I woke up and couldn't hear rain. The sky looked brighter and I made the mistake of saying "its clearing up". Within 10 minutes the storm was back raging. I'm now thoroughly fed up of being somewhere so isolated in such foul weather. At least in a town we'd have options of things to do, here we simply have to sit it out.
Nuestros compadres muchos simpaticos, Juan y Declan
The waffle-man of Punta del Este
They're still not risking using the generator (it was turned off last night as soon as the lightning started again). Juan and Declan joined us again for breakfast and talk turned to getting away from Cabo Polonio. I was confident we'd be able to get the 4x4 back across the dunes, I was more concerned about whether Chico would be stranded in a muddy pool of water at the other end.
It wasn't clear what time the 4x4 would come but hearing that one of the roads nearby was flooded and impassible we were keen to go as soon as possible. One thing I've found, and I'm not sure it its just a limitation of our Spanish, is that if you ask a direct question you don't get a direct answer so despite asking about the 4x4 we felt none the wiser. Our bags were all packed so we decided to simply get them from our room and then just sit and wait to see what happened.
The guy who had brought us to Pabo Colonio was waiting when we came back with our bags. We settled up, said farewells to Declan and Juan and headed off. It was still pouring as we left. We sat up front with the driver with Stef's backpack and both day packs on our laps. My backpack was wrapped in a tarpaulin sheet and left to fare its best with the elements "atras". The seat was a bit soggy as the roof leaked but it kept away most of the rain.
We headed back through the village, across the bay and into the dunes. Even with the 4x4, care was taken to avoid puddles and ruts where possible. There was about 1 inch of standing water on the bay - in effect one big river running down to meet the sea. I haven't felt this damp and wet since camping in Wales in my teens. Even my book has curled up due to the damp!
It was great to see Cabo Polonio but had we known the weather would have continued to be this bad, we'd have left yesterday. Apparently its been like this throughout Uruguay. Bumping our way through the dunes we had to stop a couple of times to rescue my pack as it came close to falling off. Back at the road, Chico was fine but the 4x4 had stayed around to help pull us out if needed. We wanted to head north to Castillo but as the road was flooded we'd have had to take a big detour so decided instead to head to Punta del Este, Uruguay's beach resort for the rich and famous.
The rain added a new dimension to our driving - we had to use the windscreen wipers, heating and rear window heater for the first time! Other than that it was long straight roads again. Our route to Punta should have taken us through San Carlos but the road was blocked by water. Driving back up from La Paloma to Rocha we crossed streams we'd passed earlier in the week. The water levels had risen incredibly and San Carlos was a more extreme example. You couldn't see either end of the bridge, as both were submerged, but you could just make out the road into town much further into the distance. A barrier had been put across the bridge to warn that the road was closed but even that was partially submerged.
We backtracked and went on the main route into Punta - another new experience as we drove along a 2 lane dual carriageway, a sign we're heading into a busy part of the country. Here too you could see signs of the flooding. We passed a "Club Desportivo" only identifiable by the top half of the clubhouse. I'm intrigued to know if this is exceptional weather or just the norm for this time of year.
Reaching Punta we drove around looking for a good value hotel (we know this will be a comparatively expensive stop), in the end plumping for a Days Inn, the same chain we stayed at in Buenos Aires. This one is much better and, compared to the last few days, is luxury. We have a comfortable bed, electricity and a very powerful shower with loads of hot water (the shower in Cabo Polonio was a trickle that smelled of putty). My pack is damp, so I fully unpack and we also air the sleeping bags as they've acquired an unpleasant Cabo Polonio smell.
Punta del Este is a small resort on an outcrop of rock, split into two halves. At the point there's the older residential section with smart houses and apartments and a yacht club at the harbour. Nearer to the mainland is the more commercial and tourist bit, with high ris blocks of apartments and hotels. We walked down and along the harbour, stopping near the yacht club when we saw a sign for "Wafles Belgica". The waffles man is Belgian and is selling his home made waffles from his car (he's here every Saturday and Sunday). He moved here 4 years ago with his Belgian wife who also has Uruguayan nationality. The couple he's talking to moved here a few months ago from Geneva, he's French and his wife is Irish. We chat for a while, take a few photos and then move on and around the point.
Some of the houses are very smart. There's a real mix of styles with European influences very evident. You need lots of dosh to be able to afford one of these. They all appear to be summer homes. There are a few people fishing off the rocks but no evidence of any catches. The sky, which has never cleared, thickens and darkens and it again threatens to rain. As it gets dark we head up back through the middle of the point, past the lighthouse towards our hotel where we head for the pool - small but heated and very relaxing. I can for the first time in my life truthfully say I've swum a length of butterfly (OK - its only 3 strokes from one end of the pool to the other but even so.....).
We splashed out on a good meal and a nice wine, amazed that at 9:30 we were still early for dinner. People were still coming in as we left well after 11. Tired, well fed and slightly tipsy we had quick look at our site and picked up the sarky comments left against some of our photos (thanks Andy!! :-) then crashed out in the luxury of cotton sheets and a comfy bed.