We wanted to go somewhere in Chile, but we were not sure where exactly. This is a big country… or rather a long and narrow strip of land, stretching from Arica to Patagonia. Eventually, we picked Valparaiso, an easy two-hour bus ride from Santiago.
I scored great seats on the bus—at the front, upstairs. Pure luck. “Look, Mark, if you sit here, quiet, you will be able to see everything. Like in a movie. We are going to go fast!” I promised.
“Ohhhh… big truck. Train. Truck. Fast! Big truck. Big truck. Big truck.”
I should not have said anything. Mark turned into this annoying audio voice for the first hour of the trip.
“Oh oh… stuck.”
“Yeah, well, maybe if you did not move so much, you would not get tangled into the seat belt. How did you even do that?”
In the end, I bribed him with butter cookies. Anyone would have done the same, really. Come on, I had to finish my book!
The ride was awesome. Picture a long stretch of road, mountains, and a lush valley. We drove through a couple of tunnels, got stuck into a traffic jam, sped on the open road again and eventually arrived in Valparaiso.
“Ahem… are we in Bolivia or something?” I said when seeing the chaotic streets and the open-air market stretching for several blocks. Valparaiso is a port city and isn’t as rich and polished as Santiago.
But it turned out to be awesome.
After we checked in, I wanted to go back to the centre, downhill, to see the huge market. We took the very efficient city train from Puerto to Barón and dove into the crowd.
I had never seen anything like this before—“this” being the freshest and most colourful fruits and veggies ever on display. The corns were the size of my calf, and the watermelons were almost bigger than Mark. The oranges and mandarin were dripping with juice and the bananas were twice the regular size of the ones we can find in Canada. I don’t even like most fruits, but I would have tasted them all. Mark had four mandarinas in a row.
The rest of the city downhill was just an endless chaotic market, with shops encroaching onto the sidewalks and vendors selling socks, souvenirs, sewing kits, glue, lighters, X-rated movies (“Wanna buy ‘Come and Bang my Wife?’ I asked Feng. “I heard the New York Times reviews are absolutely fantastic.”), made-in-China toys, cutlery sets and a bunch of other stuff. I almost felt like stopping right there and selling the content of the stroller, just to join the crowd—“one overactive toddler, two diapers, wipes, plastic bags, one kilo of mandarinas, one avocado, one pack of cigarette, two crushed cookies, sunglasses and other crap we carry with us!”
The chaos made me happy. I like cities with a pulse, a heart, a soul.
And I was about to be even more amazed by the hills…