Published: May 12th 2009May 10th 2009
I took the bus back to Santiago. When I’d booked the man spoke no English and I spoke very little Spanish, I knew at the time he was selling me a dearer ticket but he was determined to do so. When I got to the bus I was delighted that he’d made me pay a little more. It was like first class luxury seating! I had a huge ‘lazy-boy’ chair and ‘Lindsay who never sleeps on buses’ fell fast asleep. I arrived in Santiago 12 luxurious hours later having watched Spanish dubbed movies the whole way (well in between snoozes that is).
I left Santiago the next day for a few days on the coast. Valparaiso was a bustling port back in the day but since the Panama Canal opened the trade has largely moved on. The Navy and tour boats take up most of the harbor which is anything but picturesque. The water front is all commercial docks and fenced off (some container ships still leave from here) which leaves the city with an industrial feel. However, the city itself is built on a hill and the aging escalators (read funiculars) and multi-coloured houses that sprawl out over it
are the real draw.
The back streets have a faded charm to them. Turn of the century terraced Spanish style houses line the steep cobbled streets in every colour imaginable. The paint may be peeling and no house is untouched by the graffiti artists but there’s a definite charm to the place. The tourist part of town felt anything but. Cerro Concepcion was mostly residential houses with one or two tourist shops on a whole street. Even saying that they don’t seem to hot on signage so it felt like someone had just opened their door and made their living room into a shop. A handful of restaurants could be found but there was no such thing as a main street in this part of town. People just seemed to have opened business here knowing that tourists would wander the streets. The graffiti is rife. I’d say that every house had graffiti on it. Some places had a “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” take on it and had full masterpieces on their walls. I think the graffiti was becoming a tourist draw in itself as some of the pieces are particularly impressive.
Valparaiso was just like
Pucon and Santiago in the number of stray dogs it has. You are guaranteed to see at least one on every block if not more. They slept during the day and barked all night. But Valparaiso also had cats too, sleeping on window sills, peering out over the dogs. I could have happily spent all day taking pictures of the cats and dogs dotting the scene as I wandered past.
Vina del Mar just a few kilometers up the coast has a very different feel to it. It has beaches instead of docks and wide tree lines avenues in contrast to the jumble of Valparaiso. The Museo de Arqueologia a Historia Fransisco Fonck in Vina del Mar held a little surprise. Standing outside the entrance is a genuine Moai, one of the very famous Easter Island head statues! I wish I’d had the finances to go to see them in situ but it was a lovely treat to see a real one up close. This one must have been 4/5 meters high in contrast to the towering 21m of the tallest ones but it was impressive none the less.
I’ve had one last day of sightseeing back in
Santiago before heading back to Lima tomorrow morning. I ticked off a few impressive buildings and headed up Cerro San Cristobal on the funicular. Santiago is set in a valley surrounded by hills and snowy mountain tops. Any pollution made here stays here so the city seems to be constantly under a haze of smog. The views from the top of this hill showed this. The park had a further cable car to take you over and down to the northerly entrance. It also has an outdoor public pool but I gave that a miss too. Chile is chilly.
I’ll remember Chile for the sheer numbers of sorry looking stray dogs, the smog in Santiago, the great food, amazing buses, the Latin American soundtrack to my day and the liberal use of condensed milk toffee.
There are more photos below