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

The Return to Valparaiso

And now we are back to Valparaiso.  And by “we,” I mean the Greater We:  Casey, Becca and Cameron (English teachers from Cusco and regulars at The Lost City), Reverend Dave and Wendy (friends from Portland), Ruth and Gali (from  Well, I guess I’m not traveling alone anymore…

We meet at Angel Hostel, my previous haunt, where a different Cameron from Australia is telling us about how he got robbed by two “little dudes with pointy sticks.”  At 11 am.  On a Sunday.  Broad daylight.  Apparently, they claimed to have a knife, but never actually showed it and he gave up his wallet and backpack…to two little dudes with pointy sticks.  You must be fucking joking me.

Later that night, he comes dancing into the bar where we are drinking and offers us 300CLP to go dancing with him.  If I had a pointed stick right now, I could take him for 50,000CLP.  This guy is clearly stupid.

The next afternoon, we went to the market and spent 55,000CLP on food and wine for the eight of us and then spent three hours making salsa (The Rev) and guacamole (me) and then chicken fajitas…but we were so drunk and had snacked so much by the time the fajitas were actually cooked that we only ate about ¼ of them.  No problem…we have lunch for tomorrow!  Playing cards later with our new friend Alejandro (The Guacamole always makes for new friends) and cracking our 9th bottle of wine (the first 8 were clearly not enough), we hear the young kids from The States who are staying in the hostel come home.  Next I remember, I am in the kitchen and our guacamole is out on the counter.  I don’t think much of this…well, see above wine reference.  Next, The Becca is saying something about the fajitas being gone.  In fact she has confronted them about it and they claim that it certainly wasn’t them.  Wait a minute…everyone else in the hostel was eating with us, so who else could it be??  Next…well, next is The Becca kicking me and telling me to roll over and quit snoring.  Seems slightly critical of her, all things considered.


Next…hey it’s morning!  I roll into the kitchen and our other new friend Pablo is swearing in The Español about “those stupid fucking American kids” who stole all of his ham.  The gerbils rotate.  Ah…I look in the fridge and confirm that, indeed, there is an empty (and still dirty) bowl where there was once a magnificent pile of fajitas.  “Five American College Students Found Dead in the Streets of Valparaiso” runs across the scroller on Fox News.  Nancy Grace is already on a plane to spend the next 5 months covering the tragedy live.

Actually, I am so non-confrontational that I don’t even think either of my ex-wives even remember they were married to me.  I make a liter of hot water for some yerba mate and go back to my room.

The Becca comes running into the room to say she has had “The Talk” with one of the little bastards.  I’m proud, but certain we will gain nothing more than the satisfaction of saying that at least someone told them off.  But, low and behold, 5 minutes later one of them comes strolling into our room and says, “I’m sorry I was drunk and lied to your face last night.  And I’m really sorry we ate all of your food.”  Then he hands us 15,000CLP and walks away.  One, an incredibly mature act after an incredibly stupid one.  Two, we can probably buy 5-6 more bottles of wine with that cash.  Fucking score!!!!

So, we celebrate with a walk through Valparaiso and adventures on their famed ascensors.  Let’s go someplace I haven’t been!  We walk along the waterfront, up the hill, and into a very local neighborhood I haven’t seen.  Perfect.  We make our way through a local produce market and grab some fresh peaches.  Even better.  As we continue along the ridge enjoying the beautiful views of the bay, an older woman gives us the throat slash gesture and yells something unintelligible in Españolish (well, all Chilean Spanish is unintelligible…).  Buenos dias to you as well!!  Fifty meters later, a man comes out of a shop and gives us the same gesture.  Strange, but surely not what we are imagining?  It’s a beautiful and quiet Monday morning and we’re just going for a walk, for gods sake.  Another 100 meters and a woman yells, “Gringos!!”  And then runs her thumb across her throat.  Okay.  I get it.  Three is enough, even for me.  I can’t find a pointy stick anywhere for self defense, so we run in front of the next bus that comes our way and evacuate to “more gringo friendly spaces.”  I’m not willing to die for something as stupid as a walk in the hills of Valparaiso.


The next day, Australian Cate joins us after also escaping The Cusco Syndrome…and the entire dynamic of humor has changed radically.  “My rule about sexuality is if you’re not fucking me, I don’t really care who or what you are fucking…well…as long as it’s not a child.  Or a small puppy.”  I love you, Australian Cate.


