Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Valparaiso

Thursday, December 9, 2010, 12:35 pm:  I arrive by subway at the bus terminal and am immediately rushed onto a bus. (Wait a minute, motherfucker!  I need to grab my book and my Xanax…just in case things turn ugly…)  Thankfully, the trip from Santiago to Valparaiso (US$7) turned out to be quite scenic and short, so no emergency measures were required.

Valparaiso is the city I have thought would one day be my home for more than 10 years now.  It’s pretty difficult to understand what combination of attributes (and alcohols) prompts one to choose a specific point on the map and make it a life goal to live there, but this is it.  All I can say is that the motherfucker better live up to expectations.

On the way:  Fertile farmland surrounded by rolling hills?  Check.  Acres and acres of wine grapes?  Check.  Vineyards, olive oil plantations, pisco distilleries?  Check.  Vast fields of agave?  Check.  (Someone needs to make some boutique tequila with all this shit!  The Peruvians and Chileans want nothing to do with it…the Mexicans do it, so it’s “beneath them.”)  Eucalyptus forest, pine forest, poplar forest, and miles of palms…all in the same place?  Check.  Clouds?  Not one.

First impressions:  Typically vibrant and energetic Latin city.  Few gringos.  Incredibly vertical.  (Good thing I had 4+ months of training in Cusco.)  Best fucking Italian food (carbonara, to be precise) I’ve had in 6+ months.  Had to order a second glass of chardonnay to get it all down…but I now have to carry the pack (45 pounds) up the hill farther to find a hostel…fuck me.  Bright colors, but slightly sea-worn.  (New Orleans meets Miami?)  Crazy curvy streets and lots of dead-end alleys.  This could get interesting.

First night:  After 3 hours of wandering through the incredible bohemian neighborhoods of Cerro Conception and Cerro Alegre looking for a hostel (The Sister would not have been happy about this), I settled on a quiet little room overlooking the sea for 10,000CLP (US$20) a night.  (By the way, transitioning from 3 nuevo soles to the dollar to 482CLP to the dollar is going to take some actual work in the cabeza.)  There are signs everywhere in this place saying bedtime is midnight in this family home, so I don’t think we’ll be having a long-term relationship.  But it is fucking beautiful:

 

My one hour post-dinner walk turned into three hours.  The topography, the neighborhoods, and the graffiti/art here are absolutely spellbinding.  This is the coolest city to get lost in since Rome and Venice.  The residential areas seem quite safe and when you drop down into the city core, the energy is palpable.  I’ve got to move out of the “family hospedaje,” on the hill…pronto.

 

A couple of important notes about Chile:

  1. They speak three times as fast as the Peruvians.
  2. Chilean Spanish drops the “s” at the end of all their words (as if I needed any more complications trying to fucking understand Spanish).  For example, “Buenos Dias” in Chile is “Buen Dia.”
  3. Chilean women are way hotter than Peruvian women.  (Sorry, Peruvians.  I still love you, but…truth be told…)  I have to concentrate or I’m going to fall on my goddamn face trying to walk down the street.

And now, I’m sitting at a bar with a lovely Chilean couple who own the place and two beautiful young girls who are their friends.  And I can’t understand a fucking word they are saying.  At least, in Peru, I could pick up the gist of the conversation and throw in something cute every once in a while.  Now, tonight, I have nothing.  I’m hoping the cute smile will get me somewhere, but, so far, I’m fucking useless.  How the fuck did I waste 6+ months in South America and not learn decent Spanish.  Oh yeah…now I remember…

But, low and behold, the girl next to me finally asked why I wasn’t saying anything.  “Because I can’t understand a fucking thing you people are saying.  You talk too goddamn fast.”  Five minutes later, they have not only decided, but are telling me aloud, “You are a really good person!”  Just a little handicapped…

Day 2:  I walked for 2 hours (lost, most of it) and finally found Pablo Neruda’s house, a museum called Museo Sebastian (probably would have helped to know that part).  I’m not much of a sentimental for shit like that, but it was really inspiring.  (And if you don’t know who Pablo Neruda is, you need to do some reading.  Seriously.)  Then I spent another 2 hours walking around the hills of Valpo, much to the distress of my knees.  Damn you, Father Time!  My lungs are solid, but the joints are not quite what they used to be.  Then I had my third meal in 36 hours that included hearts of palm.  Fantastic.  And the wine…oh, god, the wine…

 

Day 3:  So I bailed on the frumpy old lady’s house and moved into another place with a bit of life.  This is the first conversation I heard:

“Hey there, I’m David”

“Hey, I’m Zach.”

“Thanks so much for letting me in last night, man.  I was drunk and totally forgot my keys.”

“What?  I let you in?”

“Yeah, man, it was like 4 am.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, you were totally naked, but I couldn’t really complain since you were nice enough to get up and let me in.”

“I WHAT?”

Nice place, though.  Interesting people…

I’ve kind of ignored the garbage strike here because, well, I’ve seen way too many to count (Toronto, Vancouver, Tegucigalpa, Quito, Cusco…4 times…, Paris, Valparaiso…).  But it was interesting that they returned to work at 2 am on a Sunday morning.  With beeping trucks and flashing lights.  And front loader Caterpillars.  And Bobcats.  And a host of dudes with snow shovels.   Again, at 2 am on Sunday morning.  Fantastico.  They must have negotiated well, because they were the friendliest dudes I’ve run into in months.  (And there were epic piles of garbage all over the city.  Thank god the street dogs are down about 80% from what were in Cusco.)

Day 4:  I took the light rail to Vina del Mar (10 minutes north) to check out the beach and also to buy a plane ticket to Patagonia.  Twenty minutes sans shirt left me with an epic sunburn (damn you, Portland skin), but it was quite nice there and I will certainly return before I leave.  The only problem is that the water is ball-crushingly cold.  (See: Humboldt Current)  The weather here is really incredible, but it sucks to not be able to enjoy the sea.

 

Time for fresh pineapple juice, a hot dog (NO mayo, NO avocado-like substance!) and a delicious Escuda beer (NO Fanta) for 1500CLP.  I do love it here (other than the seemingly insurmountable language barrier), and would definitely return.  With some improved language skill?   And someone to enjoy it with?

 

 


2 Responses to “Valparaiso”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I absolutely LOVE the street art here!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I'm so happy you're blogging again–I've really missed it! You look great and sound like you are having an amazing adventure. Miss you. Glad you are taking the time to carve out your own path.
    –LT

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