Monday, June 21, 2010

Santiago Nor-Poniente. Northwest Santiago. A bikeride against all reason.

Saturday morning was beautiful, if somewhat puddly, and I decided to go out for a quick ride around the neighborhood. Instead what happened was this:

Sat, June 19 bikeride, centro-renca-cerro navia-centro

Those of you who are either from or now live in Santiago are rushing your hands to your heads in feigned (or real) eye-rolling surprise, saying, "Eileen, what were you thinking?"

You see, Santiago for most gringos, and many people who read here (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong), follows the metro line. It exists as far west as Pudahuel and as far east as Las Condes. It touches La Reina, flirts with Ñuñoa, dips down into San Bernardo, winds across parts of Independencia and then stops. But in actual fact, Santiago sprawls out every direction until flat land runs out or a highway cuts it in two. It's not fancy, it's not visited, it doesn't have museums or flashy apartment buildings, but it's where millions of people call home.

My original plan was reflections, and I started in the skate park where I always go. And from there I tried to loop around to the park at Quinta Normal, but got distracted, and ended up on another street, Avenida Carrascal. Which I followed, and followed. Because it was new. And I love new.

Here's where I came over an overpass and then turned around again to catch the mountains for a minute.

A different view of the cordillera

And here's where I'm being exhorted to "pimp my sneaks" (enchula tu tilla) but I wasn't in the mood, and don't think my motion-control brooks addiction running shoes were what they had in mind.

Mural, Avda Carrascal 2

And the ride continued on, and on, and I crossed streets I hadn't heard of, and wondered how much I stuck out as I pedaled by, and I vaguely wondered if I'd have to retrace my steps to return home.

And there were more murals

Mural, Avda Carrascal 2

Some of which were maybe not so friendly-feeling. I'm not sure if I had crossed into Renca here yet, though I believe I had. This on the corner of two streets, one of which was ominously named, "calle 3," which in Chile is nearly always a bad sign.

Mural, Renca

And onward I rode, crossing the river, and following the one main street, which turned into another, and another as I passed a vast open-air market on a street called Condell. A street by the same name exists in Providencia, but this was not Providencia Condell. It was partially paved, very barky (hello dogs! sorry, I didn't mean to scare you!), and almost free of cars. This street gave way to Brasil (another downtown street with which it has no relation), and Miraflores (ditto). And I was starting to wonder just where I was and how I would ever get back.

I ended up running into the Panamerican Highway, which also goes past my house, but didn't seem like a good route by bike for the return trip. I had a brief conversation with someone at the gas station, who asked after my suitors. I believe it was a piropo (flirtatious comment), though I couldn't say for sure.

And I doubled back and finally, finally, saw this:

Crossing the river back to the south

Which you wouldn't think would make me happy. A dirty, garbage-strewn river? Why would that make me happy? Because it marked the crossing back into a part of Santiago I could vaguely conceptualize. Now I was in Cerro Navia. It's got no metro, and I'm guessing, not a whole lot of gringos. But it had me on Saturday morning, and we had a fine time.

With a little plaza with an abandoned metro car:

Cerro Navia, plaza 2

And a play structure not unlike some of the ones in the plaza in Barrio Brasil, and a señora who I talked to for a little while about the plaza, and did not laugh too heartily when I asked if I was in Lo Prado. I was not.

Cerro Navia, plaza

And I continued back towards Santiago known, because up until now, for me, this had been Santiago unknown (though I have been to C.N. before, I have a friend that lives there, but I've only ever been by car). And there were more murals:

Cerro Navia, mural

And the mountains did their mountainy thing (probably crossed into the comuna Quinta Normal by now)

view from Quinta Normal

And on days like Saturday you start to think that you could live anywhere, because it's all so beautiful and perfect. Except it's not. Renca and Cerro Navia are both considered to be places where people are not waiting for you with milk and cookies. Each comuna has as we say in Spanish "lugares y lugares" (literally, places and places, meaning it's not all the same), and I touched on some of the nicer parts of these comunas, and still did not spend a lot of time with my camera out of the bag. And speaking of places, these comunas are not places I belong, because I have no reason to be there. Except that they're part of my city and why can't I ride around on a beautiful day and smile at people with babies in strollers coming home from the feria if I want to?

And how boring would my day have been if I'd taken only this picture, and hadn't ridden a couple of hours to a place I'd never been before?

Parque de Los Reyes: No Swimming!

Reflections: Pretty. Self-reflection: even better.

But no swimming.


Isabel said...

great pics! in the summer you can get one of all of the children swimming right in front of the no swimming sign :)

I love biking around Cerro Navia, but only the parts that are far away from Avenida Peru and any other busy streets. I'll try it someone. You're a Santiago biking inspiration, jeje

Leigh said...

Looks like a great ride! What I love about having a bike here is that it frees you from being tied to the Metro or to bus lines; you can go anywhere your legs can carry you, which means your city becomes much, much bigger. As for not "belonging," I think wanting to visit a place is reason enough to be there.

Did you feel the static while biking on Las Torres? I felt the hairs on my arms stand up!

Margaret said...

Great picturey post! Love the great graf! also love to join in on the vicarious bike ride (you do the work, I enjoy the pictures and stories!)

Kyle said...

I'm guessing you don't know the exact address or directions on how to get to that abandoned metro car, do you? It looks cool!

I am quite fond of Cerro Navia. That's where I got married!

Eileen said...

Kyle, that was exactly where I wanted to tell you about. If you look at the map (enlarge to see it on flickr), it's at #14, at the end of the street called La Capilla. There's also fabulous graffitti/murals at the nearby Cerro Navia Substation (electricity, I guess). The other side of the train car is kind of campy with graffiti, but this side is beautiful. It's in a little park/plaza that was designed together with the community and at no cost (and actually by an acquaintance of mine). The train was supposed to be a library, but they never got it together. There are other features in the park you might like, too. Hope it works out as a photo spot for you guys!

Eileen said...

Isabel, Avda peru? that's independencia/recoleta, no? There are some big streets in Cerro Navia, like Mapocho and the Costanera, but there were plenty of places to pedal piola. Let me know if you want to go out and ride. I'm mostly game!

Leigh, I love riding around Santiago and seeing the world. Abby was so surprised when we were going to your place and I took the metro/micro. Rain will do that. I didn't feel the static, but it might be different being on bike than on foot, something about the bike grounding me, maybe.

Margaret, I think you'd love the photo ops, but I guess not everyone likes to bike all around in the cold, and yes, my bike (and I) got very dirty along the semi-paved streets!

Kyle said...

Awesome, Eileen, thank you!

Sharon said...

Oh yeah, those places look familiar, as I had to go there for work last year, but I had the luxury to go there by car en even though we had a map, we got very, very lost. Not the best place to get lost, but it was way better than some of the other places we went to in Puente Alto.