Thursday, 29 September 2011

Something smells fishy.

Halfway between Valparaíso and Viña is the Caleta Portales fish market.  The easiest way to get there is on the metro, which stops out the front of the markets.  The markets are currently being renovated by the government but are still open for business.

When you think of flower markets, fruit markets or spice markets you automatically divide the experience between the sense of sight and smell.  Fish markets smell like fish.  The Portales markets are clean but fish is fish.  My parents owned a bait business for over thirty years and for me I felt like I was fifteen years old, packing fish to earn some pocket money.

There was a real variety of seafood to choose from and every bit as colourful as a flower market.  Incidentally, the Spanish language has one word for fish that are alive, pez and one word for fish that are dead, pescado.

Perhaps the real treat is out the back of the markets where you can watch the fishermen repairing their nets and attaching new floats – glass bottles.  Further down is a jetty with pelicans sitting on the railings and sea lions underneath.  Just waiting.  Two women brought out a drum of fish offal and scraps.  The pelicans and sea lions knew who these women were and what they were carrying. 

As soon as the first piece of fish hit the sand a sea lion was right beside it.  Within seconds there was pushing and shoving as the pelicans tried to grab their share of food.

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