At this point, I am up to about 1.7 liters of Yerba Mate every morning.  There are certainly benefits.  There also may be cause for concerns, but mine are probably different:  First, you can’t put Baileys in it.  Second, Mate Casey may be a bit more “intense” than Regular Casey, who is not exactly calm.  Third, mate is very bad before a long bus ride, of which there are many in my current travels.  I think I’m going to chew the goddamn arm off this seat after I finish writing this paragraph.  But I can say that more than one Argentinian has said that I belong here, which I take as a great compliment.


The Becca has finally been convinced that her 63 pound laptop is not really practical for travel, so we make a stop on the way to the grocery store to pick her up a netbook.  After a painfully long negotiation of RAM quantities, shell colors and the location of the “@” key, we finally settle on one.  Then Cecilia says that price is only available if you have a Ripley Department Store credit card.  Which The Becca cannot get without a permanent Chilean address.  “SCREW JOB!”  (Oh, that may have been a little loud…see above mate reference.)  But, seriously, why the fuck did you let us get this far in the negotiations and fail to mention that?  After much more terrible Españolish (the girls) and mocking gestures (me and Rev. Dave), suddenly the deal is consummated…since it’s 5 minutes to closing and Cecilia doesn’t work the next day.  These fucking people…


Next up:  Dinner plan?  I volunteer to make empanadas from scratch…at 9 pm.  As soon as we return with the groceries I realize what a really horrible idea this is:  No one is going to eat until after midnight for sure.  Of course, everyone volunteers to help prep to speed the process along.  And, of course, everyone is “in the middle of something else” when the prep is actually happening.  So it’s me, a kilo of steak, a kilo of onions, and a bottle of Carmeñere crowded into the kitchen with three Argentinian Dudes (who walk very sexy) who are trying to make some pasta.  After an hour of trying, Rodrigo from the hostel has the oven actually firing at 10:15.  Ruth and Gali have a killer salad ready to rock at 10:30.  And then dinner is served!  At 1:30 am…   Oops.  The Argentinian Dudes don’t want to try my “Argentinian empanadas”…and then they try…and then they eat an entire tray.  I win.


Our last today together as a group has to be a beach day, so we gear up and head to Viña del Mar to take in some sun and try to conquer the Humboldt Current.  On the bus to Reñaca Beach, I swing from the rails (as I always do) and am possibly a bit obnoxious.  At which point I am “shushed” by several of my travel partners.  “I would like to remind all you motherfuckers that you came here to join me!.  This is my journey.  And you know who I am.”  (Of course, my behavior could have been related to the 17th cup of mate before getting on the bus…more research is needed…)

After stopping to pick up some fresh fruit and juice, we pick out a nice empty spot on the beach and make camp for the day.  All is well…except…  What is the deal with the Argentinian guy camped out directly in front of us?  What is immediately termed “The Developing Cock Situation” (it must be serious if it attains proper noun status that quickly) is a bit of a distraction, but the beach is beautiful and the water is as ball-crushingly cold as predicted, but at least 3 of us made it all the way in.




Our last night together had to be considered a smashing success.  (As in, we all got completely smashed.)  Rev. Dave, Wendy, and I spent an hour at a bar reminiscing, hugging and kissing, and being stupidly sentimental.  Gali, Ruth, and The Becca tried to go out salsa dancing with Argentinian Dudes and ended up just getting lost.  (Note to self:  2.3 liters of yerba mate + 6 bottles of wine + one joint = questionable results.)  On the one hand, we did clear out all the furniture from the hostel living room and salsa dance until 4 am with Argentinian Dudes.  On the other hand, I did miss my morning bus to Mendoza.  All-in-all, worth the US$30 mistake…I think.


After being so desperate for company after leaving Cusco, now that I have it I just want to be alone.  (What the fuck does this say about me?)  It’s great to have company, but I always feel like I need to get everyone organized and do what others want to do, when I really just want to sit around and read or write.  The dynamics of the larger group were much better because it makes more sense to split up.  Currently, The Rev and Wendy are out with The Becca for coffee (I don’t drink coffee anymore…I have a superior drug), which gives me a chance to write all of this, but I am still struggling with what I really want to do, where I want to go, and who I want to do it with.  I’d like to say it’s just a problem of group dynamics and the stresses of travel.  But, ultimately, I think I’m just losing my mind.  Again, more research is needed.




One Response to “The Return to Valparaiso”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Looks like fun. Hey Rev.

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