How do you know you are on a Chilean beach? It’s easy: most people keep their clothes on. While Brazilians wear bikinis and parade half naked, Chileans are much more modest. They eat on the beach, read the newspaper, chat and occasionally dip their feet in the cold Pacific Ocean but that’s it. They are basically my mom on the beach.
I don’t blame them. The beach in Viña del Mar isn’t that great. The sand is a bit dirty and coarse and giant pieces of seaweed and jellyfishes are scattered here and there, along with some industrial garbage—tires, bolts, etc. There are giant vessels in the horizon and I doubt the water is very clean considering how close the industrial harbour is. The Pacific Ocean is cold and deep here and the waves are huge.
The waters aren’t friendly.
“It’s okay Mark,” I stated the first day. “If we walk along the shore right here, on the dry sand, the water won’t come.”
“How wet are you?” I asked a minute later after a giant wave soaked us both.
“A little bit.”
“Yeah, your pants are wet. Oh well, you can wear my sarong. My fault.”
‘Silly mommy, silly beach!”
Waves are big. I hadn’t seen that one coming.
Since few people play on the beach (there was even a sign stating that playing football was prohibited, which is probably why Brazilians and Argentinians don’t holiday in Viña del Mar), entertainment is on the pavement along the coast. Bouncy castles, playgrounds, craft markets and vendors keep everyone happy. The rest of the city is a cleaner and sterile version of Valparaíso with American fast-food chains, a packed mall and several pedestrian streets.
Last year, I had high expectations for Viña del Mar, I was picturing a Pacific paradise. This year, I knew the beach wasn’t great and it was a bit chilly too, but we still managed to enjoy it. Go figure.