Not everyone feels comfortable in the hostel run by Nana and Gaston. Some people pale immediately when they see concrete floors and walls made of plywood. Then, when they hear there is no light nor Wi-Fi, they made a grimace and start to look for the first camioneta (something between a tractor and a bus) to go back. Others, overwhelmed by the beauty of this place and a charming couple of Gaston, the happiest cook in the world, and his wife Nana, primary school teacher who looks like Penelope Cruz, don’t even notice any of those details.
Cabo Polonio is a cape in the middle of Urugay’s national park. There are kilometers of empty, wild beaches, the landscape resembles a desert and there even is a small oasis in between. There are rocks full of sea lions – you can observe them several meters away from them or you can climb up a lighthouse to see them from other perspective. The lighthouse was built to diminish the number of maritime accidents around Cabo – several sank near this amazing coast. One of them probably gave name to the cape – either Spanish galleon named “Polonio” which passed by in 1735 or a ship which drowned in 1753 with his captain, Joseph Polonio, on board.
Sea lions get lots of attention here. Even the name of our hostel is “Lobo” (in Spanish sea lions become see wolves). Gaston and Nana have been running it for two year now. Before Gaston had a small resto in the neighborhood.
– When I started my bar, I was sure I needed electricity. How would I cook otherwise? – he tells us, half-sitting and half-lying on a couch he made himself (as well as all the house, he says tomorrow he is going to build a kitchen). – Every night I turned on the lights around the menu and every morning I found all the bulbs broken. Now I cook without even a fridge, everything is fresh! And delicious!
Newcomers in Cabo Polonio who want to make a revolution – lighting – need to be prepared for the same treatment.
– Why are you destroying the lights all the time? – we ask Nana and Gaston.
– Because we want to preserve this place the way it is – answers Nana. – Within a couple of weeks the newcomers adapt, understand the code of Cabo Polonio and start to defend it themselves.
– That’s why it still looks almost the same as it looked when I saw it for the first time, I was fifteen back then – adds Gaston. – If everybody started to put lights around the houses, there would be a huge light cloud above us as it is in the city next door, Vallizas. They can’t see the stars anymore. And we have the whole planetarium here, come and see! – he shouts enthusiastically and drags us out of the house. We have never seen so many shiny spots.
Gaston and Nana put the internet on for their guests once a day for fifteen minutes (if they want and remember about it). – At my room I have light, at my phone – internet. I live here and run a hostel, there is no other way. But I want my guests to experience something different, I want to take them away from their everyday life.
There is only one very posh hotel which provides 24 hours Wi-Fi for its guests. The owner is so fed up with tourists who come and ask for the password than when we do the same, he starts to shout at us:
– I am sick of it! I hate the fact that everyone comes here looking for internet, here, in the place where just a moment ago there was no electricity at all! Damn, I might get rid of it!
As he calms down, he apologizes and gives us the password: “desconectate”, “disconnect yourself”. So obviously we don’t connect in the end.
We ask Gaston why he thinks differently than all the other hostel owners who constantly improve their acomodation’s standard in order to attract more guests.
– For me good standard means clean, best quality sheets and comfortable mattresses – he answers. And that’s a fact, in our tiny room at the attic, where we almost need to crawl to get in, there are two layers of comfy mattresses. – The rest is the ambiance, good vibe and experience. This is the most important thing.