Booking It in South America

- by Karen Wright


The more modest Hain Art & Book Store in Valparaiso.

To be honest, for the rest of the trip we really didn’t see any interesting bookstores. We mostly did absolutely nothing on the ship but read and drink wine and watch the ocean roll by with a quick stop in Puerto Montt. We came to the end of our voyage in Valparaiso, where we stayed several days in a huesped (guest house) perched on the edge of a cliff over the town. It was enough to make a person dizzy just standing on our porch looking out at the ocean. It was quite windy and the old house shivered mightily. Valparaiso is sort of like San Francisco with hills everywhere and steep climbs to get anywhere. They have small, antiquated ascensiors (elevator cars) set at a frightening pitch to get people from one level of town to the next. My favorite thing in Valparaiso was the street art. There were hundreds of buildings with some very good painting on them. Unfortunately, there were also those idiots who splatter graffiti all over, sometimes even on the street art. We searched for a couple of days for two bookstores that were listed in the Lonely Planet travel book, but no luck. We did find Hain Art & [tiny] Book Store about three blocks from our hotel. It was of interest because it sold the arts and crafts of the local Selk’nam, Mapuche, and Rapa Nui Indian cultures. We found one or two small newsstands that carried a few books, but I suspect most were out of business or in a different part of town. The people were all very friendly except one jerk taxi driver in Valparaiso who didn’t want to drive us five or six blocks up a very steep hill, not enough money in it, he said.


All in all, it was an amazing trip. As our taxi drove us the 60 kilometers to Santiago Airport, we agreed that the dancing and music were better in Argentina, the food and wine were better in Chile and that the food in our shore stops along the way was nothing to get excited about. The bookstores were incredibly varied and picturesque, from the tiny flea market blankets with twenty beat-up used books, the small, independent stores with slim but excellent inventories of new and used books in Spanish, the occasional ex-pat English language store, and El Ateneo the glorious, which was stocked with most any new Spanish language book you can name. Not counting the two absolutely miserable airplane rides, we traveled 4111 miles by sea. We might have liked a little wild weather going around Cape Horn, then again maybe not. Really? The fuzzy penguins, the blue glaciers, and the search for bookstores were worth the whole trip. Hasta luego amigos.