Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Short(ish) Tale of Santiago, Chile

Hubby and I set out, tired and strong, to brave the city and crack open its covers. The sky is a blue so perfect we can barely believe in it; only a thin layer of smog makes it real. Up north we forget about cloudless days. Through the long winter we remember them only as fables.

But, we aren't up north. We're south, in a world where fans buzz through the night and windows crack open to admit the sounds and smells of the city. Our sneakers are dirty and all the clothes in our suitcases smell the same, like sunscreen, sweat, and lemons. It's morning and we're already sticky, but we don't mind.

We don't mind, because we have things to do! Places to see! A map covered in stars and a whole day to fill.

But, first, a fence. An iron slice between city and garden. Of course, we must explore. Was there ever any doubt? Three breaths and we're through the gate staring at what appears to be our own personal garden in the midst of the city. An ode to Japan where a koiless pond sits and a sign proclaims that there is no water.

A tiny man with a clipboard appears and demands that we sign his sheet. He's wearing a uniform, so we do, then watch as he wanders away. We continue.

The winding pathways are shadowed by trees, lined with stone walls, and dotted with the occasional terrace. Ivy covers everything, crawling through cracks and climbing up to meet the sun. We see no one, except for a couple vigorously making out on a stretch of lawn. We hurry on, giving them the privacy they obviously desire.

The garden is overgrown and crumbling. "This is so weird," we whisper and though neither of us verbalizes it, I know we're both half-waiting for a fawn or fairy to step out from the shadows. This can't be our world, the world of pavement, litter, and endless noise. Without even meaning to, we've entered the land we spent our whole childhoods trying to get to.

We keep circling, realizing that above us is a hill, with even more pathways. A few wrong turns and we find our way up. The path is never straight and sometimes it goes nowhere, meaing we have to turn back. A couple kisses on a bench carved out of a wall. Trees provide shade, but they also conceal what it is we're heading towards. Where are we going? We only know that we're going up. Whichever path leads upward, that's our way.

Up a row of stairs, onto a checkered landing and through a pair of stone pillars topped by lanterns and we find what we were looking for. A brick castle and a courtyard. Both are covered in ivy. Fountains spurt out water and venders sit in brightly colored booths waiting for tourists. Here are people at last, but still the world is hushed. Pairs wander, hand in hand.

We look around and see that the road hasn't ended.

The stones grow larger and odder, starting to fit together by accident instead of intention. Across a moat and we're at the final climb. But, the stairs are narrow and so deep. They wander all over the place, as though unsure of where they'd like to end. Wet spots are treacherous and I try not to think of what would happen if I, in my rubber flip flops, were to slip. Red flowers line the way. When I look up I can see archways, towers, and balustrades, all crumbling and all turning pink in the sunlight.

Then we're there, at the highest lookout. From every side the city is visible. We are in the middle of it all, staring out at a modern world from our ancient tower. We don't know what to say, because words are insufficient to describe the moment. Instead, we snap pictures, letting photographs stand in for statements, but looking through our camera viewfinders we know there is no way to capture it. Little snips, maybe, but this, the beauty, wonder and miracle of this moment, will only ever exist in our memories. I don't know what to think or feel, except joy. I hold my husband's hand and think, "This is why." Why what? Why everything.

And, that's how I spent my spring break.

Reader's log:
27. Sapphique - Catherine Fisher
28. Blue Bloods - Melissa De La Cruz
29. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
30. Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
31. If I Stay - Gayle Forman

Currently listening:
"Who You Are" - Jessie J


  1. Beautiful photos! So happy you had such a magical experience on your trip...that's what travel is all about.

  2. Sarah, your amazing description of an amazing chapter of your trip carried me along with you and Mike--thank you! I truly felt as if I was experiencing it with you. Beautiful!!