Thursday, 17 March 2011

Arrival in Chile: From Santiago to Valparaiso

Hola amigos! I sit writing this in Argentina, with Ania and I well and truly behind on our blog entries yet again. But as I´m sure you´ll agree, I always console myself that if we haven´t been diligently writing our blog, it´s because we have been getting out there, having fun and seeing the world! Perhaps that´s just an excuse!

But forget Argentina for a moment, because it is my job to fill you in on our first few days in South America, on that lovely little sliver of land known as Chile! We flew into Santiago on 10th March, which for us was The Longest Day Ever (TM). Neither of us had flown through the international date line before, but it meant the 10th March 2011 was about 40 hours long for us. We can both honestly say that on 10th March 2011, at 1pm, we were in Auckland, NZ; AND Santiago, Chile! Wow! As a consequence, we spent a lot of time in Santiago jetlagged, tired and confused! It´s a beautiful city and we had some fun there and met some very nice fellow travellers, but it didn´t blow either of us away. I was surprised to see how green and European a city it is, despite hearing that from lots of people before we arrived. We had four days or so in Santiago, which we spent walking around the city, visiting a museum on pre-Columbian (as in Christopher Colombus) history in South America. We also had a great barbeque at our hostel and met some great people from the USA, Australia and Brazil!

Out and about in Santiago, at the Santa Lucia Hill:

Our next stop is where I think we both started to truly enjoy the South American and Chilean legs of our trip! After holding out for a few days because of tsunami warnings, we went to the coast, to Valparaiso. Also known as Valpo, this place is a bohemian harbour and beach town with lots of hills and ramshackle houses in a variety of vibrant colours. I like to think of it as a cross between Brighton and Valetta in Malta! We stayed in the excellent Luna Sonrisa hostel, run by a guy who writes for Footprint guidebooks in Chile.

Ania on our street in Valpo, the hill leads down to the sea:

The view from a hostel across the road at night. We sat drinking beer with Isaac from Australia and Brian from California, with this to look at!

Some old dudes playing cards in the town centre in Valpo. I was very proud of myself asking if I could take a photo in some Spanish which Ania helped me rehearse in whispers nearby beforehand! They didn´t laugh at me, which was kind of them. We think the guy in the middle standing up looks like a cross between Johnny Depp and Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords!

One day we also caught a bus to nearby Viña del Mar, a small beach town just down the coast (Hove to Valpo´s Brighton). It was ok, nothing particularly special! It´s been really good to just ride the bus with the locals though. We sat eating empañadas (South American pasties) waiting for our bus home by the side of the road, which felt pretty authentic!

One of the highlights of our stay in Valpo was visiting Pablo Neruda´s house. PN was a poet who lived in the 1900s. I hadn´t heard of him but really liked his house. Unfortunately we couldn´t take photos inside but his house was cool! It had five floors, each with a wonderful panoramic view of the sea. The lounge and bar were particularly good! Here´s a shot of the house from outside.Valpo´s houses are covered in murals. We took several shots, but here are some of our favourites:

On our last day in Valparaiso we went on a boat tour of the harbour. We got pretty close to these sea lions (interestingly, sea wolves in Spanish). The one on the right really roared at me right before this photo was taken. He had serious fish breath!

This slogan was everywhere in Valpo, on t-shirts, on walls and then we found it on these TVs! It says ´Switch off your TV: live your life!´

In places, Valparaiso is very hilly and they have these old, rickety, wooden lifts called ascensors that, for a small fee, take you up the hillside. By our last day we still hadn´t got one, so we caught this one and filmed it. It was great fun and a welcome change from climbing up hills!

At this point the weather had been great. Really sunny and warm but with a nice breeze. But things were about to get colder as we headed south next to northern Patagonia and Pucón...

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