Sealions in the market
Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
105Trip End Jun 08, 2006
We are on our way by bus from Puerto Varas to Valdivia. We pass through the town of Osorno, and cut off the main Ruta 5 to arrive in Valdivia after a comfortable 3 hours.
Unfortunately when we arrive in Chile's nicest town its raining! In the bus terminal Rachel and I look at each other and wonder if we can face a long walk in the rain to find a suitable hostel. Fortunately, there's a hostel looking for us, and we get solicited by friendly Seņor Antonio to stay at his place. Despite the lack of Spanish on my part I gather that its 5000 Pesos each (about GBP5.00) per night for a double room, use of the kitchen facilities, living room, and unlimited internet time
Hostal Anwandter turns out to be fine, and we leave our bags in the room and head downstairs to eat some lunch. Mind you, it feels a little like we're intruding in the family home as we spread our stuff over the dining room table. The furniture is all straight out of the 1930's with scratched brown leather sofas, faded wallpaper and dark varnished wooden cabinets. I can see that the house consists of two semi-detached places knocked together. Despite this there are still two staircases running up the middle of the house and one side is still a perfect mirror image of the other.
In the afternoon the rain stops and it starts to brighten up, so we head down town to visit the historical museum. The streets are clean and tidy, and the houses look well maintained, giving the appearance of some affluence. The town is built on the confluence of three rivers, and its very close to the sea, so everywhere we look there is water.
There are also a lot of students around, and many of them are covered in paint, food, and dirt so it must be the start for new freshers at university
The museum is housed in a luxurious mansion of a German immigrant, and many of the rooms are decorated with 19th century furniture and paraphenalia. The house is large, airy, well proportioned, with fine views over the river, and certainly makes me think that some of these wealthy early immigrants had good taste. Upstairs there is a collection of Mapuche Indian artifacts and household items.
We wander over to the Feria Fluvial (river market) where huge fat sealions waddle up the concrete steps by the riverside to grunt at the fish vendors for a snack. Some lie basking in the sun just a few feet from the stalls, and others wait patiently with their necks craned towards sellers filleting salmon. Every once in a while they bark and snort angrily at each other as they squabble over territory. The vendors all have long metal poles hanging from the roof which they grab and brandish at the enormous sealions if they get too close.
The spectacle of the sealions surpasses any feeding show you are likely to see at a zoo, since all of the animals are completely wild and as close as you dare go
Rachel takes a few photos and decides that its definetly worth staying in Valdivia another day just to come back and see what its like in the morning when there are more stallholders.
In the afternoon we wander through the town enjoying the European feel and the buzz from the excited new students. We find the most luxurious cafe in town - Entrelagos - where we order a hot chocolate (900 pesos or GBP0.90), a capuccino (800 Pesos or GBP0.80) and a thick slice of Sache Torte (1500 pesos or GBP1.50). Inside, the waiters are dressed in tightly creased black trousers and waitcoats, with purple ties. Everything is perfectly clean and polished including the huge golden eagle on top of the espresso machine. The cafe has its own chocolateria in the shop next door, so I am not surprised that it is the most tasty hot chocolate I've ever tasted
Rachel spots in the guidebook that there is a Chinese restaurant in town, the first such establishment that we've come across since beginning our trip in South America. The prospect of rice gets Rachel all excited and we order beef with vegetables and black bean sauce plus boiled and fried rice. The meal tastes homemade and is tasty, surprisingly authentic, and costs just 6000 Pesos (GBP6.00). The couple running the restaurant came from Shanghai 6 years previously.
Next morning we are back down at the Feria Fluvial, and we take another look at the sealion show. There are more fish vendors gutting and filleting delicious looking salmon. These fish all seem to be between 3 and 6kg in weight and look like perfect. Amazingly it only costs 1,500 Pesos (about GBP1.50) per kilo to buy. There are also hand-sized mussels for sale at 800 Pesos per kilo (about GBP0.80), and I see a man eating some raw with a lemon. The sealions are a bit more frisky this morning and the metal pole is used quite a lot to keep them in check. A line of tourists click away with their cameras as a particuarly fat sealion catches salmon heads thrown into his open jaws.
We take the bus the short hop down to Niebla for 300 Pesos (about GBP0.30) each, and jump on a small ferry (600 Pesos or GBP0.60) going across the estuary to Corral
On the boat back to Niebla its fairly vibrant: a nurse travels with a patient on a trolley connected to a drip, and students travel loaded down with computer gear as they head into the University in town.
Back in town, Rachel spots pretty little church with colourful stained-glass windows and we take a peek inside. There is a coffin with someone keeping vigil over it. The lid is open and I really want to take a look inside.
Putting aside thoughts of dead people, we soon find ourselves gravitating back to Entrelagos. We buy a coupon for 700 Pesos each (about GBP0.70) for a Helado Simple, supposedly a single scoop of ice cream. The very beautiful smiling dark-harired girl with the thick eyeliner serving the ice cream takes our ticket and tells us to choose two flavours each. She then takes her time to ensure she puts the largest scoops physically possible on to the cone, and tops it off with a chocolate wafer. Struggling to cope with the enormous serving of 'John - swiss chocolate with nuts plus white chocolate with cherries' and 'Rachel - swiss chocolate with nuts and natural yoghurt', we find the nearest park bench and sit down for a good twenty minutes to get through the two mountains, feeling like glutons but enjoying every moment.
And is Valdivia really Chilli's nicest town? Well Rachel counts more than 20 that we've been in so far, and the answer has to be - yes of course!