From the devil’s point

Here I am, in Punta del Diablo, 11,000 km from the British Isles, watching the rain sweep across the seascape in north east Uruguay. I have just turned 50. I am surprised on both counts. The thought of flitting around Latin America for a while has been gestating for a few years. And, earlier in life, I’d have laughed cynically at the thought of still breathing at 50 (or wanting to be). My surprise is welcome.

In what used to be a very quiet fishing village on the edge of a national park, it is winter. Apparently, in the summer this place is heaving with young tourists, eager to take advantage of the surf and ‘laid back’ lifestyle. To be honest, looking at the shacks (currently closed) offering various alternative therapies, hippy tat, and the opportunity to dread your hair or get a tattoo, I’d hate it. But, for seven days we have been the only European tourists in town. If you’re looking for banging tunes and a great nightlife then September is not the time to come. If you’re 50 with three young children and a need to settle them into a new continent where everyone is mostly speaking Spanish then it is perfect.

I love the deserted and subsiding asphalt streets. You don’t feel amiss whistling a tune from a Sergio Leone film and the regular sight of tethered horses adds to the fantasy.

It has rained a lot. Arraigned in our bright waterproofs, the five of us are the quintessentially mad gringos; out walking on the beach when the sane are mostly inside huddled around the fire. We’ve walked miles of deserted beaches; seen countless birds of unknown varieties, kept our eyes keenly peeled for whales but spotted a solitary seal, and everywhere we go, been accompanied by a pack of dogs from the hostel where we’re staying.

I have always loved the tranquillity of solitude but there’s no denying the deep pleasure I get from spending time with Ishbel, Neamh and Ruaridh, trying to answer their questions, and watching their confidence increase around new people and circumstances. I know the next few months cannot possibly be a constant game of ‘happy families’ but I feel sure that the experiences our three will gain on this trip will be a truly positive legacy for Polly and me to have provided for them.

For my part; so far, so good. I’ve started to overcome my initial shyness and had a couple of conversations about the situation in Uruguay and beyond. For example, I’ve just returned from lunch where the proprietor was about the same age as me. He had been in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Angola. I started the conversation as I thought I recognised a tattoo on his knuckles but I was a bit confused by a mistake in the lettering of an acronym. More on my encounter with this possibly dyslexic Sandinista later.

Michael MacNeil, 5 September 2016








7 thoughts on “From the devil’s point

  1. Must take lots of reading to be able to answer those questions! Enjoy the journey, exploring and the lifestyle, you’ll be locals soon and would have learnt so much.


  2. So pleased to hear from you [and Polly earlier in the week]. Have been thinking about you a great deal & hoping all was going well. I’m sure the children will gain so much from this amazing experience & so will we as we follow you all around the world. All fine here, weather hot but not too sunny. We are hoping it lasts all next week as we are off to Tenby, a part of Wales we are not familiar with but if we are able to do some walking we will know a bit more about by the time we leave. Much love to you all. Paul & Aunty Sue xx


  3. Can’t tell you how excited I am reading your blog. There is literally a surge of pleasure rising up as I soak up every word imaging the sights and smells and feelings you must be having. Thank you for letting us read your blog. You just try and stop me signing up for the alerts…. I’m going to call them my 4 Mcneils and 2 Jones fixes!
    Polly you write with such effortless ease! Can’t wait to see how the adventure unfolds. The hard work that you and Michael have encountered planning is now all about to pay off! Enjoy the ride… We certainly are from here! Thanks so much! Simi x


  4. Hmmmm. “Here I am, in Punta del Diablo, 11,000 km from the British Isles” What are the British Isles? Don’t you mean the western European archipelago?


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