A few kilometers before Jose Ignacio on the coast of Uruguay, the bus spits me out like chilled vegetables. The air condition in the modern coach has forced me cap, scarf and jacket. I am completely frozen and stay for the first time in the glistening light of the sun on the roadside to thaw. Right the sea, incredibly blue. On the opposite side of the road the lagoon Jose Ignacio and on its shore a few houses.
According to GPS, this is supposed to be my hostel, the only one within a radius of 50 kilometers, which is only approximately affordable. The village of Jose Ignacio itself, once a small fishing village, is still some eight kilometers further north. It is still a small village, but without a fisherman. It has become too expensive for them. The place seems to be firmly in the hands of an elite. A very, very rich elite. A room under 350 euros per night is hardly to have. That's why the less well-heeled visitors do the same as the fishermen: they stay outside, find a place to sleep in the area, bring their food to the beach.
And he is beautiful eight kilometers ahead of Jose Ignacio. Deserted and miles of white sand meanders from here to the Brazilian border. Today there is a bit of North Sea flair to it, because cold air with magnitude 5 blows from the south. The salty, clear air inflates the lungs like balloons and the wind blows on hair and ears. I go north to the beach and let the tailwind drive me. A lot of fun. The Baywatchers wave to me. Two things strike me: 1. In Uruguay almost all beaches are guarded, although some are really very empty. 2. There is rarely service on the beach. No restaurants, no snack, no beach chairs, no umbrellas. Beach is simply beach. Only the beach library, for free borrowing books, which are almost everywhere. I like that. After a good half hour, always along the roaring surf, I reach the village of Jose Ignacio.
There are: a lighthouse, a small town hall, police, a few boutique hotels that hide behind trees, some restaurants (only the finest) and cafes with French names, boutiques with expensive branded goods and an amazing number of real estate agents. In addition: a French patisserie with crispy-fresh baguettes at prices that will freeze the spit. But as tasty as in Paris. I have to admit that without jealousy. But where are the guests, the rich and the beautiful, who are vacationing here or have a weekend home? I cautiously take my 5 Euro cappuccino (just do not spill it) and get bored. The place is all in all rather unspectacular but in a beautiful location, slightly elevated on a hill, above the lighthouse with panoramic views of the sea.
In front of a yoga studio stands a column of truck-like SUVs and jeeps. One bigger than the other. (Mostly) young men are waiting on the driver's seats. One more beautiful than the other. Is it the lovers, the husbands or the chauffeurs? I dont know. They are waiting for the ladies inside to do their best to keep their bodies as they would for the owners of a fat bank account: slim, young and beautiful. Later they will exhibit him, along with the made breasts, noses and lips. At the pool and on the beach.
In the next few days, I'll come back a few more times, with an old, rickety bike loaned to me by Jaime, the owner of the hostel. And I realize once again that it can have some advantages not to swim in the money. The drive from the hostel to the village leads on earthy paths through small eucalyptus forests. The fragrance mixes with the salty humidity of the ocean and acts like an inhalation.
The sky is steel blue and I come past small houses and modest huts, sometimes made of wood, sometimes made of clay, with front gardens where children frolic and mothers harvest vegetables. The normal life just.
The former inhabitants of Jose Ignacio I find below the lighthouse on the beach where they sell fish.
Maria has her stall with freshly caught fish under a blue plastic tent. Some old fishing boats are next door, an old fisherman is mending a net. But it's not as idyllic as it looks. Maria tells that the fishermen were driven off by skyrocketing real estate and food prices. Now they live inland, on the lagoon or on the coast further south. Those who still have their boats here have to accept long arrivals. But they get in Jose Ignacio but a little more money for their fish. Nevertheless, it is not enough. There is not much to catch. The boys, says Maria, are tired of being a fisherman. They move to the cities or to Argentina in search of great luck.
At the lagoon I meet Pedro. He was also at home in San Ignacio. Now he has his small stall at the Laguna de San Ignacio. At 2 o'clock in the morning he runs out. Each phased out costs her around 5,000 pesos, he says. For gasoline, for nets. In order to recover the costs, he has to sell at least two boxes of fish. But this year, there just is not that much fish. And then the long journeys. When the rich arrived, the fishermen were allowed to spend the night in tents with their boats. But that is long over. The colorful boats are allowed to stay. The fishermen do not. You want to be alone.
Over there on the other side of the lagoon, he supplied a luxury hotel this morning, says Don Pedro - and wants me to guess who. ??? "Bill Gates?" I ask, laughing, because it's the only realm I can think of. "Almost hit" says Pedro. "The fish is for Rockefeller, who is just visiting there. And over there, on the other side of the lagoon, Shakira has a property, "adds Don Pedro. What is it like being surrounded by rich people in a socialist country? I ask. The fisherman shrugs. "Has pros and cons," he says, "you have to know to survive. The prices have risen sharply. But there are a few small shops hidden in the eucalyptus forest that sell to us at normal prices. If the wealthy knew that, "he laughs," they would buy the shops empty. Most of them are stingy. "
After a few days I head north. There should be a very special hotspot: a place where the inhabitants are happy without electricity. I want to go there.