Published: August 30th 2011August 27th 2011
3 hours in a bus and we landed in valpariso. Easy. No accommodation booked but we set off in a direction looking for digs. Set our bags down in an ok place and headed off in search of the bohemian town that is valpariso. Desperate to find it we walked for hours and re-read the rough guide map. Until we eventually decided to walk uphill and there it was, conception hill. Knocked on a hostel door and booked ourselves in for the following night. Alberto kindly said that he would pick us up the next morning. Great, happy days we were loving this. A little bit more expensive than Santiago but what we got with Alberto was our own local historian slash tour guide. He drove us to the hostel the long way pointing out some places to go and areas of interest that we didn't know about. We knew we would love it here so we stayed with Alberto for 3 days. We were his only guests for that time and his little project. He was there at breakfast and when we came home at night. He gave us maps and routes to take and talked at length about the
history of valpariso. It sure did have some great history to it most if the houses on the hills date back to the early 1800's. And he knew all about them, about why one particular area was called the happy hill. And it wasn't because of the exercise that you got from walking up the steep hill it was because a certain house on happy hill had a dolls face in the window. Which back then, so an English man first discovered, meant that it was a brothel. A lady and her four nieces lived there and so it was visited frequently by the men from the area. And so became the happy hill. Alberto had tons of these stories and another good one was when the queen came to visit. They didn't know where to put her in terms of accommodation. So they housed her in what she thought was the house of a British sailor called Thomas Cochran. But really it was originally the house of an Irish man, an astrologer. It was high up on the hill, dear god not the happy hill but conception hill, so it was perfect for an observatory. But they never told
her the truth. The streets were like a labyrinth and some houses abandoned others beautifully kept. Calai lilies growing in a lot of the gardens. All were different colours to the next definitely reflecting the peoples personality. There was even one shaped like a boat, looking out onto the pacific like it was about to take off. The rest were little cafes, craft shops or hotels. We loved to wander through alberto's walking tours and got a bit lost along the way. Some of the funiculars don't run on certain days and you can never tell which days as the owners just shut up shop on a moments notice. So you have to find your way back through the windy streets. There are only 12 lifts still working in valpariso, there used to be over 30 when it was a good business to have. So if the funiculars aren't running you could always make your up the death stairs. Really steep climb up about 200 steps to the top. Called that as there are lots of pubs below and some men leaving the pub drunk try to tackle the climb but some were not so successful, think Alberto mentioned about
63 people have died on these steps. The last person was a European extreme cyclist who wanted to mountain bike down the steps he fell on the way down, broke his neck and died. That was 3 years ago. We also headed to the neighbouring town of vina del mar. A more glamourous version of valpariso, actually probably not they are polar opposites apart. A mcdonalds opened up in valpariso and lasted only 6 months, just not their thing. Where as in vina del mar I think there is 3. It's a nice town with a great beach walk about 4k stretch. Saw some pelicans, penguins and sea lions all chilling out along the coast. There's a small metro that connects the two towns. It's definitely different from valpariso more touristy with lots of bars. We found one called el bar de moe. Based on the simpsons, you could order barney style buckets of beers. We just got the regular pint sized drinks while learning Spanish with George Michael, singing along to 'libertad'. Nice way to end our stay in valpariso and looking forward to the next stop, la serena. Alberto recommended a hostel there he knew the lady, of
course he did who doesn't he know. He also gave us tons of recommendations for all of our trip through chile and even into Peru, legend.
There are more photos below