'Valparaiso en un Trolley,' With a Sailor, Too

“Oye, weon!” a shrill woman in a mini skirt cried from the town square to a dapper sailor. “Why didn’t you tell me you were in town? You just up and left me!” She folded her arms, her eyes mere slits under her fluorescent eyeshadow. “With. Your. Child!” she finished theatrically.

Santiago Chile Valparaiso En Un Trolley
Photo by Sofia Carvajal

People turned to gasp and some smiled wryly behind their hands while the sailor reluctantly turned to his scorning woman, tapping her strappy heels and waiting for an answer. “Ah, but my love, didn’t you get all my love letters?” he cooed. She let rip an amusing barrage of insults that could even make her wayward sailor blush.

Santiago Chile Valparaiso En Un Trolley
Photo by Sofia Carvajal

At this point the fast-talking Valparaiso En Un Trolley ("Valparaiso on a Trolley") tour guide burst through the scene, announcing, “Nothing to see here, folks! Really!” Comically, he tried to march the crowd onwards with the tour. But despite his claims, there is plenty to see in Valpo.

It’s this blend of comedy, theater, historical locations and stories real and imagined that makes the Valparaiso En Un Trolley Spanish-language tour (see photos) so inspired and one of a kind. For eight years, the Teatro de la Historia port city theatre company has been showing its audiences “side B” of Valparaiso, earning awards for its originality from the Municipality of Valparaiso and the Chile's National Tourism Service (Sernatur). Six actors fill more than twenty-odd roles to "take the passengers on a comic ride through the ebb and flow of port life in Valparaiso.”

Santiago Chile Valparaiso En Un Trolley
Photo by Sofia Carvajal

The theatre tour aims “not only to dust off historical figures and events," says actress Lorena Ibaceta. "It is also a potent reflection of the local imagination seen through an unusual and unique icon of Latin America: the trolleybus.” The tour also picks up "historical figures" as surprise passengers along the way, and is most importantly a great glimpse into the history and everyday lives of the authentic porteños through the windows of the trolley.

The sun was still basking high in the summer sky in the early evening as the sounds of an accordion player and guitarist accompanied the arrival of the theatre troupe in full costume to recreate the opening ceremony of the trolleybuses. Our sturdy, electricity-powered original trolley lurched from Avenida Valparaiso through the winding streets of the historic port town.

Santiago Chile Valparaiso En Un Trolley
Photo by Sofia Carvajal

Time is not really an issue for the folks ready for this meandering adventure. “Some people actually like catching the trolley bus instead of micros (buses) because it’s slower but not so crowded,” a passenger stated matter-of-factly.

Back at the square with the sailor and his jilted lover, the crowd was herded off by the tour guide when the sailor confided in a stage whisper: “I’m sorry you had to hear that--I barely know that woman, just went along with her..but I invite you all for an empanada and wine. How does that sound?”

After some initial hesitancy, the tour guide agreed. Led by the sailor, the happy crowd meandered up along the worn streets of Valparaiso, lit by the dying rays of the sun as it reluctantly sank beyond the hills.

Valparaiso en un Trolley

Reopens in January 2010; runs January to March

CP$10,000 per person (includes a glass of wine and empanada)

Departs from “Garita de Trolebuses”

Avenida Argentina (at Chacabuco)

Reservations: (+56-8) 487 2958

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