follow and the general instruction we received from a local guy was ‘walk over the first four dunes and just keep going’….ok then. So that’s pretty much what we did.
About two and a half hours later we arrived at Barra de Valizas, another coastal holiday hotspot with more beachside shacks, less dead sea lions and raging appetites after trekking through the dunes. A tiny woman with a huge basket of sweet bread seemed to appear from nowhere and we brought the biggest loaf, inhaled it and lolled about it a carb coma for a little while. We didn’t have too much time to check Barra de Valizas before we needed to hop back on the bus, but it seemed similar (same same even ) in it’s laid back boho way, certainly a common vibe among the beaches we visited during our trip to Uruguay.
GENERAL INFORMATION: www. cabo-polonio.com this site is in english and pretty much covers all bases including accommodation if you are planning to stay.