I arrive in Uruguay when the summer is starting to build up. After months of living in large cities I’m longing for the sea, beaches and nature big time.
So I swiftly sidestep Montevideo when I arrive there with a ferry from Buenos Aires, and head to the bus station.
The long-distance bus is packed to the rafters, but everyone is good-natured about it and in holiday mode.
My destination is La Pedrera Rocha. Or more precisely, to the small settlement of San Antonio.
Here I meet a vast and pristine beach with not a soul in sight, pine and eucalyptus forests and the lovely home of David and his beautiful daughters. They live in a big house that David purpose-built himself as a family home but also as a guesthouse or a posada as it’s called here.
This hidden away and very private retreat is only reached by a dirt track through the forest. The house is nestled in the forest and the beach is only a short walk away. It’s made of simple but honest materials, wood and stone, and it blends in well with the nature.
The pool is made of a massive round iron cattle tank. It’s lovely to swim in it as the sea is freezing.
The large windows and many terraces around the house make the indoors and outdoors flow seamlessly. The colour scheme indoors is paired down to minimalist natural tones. It’s soothingly relaxing and in keeping with the surroundings. So simple but so elegant. As a designer I’m in paradise.
It’s bliss staying here but the days go much to fast and I’m sorry to leave. David kindly drives me in his cool 1950s Studebaker truck to the crossroad in La Pedrera where the buses stop, with his youngest daughter sitting beside me playing her favourite rock songs. Miss you guys!
My next destination is Punta del Diablo, a little bit further north and now we are not far from the Brazilian border. Punta del Diablo is something of a surfers paradise.
My home for the next week is a sustainable off-grid house set in a natural reserve, just above Playa Grande beach and next to Santa Teresa National Park. This is the home of Rosi and Martin and their young son Telmo. Rosi from Argentina and Martin from Spain and they chose to build their low impact house here, as they tell me, they had a desire to live a peaceful place in full connection with nature.
A room with a view. This house is in a stunning location.
It’s interesting living in a totally green house, powered 100% by solar energy. The water comes from a well, the rainwater is also collected and the water from the sinks and showers go into an wetland pool. There is only one tiny fridge here and no other electrical appliances. The house is built as passive house, requiring little energy to heat and cool, reducing it’s ecological footprint. The compost is of organic waste and I learn not to throw away any cooked foods there.
The wifi connection here is dicey at best as we are kind of of-grid in this sense too and perhaps also because we are many sharing it. I find for myself that it is challenging to live very sparingly and consciously with things that one usually takes for granted such as electricity, water and last but not least wifi. To be mindful of the resources on earth is never as important as now, so it’s a good challenge. And interesting to see that one can get by with less than one thinks.
Though to see Rosi wash all the sheets and towels by hand, as they of course don’t have a washing machine is mind-boggling. But she only laughs and says that this keeps her fit. They also don’t own a car. All their transportation needs are made by either cycling or walking. And as their food storage for fresh food is minimal, it requires daily walks to the shop. So on the whole this kind of life style is not only time consuming, it’s also designed to keeps you very fit.
This is like living in a commune, as Rosi and Martin rent out several rooms in their big house. There are many nationalities sitting around the long dining table, that Martin has built himself. People from Brazil, Argentina, Germany, UK and the US staying at the same time as me, and everyone are really nice and we get along well. Here Violetta, Juliana, Marcio, Frederico and I are having breakfast.
This lifestyle of a big house with people coming and going is also a conscious thought, as this is what Martins childhood home in Spain was like. I’m featuring this home and the interesting ideas behind it in my forthcoming book.
The Playa Grande just down the road is absolutely magnificent! I the mornings before breakfast and before the sun gets too strong, inspired by Violetta, I take to having long power walks on the beach.
The rest of the day, since the weather has become warmer and sunnier, I enjoy swimming in the sea and people watching in the shade of my sarong. There are some surfers here but most of them surf at another beach closer to town.
One day I decide to rent a mountain bike and head out to discover Santa Teresa National Park. At first I have a hard time finding the right path in to it, and then I meet a bunch of guys from Canada looking for it too, so we team up and find it and continue together. As they are considerably younger I keep telling them that it’s totally ok if they want to speed on but funnily enough I keep up with them and it’s nice to have company when we face the steep uphill parts…
The nature reserve is beautiful. I’m looking for a conservatory that Rosi has told me about so halfway in the nature reserve the guys and I part and I go in search of it. I don’t find it but I soon discover that it probably would have been a good idea to bring some water and food as there isn’t any cafes to be seen for miles…Finally I found a small stall selling simple food in a camping area and it was lovely to dismount the bike and have a rest.
Here I met a couple of girls, Alehandra and Betto from Montevideo. They turned out to be architect students, and I got to know a lot of interesting things, such as that architect students in Montevideo get to travel the world together to study architecture. They have recently come back from the trip where they visited 30 countries! What a great experience!
And then the next day I met Julia from Brazil on the beach and we got talking. It turned out that she was studying social anthropology. We spent the next hour or more having the most interesting conversation about homes and she told me a lot about life style in Brazil. I just love these chance encounters that always are so rewarding!
The time has come to leave this utterly beautiful place. I take the long distance bus and settle in for a nearly six hours trip to Ciudad de la Costa where I’m going to stay for a couple of day before I leave for Guatemala.
I’m staying in the home of Selene. I have the luxury of having a bedroom and a small study here, which is good as I need to work. Outside my office window there is a Humming bird nest. How sweet isn’t this.
Thanks Uruguay and everyone I met here, it’s been amazing!
Copyright and photo: Anita Martinez Beijer