Walking Home

reveries of an amateur long-distance hiker

In Patagonia Day 44

April 3rd, 2018

In Patagonia Day 44
Valparaiso

Tomorrow ends another extended wander as I begin that long slow passage via bus, plane, and train back to the place my passport calls home. My final, non-airport evening demanded a visit to Altamira, a fine brewpub down the hill from my hostel. Just like my favorite Castro pub, it was not open when advertised, so, not wanting to climb back up all those dogshit covered steps, I drifted down to the square with Neptune’s statue, turning into the Bar Cinzano, one of my best random choices this trip. Established in 1896, the Cinzano is a classic bar, straight out of a Hemingway novel or a Chilean version of The Godfather. Fake wood formica counters with the pattern worn off, a line of wooden stools showing decades of sitting, little attempt at decor, just the slow accretion of objects— posters, boat models, a wall with 2014 World Cup brackets. It is a sports bar in the old-school sense. Not some space crowded with TV screens tuned to multiple games selling watery beer and hot wings to a clientele whose best days were in college and who still use the word “bro” without irony. No, the Cinzano has one, not-so-big screen and I am sure is crowded with long-time patrons and fans on match day.

Many years ago I was in Paris for a conference, staying in a small hotel before the days when the rooms had televisions. It was during the EuroCup, so in the evenings after shedding my fellow conferees, I sought out a place to watch the matches. Across the street was a narrow bar filled with elderly Parisians, clearly their neighborhood spot. Against the wall was an old, big-screen tube television— a little grainy, but definitely fitting the decor. I entered to not particularly inviting stares, found a seat in the corner and quietly drank whatever beer they served (the French version of Budweiser). I sat through every game shown, returning nightly throughout the week, cheering for France and the Netherlands (which was at the time my adopted home). As the nights passed, I was greeted with familiar nods, and, toward the end, the patrons were all cheering for my Orange—Hup Holland! unless of course they were playing France. Clearly I was an outsider at Cinzano, ordered a Quimera pale ale (Santiago brewery), and watched the regulars pass through, as familiar to each other as the worn counters. If I lived in Valparaiso, this is where I would stop at the end of the day, and definitely is where I’d watch football. So grateful this last little wander gave a glimpse of old Valparaiso.

T. Hugh Crawford

In Patagonia Day 43

April 1st, 2018

In Patagonia Day 43
Valparaiso

In Valparaiso, the first time in a city for six weeks. Wandering Patagonia took me through a litany of fascinating but small towns—Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, El Calafate, El Chaltén, Castro, Puerto Varas, Pucón. Valparaiso is a true port, touched by the Beagle on its cruise with Darwin and visited by Herman Melville as a young sailor and also the port of origin for his fictionalized account of a slave ship uprising “Benito Cereno.” Today there are acres of concrete piers with multistory cranes casting long shadows over shipping containers stacked 10 high. The main part of the city is on a fairly flat band of land following the coast, looking very much like the earthquake uplifted land banding Wellington. There the high rises, corporate and government buildings, and warehouses fill in blocks relieved by the occasional park, including the imposing memorial in Sotomayor Square in the shadow of the Naval palace. I wandered through some of that area early Saturday morning from the bus, dodging the relics of some serious Good Friday debauchery. The port also accommodates tourists, and on this busy Easter weekend they swell the crowd.

I took the dollar harbor tour on one of the many elderly wooden boats (in some parts the paint was thicker than the wood). Though probably a city safety rule, it is a little disconcerting to see everyone wearing their life jackets before the boat pushes off from the pier. We coasted along the city to a point across the harbor where a decaying concrete dock provides habitat for some well-fed sea lions.

I’m sure they are oblivious to the fate of their ancestors at the hands of 19th century “sealers” like Amasa Delano, the other captain in Melville’s “Cereno” or the many inhabitants up and down the coasts pursuing skins and boiling blubber. Seeing the city from the water — as Ezra Pound would say “not as land looks on a map/ But as sea bord seen by men sailing”—shows how the city is formed and how the people live. Rising up from the lower level are a series of ridges, all covered with houses. Between ridges are deep ravines that effectively divide the city into segments. I walked up from the pier, climbing long steep stairs as the trolley was being repaired—many steep places are serviced by old vertical trolly cars—finding myself one ridge over from where I wanted to be, requiring my climbing to the very top of the high ridge and descending back into my neighborhood. Clearly affluence varies in relation to these different sections.

Superficially, this place that reminds me of Lisbon or Porto. Big fishing towns facing an ocean to the west, built on cliffs and steep hills making interesting levels. But some cultural differences make the comparison complicated. As always I found the best brew pub, and later a good seafood restaurant. The beer was great (including Jamaican Dream IPA which was green, really strange tasting and maybe a real 4/20 beer). And the fish was wonderful, but the staff in both places moved at a frenetic pace. Of course this is a holiday weekend and the city is packed with visitor (primarily from Santiago), and I understand the need for good, quick service, but both places made me nervous, wanting to finish quickly so the jumpy staff could fill the table with the next party. In Portugal, your table is yours—no one will hustle you out the door. The pace of life there is human, not economic. Perhaps I’m being unfair as it was a busy time, and I do love this city, particularly its out-of-kilter structures, sidewalk life, and of course the murals—pure delight.

T. Hugh Crawford

Seo wordpress plugin by www.seowizard.org.