December 12th, 2005 – by: clearviews
Harbour with the Esmerelda, a four masted ship
Rose early in Santiago terms and had breakfast. Leaving most of our luggage we packed small backpacks for a 3 day stay. Metro to the bus station. Buses left every 20 mins or so and the trip took one and a half hours in a clean, modern and comfortable coach. Had booked a hostel on the net and the instructions told us that a 142 bus would take us to their door.
The journey took us through changing countryside and two tunnels through mountainsides. As we came to the coast the road dropped down a steep descent through Valparaiso.
A fellow passenger spoke english and told us to wait at the station and he would find out how we located the 142 bus in the melee. Ages later he had not returned and we suddenly saw the 142. Ran and boarded it and in my best Spanish I asked for Avenue Equador and the hostel. He closed the doors behind us, took off and said he didn't understand. Hanging on for dear life we became separated by people packing on to the bus. I passed Andrew my notebook and told him to show the driver my scribbled notes of the address. He understood that so obviously my Spanish is awful!
Streets in Valparaiso near our hostel
The streets were steep, the houses amazing. Made from all sorts of building materials they clung to 45 hills and overhung each other. With a gesture the driver of the bus indicated our stop was imminent.
We got out and climbed further up the Avenue to the hostel. I had accidentally booked this hostel on the net and had picked out another one. Looked up this one and intended to push the "back" button instead I booked it! It was the ultimate backpacker's lodging. Sleepy, barely dressed people welcomed us a little curiously as we were obviously much older than the usual clientel. We were shown to our room and given a padlock for our door but the massive window beside it didn't even have a latch so there was no real way of securing our room!
The staff gave us some hasty advice on touring the area ( avoid the fish markets as they were very dangerous for people like us) and we headed down to the seafront. The smog was not here and the sea breeze was so pleasant.
At the water we accepted the offer of an old fisherman to take a 30 min trip in his wooden boat around the harbour. His English was surprisingly good and he pointed out all the tankers and told us their country of origin and what cargo they were collecting. The four masted student training ship Esmerelda was in the port and looked magnificent. The fisherman told us to look back at the town and it was he who told us that there were 45 hills in the city. We passed 3 Chilean Navy ships and I had read somewhere that one should never point a camera in their direction and just as I was about to warn Andrew the fisherman did!
Pony and trap ride along seafront at Vina del Mar
Our wandering took us by the fish markets on the way to look at a funicular. A woman my age told us that it was not a place for us to be and that our camera should be wound tightly around our wrist and that my bag should be positioned in front of me with my hand on it.
She said that her nephew had been robbed at knifepoint on a bus and that no one had helped him. We took a different direction immediately much to the dissapointment of the spruickers who were trying to get us to dine in their fish cafes!
Vina del Mar beachfront
Back at the hostel we learned that one of the young men staying there had just had his wallet, money and cards stolen from the beach at nearby Vina del Mar. Normally he never carried them together but had just been to the bank to get cash out. He and a friend had gone for a swim leaving their things with a girl they were with who was reading on the beach. Neither she nor the row of people behind them had seen anyone take the wallet!
Thumping reggae music played long into the nights here and despite it being my favourite stuff I like to be abe to control the volume and length of time I play it.
Parliament where Michelle Bachelete is now President
The owners were fairly new and had decided to make some structural changes to the centre of the building by sawing our the central ceiling above the ground floor! The kitchen area had a low ceiling, in fact Andrew could not stand in there without bending. Breakfast was advertised as free and when I tried to get some ready a woman kept edging me out of the way. I finally realised that she was making the breakfast for me and whoever emerged in the morning! It was a tremendous spread of sliced and peeled fruit, bread, hard boiled eggs, tea, coffee, juice and all done for us!
Valparaiso General Tips & Advice review
Try the Pisco Sour..... alcoholic drink, base is a brandy distilled from white muscat grapes, limes, egg white, sugar syrup
Pastel de Choc… read entire review