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Minas

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Fishing on Uruguay's Atlantic coast. What's for tea I wonder?

Today started badly. I knocked my toilet bag off the sink and half of the contents fell into the loo!! Stef, realising this was an omen for a bad day, retreated quickly and quietly down to the lobby to "upload some pictures quickly while you get ready for breakfast" - coward!!

We had a final walk around the main square in Minas before leaving. We've both enjoyed our short stay here - the town is pretty (or we've simply adjusted our benchmark of attractiveness) and the people we've met have been very friendly. We left town by a different route to how we came in, passing some fancy houses along the way. Our route takes us past only the second sign of non-agricultural industry I've seen so far - a mine. The first was a car parts factory, also in Minas.

Our first stop is at Parque Salus, home to one of the main mineral waters in Uruguay and the site of a brewery (Patricia beer, not as good as Pilsen in our opinion). We can't visit either site but there are gardens around them open for visits. There are paved walkways that lead you through a collection of indigenous and imported plants and trees - in some senses its a mini botanical garden.

Close to the water bottling plant there's a small fountain in the shape of a puma, spouting water into a pool. Behind it there's a small cave where you can see (with the help of lights and music activated as you walk in) the stream itself. Local legend says that it is the water that gave the puma its courage and strength and if you drink from the stream you will have this too - we'll see if it makes a difference for Stef and me.

Leaving the park we decide to head for the beaches again as the weather has cleared up for the first time in days and its hot and sunny. We stopped at Atlántida but find it hard to get a feel for the town. There are lots of people milling around but there's no sign that any restaurants or hotels are open. When we asked at Tourist Info we were pushed heavily towards the Hotel Colonial but we also managed to extract details of a couple of other hotels - only to find they were closed. The Colonial is the only hotel in town that's open and as we arrive we're the only guests.

As the sun is still shining we headed down to the beach with a picnic lunch to while away the afternoon. The bay stretches for miles and the sand is beautifully soft. We got stern looks from a couple who pass us on their afternoon walk but they're friendlier on their way back - they obviously don't expect picnics on the beach off season.

There's a few people fishing and we wander along the bay to watch. The further we go the more I'm left with the impression that all the men in town head down to the beach in the afternoon to catch their dinner. There's a real mix of ages, most in their twenties or thirties but we noticed in particular one old man with his back hunched from years of hard work.

As the sun started to set we turned around and headed back to watch it. The sky has virtually no clouds so its a simple sunset - a golden, orange ball of light quickly sinking below the horizon. Having Chico with us we decided to drive along the bay to look at the rest of Atlántida. The map from Tourist Info indicates a huge town but only a small part has street names, most simply have numbers. There are four separate areas, named after their respective beaches. Its simply miles of holiday cottages. Every now and again lights indicate that someone is home but most look empty, closed for the "off" season.

Although there' still the regular grid pattern to the streets, it's also crossed by diagonals. We're forced to turn off the beach road by a sand dune that blocked the way and soon get disoriented in what seems to be a maze of streets. There are few lights in any buildings, let alone lights to tell you what road you're on. Hitting a main one we follow it back through to the centre of town. This too is unusual as there is no focal point central square.

As our room is a bit gloomy, we stopped at Don Vito's pizzeria and bar for a drink or two and to catch up on diaries. I thought it was odd that they had about 5 waiters lined up and ready for the evening shift. All became clear when we came back later for dinner (only this and another pizza place, which wasn't as nice, were open) - Uruguay were playing Perú in the qualifiers for the next world cup.

Not being a footie fan, and knowing nothing of the rules, I can't tell you if it was a good or bad match. Uruguay had loads of attempts at goals, yellow cards were being flashed left, right and centre but the game ended up as a 0-0 draw. Each missed attempt was accompanied by a groan from the restaurant. Each groan became audibly and visibly more frustrated as time went by. As soon as the final whistle blew there was a mass exodus from the place, us included.

I've had a grouchy day today. I don't know why but I've just felt out of sorts. I suspect its the change of pace settling in the need for re-adjusting. We've moved on pretty much on a daily basis and whilst the general patterns of life are the same, the routing differs slightly in each place we go to. It's also hard not having a comfy chair or settee to chill out on - it's not the same propped up on a bed!