Friday, April 3, 2009

Valparaiso

We made it out of Pichilemu with some minor difficulty... we went to return the bikes to the renter, and for some reason the idiot left town at the time that we had agreed to meet, and wasn't going to be back for another couple hours, which didn't work for us because we had a bus that we wanted to catch that left in about... hmm... 45 minutes. But he had our 10, 000 that we had to give as assurance that we would return them. He should have given us 10 000 to assure us that he would be there. Bugger. Luckily Philipe, the owner of the campground, was really helpful, called the guy up, found out all his information, and then gave us out money and let us leave the bikes with him. It was awesome, as we weren't sure what we were going to do. We worked out this little deal, grabbed our bags, and we were on the side of the street for maybe one minute, hailed down the passing bus and we were off. We sat there stunned that we had actually made it out, everything had happened so quickly. Perfect. We even managed to make it to Valparaiso that night.
Our first night in Valparaiso had us convinced that we were in a shit hole. We got snapped up by a lady at the bus station, Lalo number two we call her, who invited us to come stay at her house. It was just around the corner so we decided to check it out. She opened a thin door to an equally thin and intensely steep but small stepped staircase, which was quite lengthy. We trudged up it with our bags, gripping the hand rail firmly so as not to fall to our deaths. She opened up this big door at the end of the hall way an we entered a hallway of quite a large apartment. There was probably 5 rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen. She showed us to our room which had a double and single bed with clean sheets, and a giant creepy doll with those eyes that open and close depending on whether she is laying down or sitting up. She sat there, staring at our bed with her glassy blue eyes. Very creepy.
The room was actually quite nice, very high ceilings with crown molding and wooden floors. I spent a good amount of time fanatasizing about how beautiful you could make this apartment with only a bit of work. Toss all the junk, give er a clean, a coat of paint and voila, an excellently located, beautiful new hostel. Instead this woman squandered it with useless furniature and allowed grime to overtake her kitchen. Half a mouldy apple sat on her oven. But the bathroom was clean, and so was the room, and it was cheap and we were tired and already in it, so we decided to stay. Plus we had a lock on our door. So we took it. The first thing we did was toss the giant creepy doll above a cabinet face down. We proceede to get settled in, her knocking at the door every 5 minutes with random little queries or suggestions, which in my fatigue were difficult to understand. Chilean spanish can be extremely hard to decipher. She asked if we were hungry and offered to make us salad, but we declined, the state of her kitchen told all. We told her we would go out, so she recommended a Chinese restraunt about 6 blocks away. We grabbed some cash, locked our room and then asked for the key to the door. Oh.. she mumbled. Her friend had stayed there and then taken the key, so she didn't have one for us. Okay... that made us quite uncomfortable, but we'd already paid, we were comitted. I asked her if she would be staying in the apartment, and she assured me that she would, but then in about 10 minutes she was out the door, telling us to call her when we wanted back in. She gave us her card. A very professional scribble on a peice of paper. Great, just what we needed. Another person to fuck us over the phone. So we left, seeking out the great chinese restraunt she had recommended. The streets were dark, littered with dark figures that had dark thoughts leeking through their eyes. It was not a very pleasant area, frankly it stank, so we kept our pace up searching for the restaraunt. Unfortunately we found it, and entered to find a grand room with about 60 well set tables, completely empty. Absolutely no other human was eating here, but we found out that other things do. And that other thing happened to crawl over our table cloth as I sat there reading about the swollow spit soup. I looked over my menu to see a cockroach making it's way across our table cloth. I slowly but firmly pushed my chair as far away from the table as I could, trying to keep my voice calm, and told orin that ¨there is one hundred percent a cockroach on our table¨. The waitress saw it and then tried to move us to another table, but no fucking way I am going to eat there, my imagination feeding on what their kitchen must look like. So we akwardly got up, thanked them, and released ourselves back on the the street, walking briskly and trying to shake off the heebie jeebies.
