Relaxing and strolling the streets of Valparaiso

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December 14th 2011
Published: December 14th 2011
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Pucon to Valparaiso

Day 59 –Friday 9th December

We had thought that the walk up the volcano yesterday was going to be a real hard tiring trek, and so we decided to have an extra day in Pucon to recover. Because it was at a slow pace it ended up being fairly easy, and we both had no aches or pains what so ever, but we had already bought our tickets for Saturday so was now stuck in Pucon for an extra day.

Took advantage of the situation and had an extended lay in before going out for breakfast at the café we were at 2 days ago. Had a bit of a walk around town and decided that today was going to be the day I was to get my haircut. Over the last couple of weeks we either didn’t have the time or couldn’t find a hairdresser but today we had both. We spotted a hairdresser and while we were trying to figure out if she was open or not a woman came to the door and motioned us in. Of course she couldn’t speak English so I had to pantomime that I wanted her to get the electric clippers to my hair, which she did to my sides and back. She then proceeded to use the scissors on the rest of my mop, but after about 30 seconds of trying to chomp through it she motioned to me if I would mind if she could use the clippers a bit more. Both of us just motioned for her to just shave the rest off which she was delighted to do. The woman didn’t exactly have a gentle manner but she got the job done and then burst out laughing at the pile of hair on the floor. I know Traudy if you are reading this you can appreciate her humour as it has been nearly 10 weeks since my last haircut, and you know how much hair that would be. Anyway she washed what was left of my hair afterwards and the whole thing cost 4000 pesos ($8).

Left the hairdresser feeling much lighter and we then headed around town again checking out the rest of the shops before picking up a pile of empanadas. Went down to the park where we shared them with the local dogs before heading on to the black beach. Had a beer at a timber shack on the beach and watched the locals burning their feet as they ran barefoot across the scorching hot black gravel beach.

Got back to the hotel in the afternoon to discover we still didn’t have internet. The hotel we are staying at is really lovely but isn’t really complete and our room doesn’t have a lock on the door, we have conduit hanging out of the ceiling and walls and the only working light is just loosely hanging by a wire from the wall. The WIFI is also unavailable in our room and we can only get reception in the downstairs common lounge room, therefore it just makes it that much harder to stay in contact. We were now getting an error message whenever we tried to retrieve our emails, and wasn’t sure if it was us, the hotel or bigpond. Of course it ended up being bigpond.

Tried to ring Brett for his birthday, without much luck and now couldn’t send him a birthday email so headed out for dinner instead. Got another feed of Mexican, which was great before coming home to find that we still didn’t have emails.

Day 60 –Saturday 10th December

Moving on today so we were up at a reasonable hour to get our stuff together and check out. Our bus wasn’t till 7.45pm but we had to clear out of the hostel by 10am. The guy running the place initially was going to charge us for minding our backpacks (which would be a first for us), but in the end agreed that he would store them for free. As we got ready it started to rain and by the time we dropped off our main backpacks at reception it was pouring. We were glad we didn’t have to lug all our bags around town because in the end we got drenched running the 4 blocks to a café for breakfast.

We really should have cleared out of town yesterday as we had by now seen everything, but now that it was pouring it was going to be an extra boring day. Spent 2 hours in the café over breakfast till finally the rain started to ease allowing us to get outside again. Went looking for parts of the town we hadn’t seen before but just seemed to walk in circles. Even the town dogs know us so well that even when they are sleeping on the footpath as we pass, they will jump awake and follow us.

It got to 3 in the afternoon before we finally stopped wandering and had lunch before spending more time sitting around town.

Eventually at 6.45 we headed back to our hotel and picked up our bags and headed down to the bus station. The seats on the bus are cama (bed), which basically means they are wider and recline a little further than normal seats. Our trip to Valparaiso is supposed to take about 12 hours so we decided that since it was that long and at night we should splurge on them. A normal seat was 20 pesos ($40) each while the cama’s are 30 pesos ($60), but figured they should be worth it. As I type this it is 11.30 at night and we are cruising down a highway somewhere between Tucuman and Santiago.

Day 61 –Sunday 11th December

Had a really bad trip and we both just tossed and turned on our small beds all night till around 5.30 we were woken because the bus was entering Santiago. The people getting off at this stop were given their breakfast while we had to wait another hour for ours, and it was worth the wait. For breakfast we received a brown paper bag that contained a small fruit juice and a biscuit, extravagant it wasn’t. Two hours west of Santiago and around 8 we entered our destination which is Valparaiso. First signs weren’t good as the bus entered the station an old drunk staggered across the path of the bus and then proceeded to try and fight a dog…the dog won. The old drunk was subdued, fell on his arse and was carried away by a security guard, we just hoped he wasn’t in charge of our welcoming committee, but he did make us home sick for Petersham.

