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Published: December 26th 2018
K – We had a limited time in Santiago so we probably did not do it justice. We felt it might a great place to live but it seemed to lack the “must see” tourist attractions of some other major cities. That was fine with us and we enjoyed walking around the Plaza des Armas and the surrounding districts. We did go to Cerro San Cristóbal planning to walk up the hill to see the full view of the city and the mountains beyond. Plan B was to catch the funicular up the hill. Plan C ended up walking out of the queue and heading to a nice restaurant for lunch. Plan C was great.
Unfortunately for Santiago, when you look in to “what to do in Santiago”, one of the top tips is to go to Valparaiso. So, we did. Valparaiso is a rather gritty, working port city about 90 minutes from Santiago by bus. It is also a UNESCO heritage site. The town itself is definitely nothing special, in fact for the first 45 minutes I wondered if UNESCO had some sort of senior moment. However, once we had walked up the steep steps in to
the small streets above the town we saw what the fuss was about and enjoyed walking through the colorful streets which are covered with murals and graffiti. There are also some great views. Some areas are clearly being gentrified whilst others remain pretty rough around the edges. I think we saw it at a good time as I expect in a few years the coffee shops and yoga studios will have won out and it will be more sanitized throughout. That said if gentrification removes the all-pervading odor of dog pee then that’s probably all to the good.
Access to the hilly streets is via steep steps or early 20th
century ascenseurs. I am pretty sure they are safe, albeit old, but we elected to walk off the lunch that I had accidentally ordered in the local café at the bus station. It was described as a hot dog and I knew, due to the efforts of our fabulous Oaxacan Spanish school, that it contained chips (fries), mayonnaise, and avocado. I had also expected a hot dog sausage. However, it turned out that the hot dog bit was just the bun and it was just stuffed with
Dogless hot dog
We did spoon off half of the mayo but it was yummy! You have to trust me.
chips and all the other goodies. Which was actually much better as I love a chip butty and this one was absolutely delicious.
We spent a couple of hours walking around the streets taking zillions of photos and then pottered back down to the bus station via the main square. As we approached both of us began to cry. Unfortunately, we were not simply overwhelmed by the beauty of the government buildings. We were breathing in tear gas! It appears that whilst we had been in tourist land taking photos and testing boeuf bourguignon empanadas (very tasty), back in the town proper there had been some sort of minor riot, as evidenced by the broken windows of the bank we had walked past 2 hours previously, the military style vehicles with water cannon. and of course, the tear gas still hanging in the air.
After a brief marital discussion, I stopped Mark taking photos as sometimes (often) the police can be a little iffy about it and we turned a smart right and walked a little more briskly away from the sounds of whistles and shouting. I apparently ruined an excellent Facebook opportunity. Sigh.
So, a bit of art, a lot of walking, a chip butty plus a new life experience = a very good travel day.
PS: Visiting Valparaiso unfortunately meant we were unable to visit the Museum of Memory and Human Rights which would have been our next stop in Santiago if we had another day to spare. Next time. LOGISTICS:
We constantly use other people’s blogs to facilitate our travels so I thought I would return the favor. You can catch the bus to Valparaiso from a couple of places - the most well-advertised is Estacion Central. However, that bus can end up caught in horrible city center traffic so instead we took the metro to Pajaritos, towards the end of the #1, red line. It’s only a few more stops on a very efficient metro system. Pajaritos is on the outskirts of town and a quick hop on to the freeway. The bus transfer is clearly marked on the signs at the metro so just follow the signs from platform to ticket area. It’s a very short distance.
There are a couple of bus lines (Pullman
Self portrait with spray cans
Amazing to watch the detail appear with such clunky tools (to me anyway.) My self portrait would be black or yellow or red. Whichever can was in my hand at the time. So skillful.
and Turbus) and we traveled with Pullman simply because the line to buy the ticket was shorter. The buses look pretty much the same and we had read that the cost was also similar. We bought a single so as to keep our options open as to the return – I am not sure if it is cheaper to buy a return and didn’t have the energy to use my Spanish. The buses leave approximately every 15 minutes. The prices vary according to time of day. We paid CP4,000 ($6) to go to Valparasio at about 10.30am and we ended up coming back with Pullman at about 5.10pm for CP 3,000 ($4.50.) The buses are comfortable and the drivers good. Outwards took about 90 minutes and the trip back maybe 10 minutes longer due to traffic.
We also caught the airport bus from here the following day. There are again 2 options – a big blue bus (Centro?) and Turbus (green.) We went on the blue, again simply because the line was shorter. You can buy the ticket from the driver. I can’t quite remember the price but I think it was CP1800 ($2.60.) We had to
stand but it was only a 20-minute trip so that was fine. The buses probably go every 10 minutes or so. WARNING:
Santiago airport is a zoo so plan for extra check in time and / or extra stress. We traveled with 2 different airlines and neither had any idea how to run check-in efficiently. It took over an hour to check in for Easter Island and everyone on the flight basically had to be rushed through the massive security line. This was at 5.30am and it was clearly an everyday event. It was the same experience checking in for Puerto Montt. This time they were fast tracking various flights at check in and we ended up jumping the line because they thought we were on the earlier flight. It was a genuine accident as I had shown them my ticket not just relied on my Spanish but I certainly did not confess once we suspected the confusion. Disorganized lines and chaotic airport processes are a major stress trigger for me. It was better for everyone really! INTERESTING FACT:
(to me anyway.) The domestic
flights from Santiago allow you to carry water with no
restriction through security. They also don’t require you to remove your electronics or liquids from your bags. I imagine this means you can travel with as many toiletries as you want. I was guzzling down my water in the line and an official came over and told me it was no problem. Convenient but maybe a little alarming too? Note:Easter Island is treated as an International flight and the water / electronic rules are as normal. Plus you go through immigration.
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