We entered a corner store to get some water, and a massive cockroach scuttled out from under the counter, looked at us, and then scuttled away into the darkness. So far Valparaiso was just unpleasant, but we decided that we shouldn't judge it until we saw it during the day. We found a well lit and populated pizza joint and shared a pizza. It was delicious, far better than roach chow mein. Or swollow spit soup for that matter. So we headed home, hoping that lady Lalo would be faithfully waiting for us, maybe cleaning her kitchen or something like that. The front door was open, which was weird.. it had a folded up piece of paper wedged in the lock, but when we went to the top of the stairs no one answered the door. Very odd. Something didn't feel right, and we started to get nervous again. So we walked back to the bus station, hoping that we would find her trying to convince other travellers to stay with her, but couldn't see her. There was a phone there, so we dialed her number, only to have the operator yammer undecipherable spanish at us. We tried again, and she wasn't answering. Uh oh. Then we turned around and she was standing right there, talking to an office lady. Orin walked over to her, and she turned around, looked at him, and walked away, completely ignoring him. We followed hesitantly until she turned around, with a look asking us why we weren't catching up to her. So we sidled up, and on the short walk home she was speedily lashing out spanish, so fast the only words I could catch were 'police' and 'key'. This made me very, very nervous. My brain was stewing again.. we had been scammed, her partner had broken in and stolen all our shit, and now she was calling the cops to claim innocence. I got her to slow down, and found out that she had called the police because she had locked her key in the house. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. It was like midnight, and we were sitting on the steps with this sketchy lady, wondering if we were going to find all of our stuff gone when we finally got back in. She said the cops told her 5 minutes, so after 15 of sitting around waiting, she was off to go call them again. We watched as she wandered the block aimlessly, crossed the street to talk to a group of young men, and they all looked over at us, then she handed him something and they all broke up, and she continued down the street and disappeared around the corner. By this point we were feeling sick with worry, almost ready to kick down the seedy door and see what the fuck was going on here, to make sure our stuff was there and we weren't just sitting there while someone was making off with our only wordly possessions. I walked into some packaging business that was closing down beside us, and explained the situation. He laughed and said that the cops are useless, that we needed the fire department. I convinced him to call them up for me as I spoke very little Spanish and wouldn't be able to explain my problem, and didnt know the address. I also asked him if he knew this woman, which he said she did, and he gave me a thumbs up when I asked if she was a good woman. I felt a bit better about that.
About 10 minutes later a police car arrove, and somehow they managed to get the door open. It seemed as though the guy who I had got to call the fire dept had a set of keys, handed them to the cops, they walked up the stairs and a minute later it was open. That confuses me greatly, how that could possibly work boggles my mind, so we joked about how they have 4 kinds of keys in the whole city. ¨Hey rick, i forgot my keys, do you happen to have a B on you?¨. So weird. So we busted in, opened our door, and everything lay just how we left it. We breathed a great sigh of relief, and opened our bottle of wine. The lady kind of apologized, but didn't seem too concerned about it. She obviously had no idea that these sort of things happen all the time in South America, except at the end the tourist finds himself just screwed, and all of his things stolen.
Parental units may want to skip this part, but we are all adults here, so hey... It was about 1 in the morning when she started banging on the door again. Orin and I were in the middle of what two people do when they love eachother, ahem, when she starts knocking away. No! I yelled out, really not wanting her to barge in on us like crazy people tend to do. She was muttering shit at the door, and then commanded ¨Come Here!¨ I was at the end of my line. I completely expected her to be some crazy Catholic zealot and start going off about how she would not have this kind of behavior in her house by an unwed couple blah blah blah, though in hindsight there would be no way she could have known unless she was doing the old cup against the wall trick. But at the moment it seemed like the only thing in the world that would bring her knocking on our door. I made Orin answer it, mwahaha, and he opened it to her smiling face and a big bowl of grapes. So random. Grapes at 1 in the morning. Crazy crazy person. We thanked her and she left. The grapes were actually pretty good.
The next morning we packed up an headed across town to a bonafide hostel, Casa Adventura. It was really awesome there. We stayed in a spacious dorm room, the same high ceilings and crown as lady Lalos house. There were only three beds in this room too, where other hostels would throw 4 bunk beds and cramp 8 people together. Not to mention these tender little beds all had big douvets on it. Oh Clare, it was awesome! I miss my douvet so much... and my bed.... but mostly YOU!!!! And the good times we've had in my bed.... not creepy that way, just chillin in the morning. and night. you know what's up. ANYWAYS.... this hostel was awesome. It had a kitchen, very clean and without token mouldy apple, and a big dining room. It also included a breakfast, which was delicious. Bread with cherry and apricot jam, eggs, fruit, and the best coffee we've had so far. Filter coffee. I love it, the espresso being the only thing served in restraunts, always under the guise of ´coffee´.
