The Lady and I have experienced the beaches of Viña del Mar as they exist during peak tourist season: packed with scantily-clad bronzed bodies and a sea of neon-colored umbrellas. Merchants step over bodies while selling helado from styrofoam coolers and shout at the top of their lungs. Empanadas and mote con huesillo stands pop up on every block. Runners and bikers weave around pedestrians. Kids throw sand and bury each other alive. Open air fitness classes. A huge inflatable waterslide. Paddleball, volleyball, slacklining, soccer, booming stereos, skimboard competitions, and one popular nightclub overlooking it all.
Summer ended abruptly on March 1st. Yesterday, the Lady I walked along the boardwalk hand in hand, not single file like we’d grown accustomed to. The beach was empty. The nightclub was boarded up. Stepping onto the sand, we could hear waves break and seagulls calling. The lady danced her way towards the shore while I took photos of the altered landscape. The sense of space was invigorating. I felt at home, more than I have since leaving Oregon. The tourists left town but we did not. We are staying, along with the rest of the locals.
Mote con huesillo: Traditional Chilean beverage usually sold at city parks, plazas and beaches. Served with a straw and a spoon, mote con huesillo is surprisingly refreshing when you consider that the ingredients are husked wheat, dried peaches, and honey water.