Tyson´s Travels

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Valparaiso the Absurd

Chile – January 2016

Valparaiso, how absurd you are, dishevelled,

you never finished combing your hair, you’ve never had time

to get dressed, life has always surprised you.    

       Pablo Naruda.
P_20170110_123712.jpgNaruda leaves little left to say. Port cities are always interesting and this one returns in spades.  It also takes away a lot in the form of thieves.  Of all the first hand robbery accounts I heard in Chile, they all took place here. Stealing from a camera happy tourist shooting the endless graffiti in its maze of quiet allies would be child’s play.

My soul was itchy and the camera wielding tourists and ample graffiti just wasn’t scratching that itch. What shimmered on the horizon was a sand dune in the middle of the city not far off. The grass of the sand always seems more golden elsewhere always so I schemed and I plotted with the help of a map and I decided that the metro running along the seashore was my escape to Vina del Mar and hopefully the sand dunes beyond.

p_20170110_135626The sign for the metro clearly stated it was under a dollar for a two zone ticket. Perfect as I was running short on cash and withdrawing from an ATM in Chile comes with a $10 surcharge along with the fees your bank may add, so I wasn’t keen on withdrawing more cash. I was a bit perplexed when the ticket vendor wanted $5. “Yes it is only $1 but you have to buy a metrocard for $4 as well”, the lady stated unsympathetically. “But I only want to use it once I begged”.  Take a bus then for a dollar came the retort. But the bus simply doesn’t have the waterfront views I was hoping for from the train. So I asked if I could pay someone to swipe me in and the lady shrugged. I assumed that was a yes.  Many systems allow more than one person to use one card and most locals are generally happy to help. I have used this idea fairly frequently in my travels always with success.

So I approached an attractive young lady who told me she couldn’t as she had a student card. Too young. Okay. So I tried an older man who couldn’t as he was on a seniors card. Hmm. Middle ground needed. I tried a well dressed businessman who agreed but wouldn’t take my money. Before he left he told me that you have to use the same card to get out and he was going to the last possible station which was much further then I needed.

The view was stunning as we chugged next to the surf and the occasional beach. Now how to get out. At the exit there was no one around but a security guard who looked at me inquisitively as I wasn’t simply swiping and exiting. I explained and he opened the gate as he shook his head in disbelief as I apologized. I even tried to give him the coin which I had yet to pay. He declined and I went on my way thankful he had been so kind. I wasn’t going to do that again.  

p_20170110_161329The metro didn’t put me far enough so I jumped on a bus with the dollar I had saved. When a wooden staircase rose up the edge of the giant dune unfortunately anchored by a giant condo construction project I got off and climbed the stairs in glee. Beyond was a scramble up the sand to families picnicking on top and teenagers with sandboards surfing the sands. If I had known their was a road and an access point at the back my journey would have been quite simple. Mission completed, I turned and headed the lengthy route down to the sea where the dunes appeared perched at a cliff edge. A bit of vegetation and the wind kept the sand back and off the waterfront road. The trail cascaded down a gully with a wave of sand as I slid my way down to the coast road.  Here appeared to be the newer exclusive area. The next beach was a wider chaotic mix of beach bums, street musicians and random food vendors many selling items just created in their kitchen. Some were set up professionally with deep fryers on carts while others looked like they had run over with a tray from their p_20170110_203316oven. Condos climbed up the hill while between sandy beaches were rocky islets hosting fighting sea lions competing for space. These smelly barking animals must have annoyed the wealthy Chileans fighting for space on the beaches and the hills. It all seemed like some weird ironic mirror. Needless to say I was the only foreign tourist around. The others were probably too busy getting their cameras stolen in Valparaiso.

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