A harbour for artists

Published: April 4th 2015
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Street muralStreet muralStreet mural

One of many street murals that decorate the streets and buildings of Valpo.
Valparaiso or Valpo as it is affectionatly called is one of Chile's principal ports and naval bases. Its port has played a key role in many naval explorations and most recently, during the California Gold rush, creating substantial wealth for the early settlers of the area. Unfortunately with the completion of the Panama canal the fortunes of Valpo started to erode.

Now Valpo is a lively and vibrant city, we were both insipred by its ramshackled beauty and its mishmash patchwork of brightly coloured houses built over 45 hills. During the boom area city planners either didn't exist or they were ignored as roadways run randomly everywhere - a grid system it is definately not. We felt that this just enhanced its appeal, spending many hours strolling through the labyrinth of alleyways catching glimpses of the city's former glory. During one such outing we were delighted to stumble across a Welsh pub that would be showing the upcoming Ireland Six nation game, even if we had to share the venue with a rather excitable Welsh fellow.

Part of the city's appeal to us was the promotion of city murals and street art. In exploring South America so far I

One of the more famous artists in Valpo, though I have now forgotten his name, he includes a hummingbird in each of his works as a signature. Although difficult to tell by this picture the detail is impressive especially given it was painted using spray paint.
have definitely been surprised by the amount of graffitti on various buildings, especially when compared to North America. Valpo is encourging these would be young artists to channel their creative engeries to producing street art, instead of the more common "tag" that we are undoubtly more used to seeing. The results are impressive, in fact many home owners now commission murals for their outside public facing walls creating diverse and colourful neighbourhoods.

A part of Valpo is UNESCO (the World Heritage organisation) protected which is both good and bad we are told. Obviously, it is important to try to preserve the fantastic architecture from its grander days, however conversely, the strict codes and standards of UNESCO make refurbishment or restoration of the buildings cost prohibitive thus leaving them to continue to decay.

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Naval BaseNaval Base
Naval Base

A picture of the naval base and in the background the hills of Valpo.

A funicular is kind of like a vertical train car, in the 1900's over 20 of these were built into the hillsides of Valpo as a means to access the more elevated neighbourhoods. Over a hundred years later and they are rickety and not for the faint of heart but still integral to the city, and a tourist attraction!
Cultural diversity muralCultural diversity mural
Cultural diversity mural

This mural represented the geographic and cultural diversity of Chile, from the left the deserts of the north to the colder mountain regions of the south.

We found this small but happening bar on one of our explorations located at the bottom of an alleyway, the city has so many secrets and hidden treasures to discover.
Derelict buildingDerelict building
Derelict building

This building was damaged in a fire and located within the UNESCO protected area. The owner cannot afford to rebuild to the more stringent standards of the hertitage organisation so it is left to decay.
Hidden muralsHidden murals
Hidden murals

Not all murals are easily visible. This company commissioned a mural to be painted on the back of their building only visible from this lookout point.
City viewCity view
City view

A view of the city and its many meandering streets.
Smoke cloud over the baySmoke cloud over the bay
Smoke cloud over the bay

Forest fires raged outside of Valpo for the later part of our stay. To give some perspective to the size of the smoke cloud the vessels in the harbour are sea going cargo ships.
Still smolderingStill smoldering
Still smoldering

A couple of days later the remnants of the forest fire are still visible, but thankfully to a far lesser degree.
Great handbreak!Great handbreak!
Great handbreak!

Wouldn't want any mechanical failures in this city!

5th April 2015

hi my boy and Sandra, I am loving reading and sharing your adventure.

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