Wednesday, May 25, 2011
La Paloma means, "The Dove" in Spanish but this is not a post about birds but rather a travel post.
The La Paloma that I am writing about is a seaside community located along the Atlantic Ocean in the Department of Rocha in Uruguay. Rocha is the last department before you hit the Brazilian border. Uruguay has 19 departments. Think of them as being small states in a small sized country, although they are more like the size of counties. Seattle, Washington where I lived before was in King county for instance.
La Paloma is about 220 kilometers from the country's Capital of Montevideo. This old directional sign doesn't look like much but if you live here or are planning to visit then the directions to La Paloma are pretty useful and clear. Travel north along Route 9 then jog down towards the coast using Route 15.
The lighthouse, the beaches, the port.
The Cabo Santa Maria Lighthouse stands tall at 95 feet (29 meters). It is an active lighthouse owned by the navy and manned by the "Department de Ayudas a la Navegación"or Department of help to the navigators. The shores are rocky here in areas (unlike our home town beach) and the lighthouses are a real necessity.
The lighthouse at La Paloma is a masonry one, made from brick, painted white. It became a National monument in 1976. The best part is that you are allowed to climb to the top on weekends and national holidays in the late afternoons for a nominal fee of $20 pesos (more or less a buck, US). I'm told that the view of the town and ocean is fantastic from up there. Don't miss the opportunity like I did to go to the top.
July through October is Whale Watching Season here in Uruguay. I hear that this is the vantage point you want to see them from!
An interesting tidbit is that the lighthouse is also used as a giant sundial! There are marker posts located on the sand encircling the tower. As the sun travels across the landscape it casts its shadow. When the tower's shadow intercepts a marker you can surmise what time it is. Of course, we were there at high noon
so we didn't see a thing! So please note, if you ever visit this lighthouse, climb to its top and stay before or after high noon to see the tower's shadow cast. If you do this you will be two steps ahead of us!
See La Paloma for its beaches! The beaches, yeah I know, Uruguay is one long beach up its coast but to real aficionados there are beaches and then there are beaches!
Each beach in La Paloma has its own following and the little playas/beaches scattered around the seaside community are indeed different from each other!
La Aguada beach is an internationally known, surfers beach. La Paloma has several year round surf shops, restaurants and artisan shops. That says a lot, if you realize that many small communities virtually roll up their side walks and close down after the summers high season. La Paloma has several surfing schools, this should show you how serious this sport is considered down in this area.
Corumbá beach is named after a ship that sank off its shore. Part of the wreckage is still visible there.
El Cabito beach is recommended as a good diving spot for some first timers as the area is very calm yet has natural rock tidal pools with sand bottoms. It's also good for small children as the area is covered with small rocks to gather.
Los Botes beach has fine hard sand. It's wide with very few waves where lots of fishermen bring their catch so you can get fresh fish.
Solari and Zanja Honda are both wide with white sandy beaches and life guards. They're good for the whole family to play volley ball and lounge on.
There are other beaches including the two bays, one on each side of the peninsula, Bahia Grande and Bahia chico (Big Bay and Little Bay) but you get the drift that, there is a beach in La Paloma that will suit your own particular needs.
The Port (or Puerto). I think that ports with their varying boat styles and colors always makes for a great photo op. A good place to get a fishing trip out of.
I didn't get to stay until sunset. Wally and I had other places to be. However, I hear that the sun setting over the water is simply gorgeous and that there is a tradition at the beach known as La Balconada (It's deep and steep a favorite surfer place) that people applaud when the sun goes down. I wasn't there that night so I didn't hear any applauding first hand but I do applaud this small seaside community of La Paloma and will definitely come back there again. Maybe next time, people will see me waving to everyone from atop the lighthouse called Cabo Santa Maria. I hope so!