Partying Ain't Easy
Last Saturday night, I fell in love with Chile all over again. Sam, one of my closest friends from DC, came down to Chile to visit, so Erin, Sam, and I made the 5 hour drive up to the Elqui Valley to taste some Pisco and see some stars at the observatories. The valley is renowned for having ultra clear skies and zero light pollution, making it ideal for seeing the celestial bodies floating millions of light years away.
Nature, however, had other plans. Damn, Daniel. The clouds rolled in on Friday evening, and found a happy home above the valley for the entirety of the weekend. Stars were no longer on the agenda. The three of us toured the Capel Pisco Distillery, led by a friendly, albeit nervous young man named José. After the tour, which was actually quite incredible, we asked him what the hell we should do in Vicuña, the town where we happened to be. He didn't disappoint.
About 7km north of Vicuña is a small town called Diaguitas, which happens to be home to the Guayacán craft beer brewery. Yes, Chile is already on the craft beer band wagon. Yes, the beers are good. Yes... oh wait no, the beers aren't overpriced just because they are artisanal. Hooray! We headed to Guayacán, only to find it closed. It was 8pm, but a young man said there was going to be a party that night, starting around 11. We had only one problem; our hotel said cars have to be back in their protected parking area by 9pm. Luckily, we had an elderly Chilean lady on our side.
Lucia was over 80 years old, and the hotel had been built by her grandfather in 1905 to woo a young girl who lived across the street. The two were married by 1907. As tourism in the Elqui Valley grew, so too did the demand for hostels and hotels, so Hostal Valle Hermosa was born. When the three of us arrived back from Guayacán by 9pm, we asked her the best way to get back there late at night since we couldn't take our car. She scowled, and said that her daughter's rules were a little unfair, and that if we didn't tell anyone, we could have the keys to the hotel and the gate, and that we could be out as late as we want. Wait, what?
She was handing over the front door keys to the house her grandfather built, to complete strangers, just because they wanted to party. This woman is the raddest woman alive. Her only concern was that we weren't wearing enough layers and that we might get cold. Otherwise, we should be out in Diaguitas partying it up. So that's what we did.
I have a running joke with Erin, and it goes like this: We'll be driving or walking around, and we'll see something like a McDonalds or a Starbucks. Or we'll see a really boring resort town that is probably the best place to be in Summer, but since it's winter here, it's just sad. Then I'll look at her, and say "This is the real Chile!" It's a good joke. Trust me. What we found on Saturday night, however, was the real Chile. #nojoke.
The band started playing at Guayacán around 11:30, and soon Sam looked at me and said "you have to go dance." No one else was dancing. The dance hall was the size of half a football field, and I'd be out there alone. But of course, as gringos are wont to do, I jumped out there and started teaching folks how to dougie. By example of course. The place went nuts. I don't think anyone from Diaguitas had seen such a tall, lanky, red headed gringo dance before. They also thought that Sam was Chilean, perhaps a guide that had taken us to this extremely local spot. Note: Sam is not Chilean. She's from Boston. Men were very confused and disappointed when they spoke Spanish to her and she just stared back blankly.
After a few songs, as more people joined the dance floor, Erin and I were given scarves to try our hand at the Cuesca, a traditional Chilean dance. It then became very clear that Erin, a tall blonde, and Sam, an energetic "Chilena", were now the life of the party. After several hours of dancing, we decided to call it a night, and folks were genuinely disappointed. This wouldn't have happened in Santiago, and it's very unlikely to even happen in Valparaíso. But on that night, in such a small town, with the welcoming we felt as the band played on, we had found something special, genuine, and beautiful.
Side note: When we went to close our tab at the bar, it had been scrawled down on a piece of paper, labeled "gringos."