That day we discovered the real Valparaiso. A beautiful colourful city sitting on a hill overlooking a port. It is so steep that they have a series of machines throughout the town called ascendors. They are a lot like elevators but they run on the ground the whole time, ascending diagonally up the hill. Very, very sketchy. They made me quite nervous! We walked around that day and admired the city. Stone streets and vibrantly painted houses, with a intricate network of little walkways weaving throught the city. Every available wall was tagged, and generally tagged very well. There was lots of great graffitti art, and Orin and I spent many an hour walking around and appreciating it. The next day we walked high up into the town to Casa Sebastian, the former house of the famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. We got a little lost on the way there and as has happened a couple of times in Chile so far, when we asked directions we got more than that, we got a guide. The guy just got up and took us there, about 6 blocks away. It was awesome. It also happened in Pichilemu where a woman working in the grocery store, when asked about a internet cafe, just got up and walked us the 4 or so blocks there, we thanked her profusely and she just turned around and went back. So awesomely strange.
Nerudas house was absolutely awesome. It had a gorgeous view as it was so high up, and the architechture was rad. The things he did with it were really neat, lots of windows and big spaces. They told us he used to throw lots of partys here, an especially good one on new years when Valparaiso has a huge display of fire works, drawing people from around the country. That would have been an amazing party. He had a big ceramic bull on his table that he used to serve punch out of it. I thought clare would appreciate it alot. There was also this great wooden bar that he used to spend all night behind, making up mixed drinks. So awesome. It was a really interesting tour, and we got one of those extremely nerdy talking phone thingies that give you a verbal tour. Virtual guide I guess. Very funny.
We also went out on thursday night, which was really fun. We drank a bottle of pisco sour first, and got all loosy goosy. Pisco is their Chilean made alchol, so we had to try it. It was pretty good, but almost put Orin asleep and I had to beg and whine to get him to come out, but luckily he did. We walked down to this place called Puerto Feliz, literally Port party, which was an old port warehouse turned into bar. It had three different bars within this one bar, each with a different scene going on. The first room had tango lessons going on, but they were not beginners. They were really good, and it looked like an amazingly fun dance. We sat there for quite a while watching them dance, enjoying the art. Then we moved upstairs, to find the extremely stereotypical jazz scene. Everyone sat around smoking and staring at an electric guitar, stand up base and drums smoothly emit jazz music. They were very good musicians, but I find jazz kind of boring, so we didn't stay for long. Downstairs we found another room where an electric bass trio was performing, and this was our scene. It was awesome, they were funky and bluesy all at once, and I loved them. They were quite experimental, but always with a good beat going. They rocked out and we watched them for about 45 minutes, and then the show was over. It was awesome. We left that bar soon after and walked down the street past the typical club scenes. At one of the neon glowing caverns I stopped and just had to go in. Orin came hesitantly behind me. It was pretty awesome. A bunch of young university students jumping around on the floor, with this guy up front with an overly loud microphone, singing along to all the songs that played. And note that they never play full songs, just the best minute or two, until the music would stop, he would shout stuff, make people cheer, and then wham, the next hit would be pumping out and he would be singing along like crazy. He had a great voice too. Very weird, but people were loving it, having a great time, and dancing like mad.
This morning we got up and consumed our last delicious breakfast, packed up, and are now in Santiago, waiting for our bus to Mendoza, in northern Argentina. It is almost 7 now, and our bus leaves at 10. We got in at four so it seems we've managed to kill 3 hours already. We really should have just stayed in Valparaiso, but we had hoped that there would be more frequent buses leaving from the capital, but alas, not so. Oh well. Time to catch up on the blog and the journal. Well, that is the news for now! Hope that everything is going well for you all back home. And Mom and Dad, leaving for Saskatchewan today! How exciting. I hope that your trip goes well and that you have a lot of fun. Stop in Climax for me.

1 comment:

  1. i've been drinking bird nest soup every night (i only get the homemade kind back at home). the only reason why i drink it is because it's supposed to be good for complexion.

    i’ve been taking the store-bought kind online (e.g. www.geocities.jp/hongkong_bird_nest/index_e.htm of famous branded only of course) which is directly mailed from Hong Kong. this would be at a more affordable price.

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