I got off pronto the following morning winding my way along the coast, past beautiful homes and the roaring Atlantic Ocean. Things were more tranquil after crossing this unique if not wacky bridge that represented, I think, the rolling waves, and found myself rolling into El Barro. Nice quaint, toned down.
Nice beaches but I didn’t stop. Soon I took the turn toward Jose Ignacio. Nearby there is a small nothing town that actually features an Inn and fine restaurant owned and designed by the Argentinean rock-star chef, Francis Mallman. Unfortunately it was closed for the season. I figure I would ride the bike until dark and stay at one of the quieter coastal towns closer to the Brazillian border.
But Jose Ignacio captivated me for a few hours. I found the lighthouse, the sandy streets, the laid back atmosphere perfect for a rest. Then the fishing boats started landing on the beach to the handful of locals waiting to buy fresh fish right off the boat. Jose Ignacio, despite its homey, folksy and fishing village facade is a playground and hiding place for the elite, the movie stars and those who would rather make their own parties until 6am instead of in some crowded disco-like club. Property here is the most expensive on the coast, I was told.
I meet Victor, a local from a city not to far. He came to Jose Ignacio that morning to pick up fish for his cioppino or paella he was making tonight. Drawing lines in the sand he gave me a veritable tour of the Uruguayan coast, complete with recommendations and must-do’s. Victor related his disappointment and how sad it is that people come to Uruguay and see Punta del Este, which in many ways is just a big resort town not unlike Cancun or Miami. He says people’s idea of these types of vacations is just go to spend money. Spend, spend and spend. But to see the great trees or dunes a national park and to see a classic old colonial era fortress and experience the real Uruguayan fishing villages on the Atlantic, this is is what people need to see in order to know Uruguay. Tells me that stars from Argentina, Brasil and Uruguay come to Jose Ignacio. He warned me of taking a road that takes an alternate route (other than the “freeway”) to La Paloma. I asked about the ferry (Balsa) and the road condition. He repeatedly told me not to do it.
Later when riding out of town I passed the turn to another dirt road that goes to the balsa and along the coast to La Paloma. I remembered Victor’s warnings. I didn’t want to believe him. How many times on this journey I got psyched out and ended up taking less interesting routes? I can count them on one hand. I may have missed opportunities. So I decided NOT to heed Victor’s advice. I went for it and made the turn.
Yeah. Ripio and sharp rocks. But the road was great and crossing the small lagoon was well worth it. It might have added a little time to the trip. But no worries. It’s about going slow. Drawing directions in the sand about places to go. T
The fisherman who wanted to trade his truck for my bike. I told that the only problem was there isn’t a lot of room for fish. He said that would be a problem. Asking if I would like my picture with his boat. I stood in front and they all scream Arriba. Jump on board. So i did.
Then cruising into La Paloma. Looking for a hotel. Most places shut down. It’s sleepy. Atop the 19th century light house I look down and see a couple guys on Suzuki DR’s checking out my bike. See them in town later.
There’s the Bahia Hotel. For $20, free WiFi and a restaurant that is acutally open. When I asked to see if he would give me a break on the price, the guy wouldn’t budge and pointed me to some alley with a hotel said go there. I did. But for the $5 savings I went for the internet and the included breakfast… oh well. I Considered these cabins in a little park in a forest glade on the way into town for 16 bucks. The hostal was closed, too. So to be closer to the beach and town and have the WiFi I chose Bahia. It’s extremely quiet. I’m the only person in the hotel. At dinner there was only one other table. It’s eerie. But it’s cool.