Sunday, December 13, 2009

Valparaiso and onwards...


´Valparaiso´- This city has a poignant breath. A vibrancy that makes your bones tingle. Streets paved with the magic of vendors and their metal stalls, coloured with patterns and pricelists. The hot splashes of oil as empanadas, springrolls & churros are cooked right in front of your eyes. Markets adorn the shady boulevards of the plazas. The electric shouts of Spanish, as stall holders catch your attention with their mastery. Christmas lights hang from the street lamps, crisscrossing above our heads & the faces of election candidates grin down from placcards. The usual throng of Perros (dogs) roaming amonst the crowds.

We spend hours exploring the suburbs - houses built haphazardly into the side of the hillside, noses staring out over the glistening port, navy ships, our home an entire ocean away. The walls and rooftops blink with colour. The carelessly brilliant brushstrokes of grafitti, political slogans, outward manifestations of life in this town. We slide into the doors of dingey cafes and enjoy coffee, ensalada de frutas, the soft tingle of samba. From the flowerlaced windows we watch the streets. Men absorbed in newspapers, niños playing marbles in the dirt, the gentle unloading of crates from beer trucks. There is energy transmitted in the simpleness of a smile, the fleeting glimpses of contact with other beings.

Night brings new impenetrable feelings. The hill radiant with the flickering ash of lights. The streets full to capacity with bodies drinking in doorways, mingling on corners. The circular patterns of capoeira, as crowds gather to watch the agile dances acted out in the centre. Jugglers tossing inanimate objects for the simple thrills of audience reaction. The nimble hands of jewellery makers in their piles of coloured cloth. The darkness is alive with celebration, drunken shouts of Colo Colo. A sea of bodies reclaiming the calles, with their flags and their laughter: the local soccer team has won their match.

Going north to the desert and patience is tested by 25 hours in a bus. Through a broken, feverish sleep i become aware of the elongated faces of mountains. The roughness of their texture illuminated by the crying moon. The slient path the roads weaves through their consciousness. The beauty unravels my heartstrings and i foget about dehydration, numb limbs. It is like we have descended upon the face of jupiter. Expanses of tye-died sand, moulded into billowing pillows. Odd deities and shrines constructed from rock, rubbish, tinsle. And the wide mouth of the ocean comes into view, sipping at the cracked skin of the desert, thirsty as all hell. The incongruency of watching boats bob next to a sullen bed of dust.

As the bus rocks in the night once again, we see the lights of San Pedro, hovering like a mirage. We find ourselves in the dusty streets of another pueblo, camping between the clay walls of a courtyard, with a bunch of mismatched characters. I can´t help but wander what new suprises America Latina has in store for us.

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