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Published: August 8th 2016
Valparaíso is probably the dirtiest city that I've ever enjoyed. Even Cerro Alegre, a touristy hill where I stayed at both a boutique hostel and a bed and breakfast, has a serious stray dog and trash problem and nearly every wall is plastered in graffiti.
But it's also a vibrant and mesmerizing city, with graffiti artists dipping brushes into plastic cups in narrow pasajes, street musicians playing on most buses and trains; clever ways to deal with the terrain (funiculars, pedestrian stairs, and even slides), naval officers in uniform carrying light briefcases along the muelle, and the buildings painted a mosaic of vibrant colors, often with murals fringed by tags, and some yards of creative reuse of plastic or hubcaps or tires, cradled in the robust vegetation that survive the winter but remind me of Pittsburgh in mid summer.
The area near the water is a loud, bustling plain of parallel streets and rapid buses; the
45ish hills away from the water are a quieter web of steep cobblestone streets, funiculars, and staircase alleys.
During the winter, the weather was pleasant - sunny during the day and chilly enough at night to wear a coat- but there were
few tourists and even the best restaurants on Cerro Alegre had open tables without reservations.
Running / walking / biking along the water toward the south of the city eventually opens up to terrific ocean views with waves crashing into the rocks.
From Valparaìso I headed north to the La Calera / Nogales area to spend some time on an avocado farm near La Campana National Park, (the park is inaccessible in winter). The excellent rail line / intercity metro that runs from Valpariaso, through Viña del Mar, ending in Limache, got me most of the way there, and two buses and a km walk later, I came to the farm I'd found on Airbnb. They gave me a tour of the farm, which included dozens of avocado trees (though the weather has been too cool the last couple of years to have much success), as well as kiwi, orange, walnut, and apricot trees. They cooked me dinner since I had no food with me; it was nice to get away from the cities and just relax for awhile.
There are several more photos below.
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