We grabbed a taxi and headed up the hill to the Cerro Alegre area and a hostel mentioned in the Lonely Planet we arrived about 8.30am to be told they had no rooms available, so we had a walk around and some hostels had full signs and at others there was no movement. We found a spot on a church’s steps and sat contemplating what to do, Scott left me with the backpacks watching a fruit and veg stall in the street set up while he explored the area. When he came back he told me about a boutique hotel that we would not be staying at, as it was only $267.00 AUD a night. We decided to wait till after 10.00am when things would start to open, and then started the walking again this time we spotted another hostel run by an English man and there was a vacancy. The room is large and rustic with an original bathroom, but the price is better $70.00 per night still expensive compared to what we have been getting.

The room would not be ready till after 12.00 so we walked to a café that he said would be opened, not that we should need anything after the great breakfast on the bus. We sat in the café and saw some other tourist that keep popping up in different towns, it is strange seeing the same faces when we have travelled hundreds of miles. After brekkie we walked around the streets, it is a great town full of character and a great vibe now we are out of the bus station. As it is Sunday not much is opened but the buildings and views of the city are so good that it keeps us occupied. At 12.00 we went back to hostel and settled into the room and had a nap to catch up on some lost sleep.

We went out for dinner at the restaurant owned by the hostel and surprise it was pizza, but not a lot of restaurants were opened.

Day 62 –Monday 12th December

Breakfast did not start till 9.00am so it was a slow start again, we met 2 Aussie girls from Canberra who are staying at the hostel and spoke to them about travelling through South America. We got the Ascensor Reina Victoria (inclined elevator - funiculars built from 1883 and 1916 – see photos) down to the shopping area, Scott picked up a novel and I brought some shirts and a shoulder bag. We had a good look around El Plan area which is the flat area at the bottom of the hills which contains all the commercial buildings of the city. The residential area fills the hills above the port/commercial area, and the Ascensors were built to make it easier for people to get to and from work as the roads are extremely steep. On our return from shopping we got a different Ascensor (Concepcion) up and then walked more around the hill area and back to the hostel. The weather today has been beautiful and warm making this a great day just to stroll around.

For dinner we decided to go to a seafood restaurant we had seen the night before, but guess what it is closed Monday and Tuesdays. So we keep walking and found another restaurant/café nearby, the food sounded nice but expensive. We decided to try it the first hint that we were not going to get value for money was when I order a glass of white wine and was delivered a glass only a quarter full, when the meals arrived they were tiny. It had taken the waitress longer to explain the four main meal options to us then for us to eat dinner. I know I have been commenting on the huge meals here but this was the other extreme, the only redeeming feature was it was very good and tasty.

Day 63 –Tuesday 13th December

Today’s main aim is to see the Naval Museum so we got the Ascensor Concepcion down the hill and walked through Plaza Sotomayor which has the beautiful Naval Headquarters building. Then onto the old port area to the Ascensor Artilleria which is the longest one in Valparaiso and up to the Naval Museum.

The museum is quite large and covers two floors of a grand old building. Most of the museum is devoted to Chiles wars with Spain and Peru back in the 1800’s and there is heaps of great information and artefacts, but unfortunately for us, most of it was in Spanish. We got a bit of a laugh in one room where a workman was repairing a hole in the ceiling and had dropped half a bucket of plaster over a huge busk of one of their revered admirals. The poor guy was frantically trying to wipe the pile of white goo off the huge head using his jacket before anyone noticed. I felt like we should have helped him but was afraid we could have made the situation worse for him. The highlights for me (Scott typing here of course) was the enormous brass torpedoes on display and the two large brass 6 inch naval guns out the front which you could actually open the firing chamber of (a real rarity as most are welded shut and full of cement).

Afterwards we got the Ascensor Artilleria back down, as you can tell we are not doing too much walking up and down these hills we are being spoilt, how come the volcano did not have these. At the bottom we caught the world’s oldest trolley buses which date from 1947, these are a very cheap way to get around the flat area of town. We just jumped on and did a complete circuit and because they go slow we got to see a bit more of the town and its great buildings. We jumped off in the business area and did some banking and then had icecream for lunch and back up the hill to the hostel of course taking Ascensor Concepcion.

For dinner we looked for somewhere different and cheaper than the night before and remembered passing a small café down the street, it turned out to be great I had the best chicken salad with everything in it carrot, capsicum, avocado, corn and different types of lettuce and it was cheap. We both finished with a good strong coffee.


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