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Meat, Booze, Ceviche, and Missing Clothing

Valparaiso, Chile

Our second full day in Valparaiso, we woke up remembering that some Australians wanted to organise a barbecue for that night. I asked Max if he knew anything about it, but he didn't, though he said we would have to let him know if we wanted one because the hostel barbecue had been borrowed by his friend. Everyone decided they did want to barbecue and next time I saw Max he had already collected it anyway. Max is a really nice guy and very laid back. The hostel is run quite unlike any others we had been to: very casual and very few rules. Max's main job seems to be to get drunk with the customers.

We all went out to get meat, which was pretty confusing considering none of the cuts are the same as those we're used to: no sirloin, fillet, rump, t-bone, etc – at least not with those names. I've since discovered that you can get t-bone and fillet, but they're not that common. Most of the cuts are just gigantic lumps of meat, with no so consistent thickness. After much dithering we all chose our various lumps and I also bought some traditional sausages, recommended by Max: Longanizas. He had also recommended the cut of meat called lomo vetado, but the supermarket didn't have it. He had impressed on me that the supermarket was the place we should buy meat because he didn't really trust the butchers, which he said were a bit dirty. Nonetheless, we had to go there for his lomo vetado. When we told Max where we had got it, he did not look happy at all, but he cooked it and ate it anyway.

Full disclosure: all these photos were taken by Joanne, not me.

The whole time we were cooking dogs hung around hoping for the best. One in particular was very funny: it had a prominent lower jaw and very noticeable “underbite” so that it's bottom teeth were visible all the time. I'm sure it got some scraps just because of the way it looked. The Australians, Brad, Adam, and Sally had been travelling together for a while, but were all going their separate ways soon. Liam is a chef and, although he didn't want to get too involved to avoid the temptation to take over, was very strict about leaving the steak until the right time, so much so that some of the steaks only just cooked. However they did cook so maybe he was right. Plenty was drunk all round and once the barbecue was finished, Max suggested we all go out to a club. The underbite dog followed us the whole way to the club then, when we were turned away from it because it was full and left for another club, we were followed by a crowd of locals as well as the dog. When we arrived at the second club we transformed it from a place with two customers to almost full, counting the locals on our tail. On the way the dog was attacked by another dog and later we all agreed we were almost ready to step in and defend “our” dog, though he was adopted over the course of only one evening.

After the club closed we all headed back to the hostel, being tailed by one of the locals. The girls were a bit uneasy by this and let Max know they weren't happy. He said that we shouldn't worry, the guy wouldn't get in. Valparaiso seems to have a slightly dangerous reputation and we were still very wary of South America after months in relatively safe Asia. Max told us that he had once been mugged just as he got to the hostel and robbed of his watch (grandfather's), his wallet, and even his shoes and trousers. Luckily this guy just disappeared when Max told him that the hostel rules, actually it seems to be its only rule, is that guests are not allowed after 1pm, and it was well after.

We stayed up all night and drank everything we had: the pisco we had bought in Santiago came out and was drunk; the extra beers we bought were drunk; all the wine was drunk. We were all drunk. There was dancing in the kitchen. I think we went to bed about 7:30am. Most hostels have rules about noise, but this one just seems to be a party hostel. The guy working on the desk is up drinking with all the guests. I feel really sorry for anyone trying to sleep at night in that hostel.

The next day, afternoon of course, we got up and discovered that Joanne's fleece was gone, as was Tess's cardigan, and a German guy's jacket. Each one might have thought they had drunkenly misplaced it, but all three together was more than a coincidence. A review of the previous night's photos (after all there was no memory to refer to) revealed that all of the clothing had made it back from the club to the hostel kitchen. It also revealed that some friends of another employee at the hostel were around quite late on, so late that nobody remembered them having been there. Max seemed suspicious.

What we needed to deal with our hangovers, Max suggested, was some ceviche, Chile's national dish, except it's really Peruvian, maybe. He offered to make it, so we went out to buy all the ingredients:


Reineta (or salmon) Fillets from 2kg of whole fish
Cilantro [Fresh Coriander]
Green Chili
2 Onions
1kg Tomatoes
2kg Lemons
1 Pimento [Bell Pepper]

Juice the lemon and chop everything else up and mix it all together
Leave it for an hour or so
Eat with bread

At the supermarket my Spanish came up rubbish again when trying to deal with the fish counter. They had the fish we wanted, but it wasn't already filleted. I wouldn't have expected that to cause too many problems, but it took us ages. We finally made a decision and settled for the fillets from two whole fish when she started suggesting that we might want frozen fish as well. Frozen fish, raw? No thanks.

It was well worth it. He didn't actually use all the tomatoes or lemons (for juice), but Max's ceviche was absolutely fantastic and I fancy that it did alleviate my hangover substantially. Max joined us to eat, although he had to be persuaded, and told us about his job. He was waiting to be told about a job in Spain but, even if he didn't get it, there was no way he was working another summer at the hostel: it's just too much partying, he explained. After the independence day celebrations he was planning to go skiing near Santiago and told us he could get us free ski passes. Apparently he had another job on the slopes.

We hadn't really decided what we were doing after Valparaiso, and we didn't know where to be for Fiestas Patrias, the independence celebrations, though we considered Max's party proposals. I quite fancied going to Pucon in the Chilean lake district, then maybe crossing over to Argentina at that point, but it was going to be hard to fit in with out tight schedule and Fiestas Patrias. There was skiing down that way too, and the snow would be better. Tess and Liam were looking forward to a double party because the day after Fiestas Patrias finished it was Liam's 30th Birthday. Finally we decided we didn't really have enough time to go to Pucon, after all we wanted to go to Mendoza, which is just over the border from Santiago. So we decided we would go with Tess and Liam to Santiago for Fiestas Patrias, then celebrate his 30th birthday with them. After all we had celebrated a 21st in Thailand, so why not now a 30th?

permalink written by  The Happy Couple on September 16, 2009 from Valparaiso, Chile
from the travel blog: Michael's Round-the-World honeymoon
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