With a Ceviche Beginning
09/05/2010 - 09/05/2010 71 °F
An unpromising Sunday morning, devoid of plans and starting off with a crucial headache, wound up being one of my most riveting days in Chile to date. After my now routine yoghurt & fruit breakfast and a brief chat with my host madre, I just left the house with my camera on the premise of getting some shots of the Carabineros (Chilean policia) for my class in the morning. My plan was to just walk the 5 mile stretch along the shore between Viña and Valpo and hope for to run into some patrolling Carabineros.
I spotted a pair pacing vigilantly in the parking lot of this seafood market and commenced my stalking. After a few decent pictures, I meandered into the market where local fisherman displayed their fine fresh catches. One of the dudes was pretty affable and started showing off one of his squids and giving a quick anatomy lesson; I dare say it was the best looking squid I have ever laid my eyes upon in a fish market. I was real keen to partake in the purchasing of some quality sea meat and came across a stand selling these cups brimming with oysters, clams, and some other mysterious sea creatures; complete with an oyster shell spoon. It was drenched in lemon juice and given a sweet little crunch by diced onion and fresh herbs (I now know it to be the legendary ceviche). A little much taste of the sea by the bottom of the cup and some wild textures but overall quite delectable indeed, the Chilean food continues to grow on me.
A couple more kilometers walking brought me to an area of graffiti-ridden abandoned buildings and a rusty old train I had always assumed to be abandoned as well. I sort of slowed down the pace walking by the train because I was considering giving myself a little tour....but then I saw some movement through one of the windows and realized it was probably a homeless dwelling and best not to disturb. While I was walking away, somebody called out to me and I turned back to see a girl hanging out of the train door motioning for me to come aboard. I was definitely real skeptical that a gang of hobos was going to pounce on me inside the train and steal my camera and ducketts; but I chose to disregard the worries and board the train.
The interior was not at all as expected, or as indicated by the outside appearance. The front car was really clean and organized with red curtains, a few tables, chairs, and a piano. The middle car was host to a narrow hallway and a little kitchen where a few men were sitting around drinking. The back car was the real prize, it was like an artistically arranged flea market; the walls were covered with faded photographs, paintings, and loads of other memorabilia. The girl who had originally summoned me explained that she was from Buenos Aires and had met the owners of the train at an old theatre that they're remodeling on Cerro Concepcion. She introduced me to the owners of the venture, a man of about 60 wearing army fatigues and a necklace with a selection of keys worthy of a janitor, to his side was an even older woman with grey hair and a friendly face. The man didn't seem too interested in meeting more strangers but the lady was real cordial and prepared some glasses of heated wine with a squeeze of fresh orange, which was tasted awesome.
We sat at one of the tables in the front car drinking the hot wine while one of the other men sat down at the piano and started playing one of those real famous American tunes that he said was from a Robert Redford film (The Entertainter I think). Then he really went all out for their gringo guest and belted out Billy Joel's "Piano Man," lyrics varying between English and Spanish with the verse.
Apparently the plans for the train, which they claim to be the slowest in the world, are to transform it into a sort of café/tourist attraction. Originally I had thought the whole "más lento tren del mundo" thing was a joke about how the train was forever stationary, but in actuality the train is (illegally) capable of moving back and forth across the small section of track on which it lies. Anyways, by the time I left the train, I had promised to spearhead the re-painting of the exterior and also help in getting the train bonafide as the slowest train in the world by being the middle man with Guiness World Records.
I escorted the Argentinian to the bus terminal so she could make her bus to Santiago and fly back to the motherland tonight. On the walk she started raving about the brilliance of the old lady who I had met, saying something to the extent that she used to be a doctor and was the first woman in South America to preform a heart transplant. With these large claims, I became skeptical of the group all over again. Either way, I'm well intrigued and shall certainly make good on my vows to paint and talk to the Guiness folk.
El capitán del tren gave me his card and it had a link to this video of it in action, so you all can witness a train moving very slowly...