Early flight up to Santiago at 6:45 lasts a not too unreasonable 3 hours 15 minutes, but after that you are only half way up Chile.
Whilst on a map it might look like you could put your arms out and touch it’s eastern and Western border at the same time (it is only 100 miles wide in places – about the distance from Liverpool to Selby) it is TALL! It’s the tallest country in the world, it covers lines of latitude from 17 to 56 and is 2,653 miles from north to south!
By all accounts Santiago is a nice enough city, but not remarkable so instead we head straight off to the coast and we have a really easy transfer from Airport – buses are there when we needed them etc. And unlike Brazil and Argentina seat belts are required and we get an airport style safety video – clearly Chile has a slightly different attitude to safety (not totally though as the Driver selects and starts the DVD whilst driving the bus on the main road).
During the journey we note a couple of cultural oddities compared to what we are used to. First we pass a white hearse with cars following with hazards flashing. Secondly on what appeared to be a motorway there are bus stops – and we pull in to the hard shoulder to pick someone up. Never seen that before.
Pablo Neruda (a famous Chilean artisit) said “Valparasio, how absurd you are…you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you”. A wonderfully evocative and accurate description.
A port town that declined after the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 is back in the “boat” business as a cruise ship stopover and in the 1990s became the legislative capital of Chile and in the early part of this century UNESCO bestowed World Heritage site status upon it.
It is very colourful, full of arts shops, cafés and the like. There is a significant amount of what my Gran would have called graffiti, but is in the most part high quality street art – we are reminded of the side streets of Melbourne. Walking round for the afternoon is a really pleasurable experience and we have another wonderful lunch complete with an irresistible 2-4-1 offer on Caipirinhas. I plump for a traditional and a kiwi version, the latter is amazing though pip blockages in the straw provide a minor issue.
Famously Rome is built on 7 hills. Sheffield in Yorkshire claims the same and link themselves to Rome in the same breath (I doubt Romans reciprocate the sentiment). They are flat lands in comparison to Valperaiso. This place is really HILLY! I think that within the wider Valparaiso area there are 42 hills.
Hidden away around the city in a genuine ‘blink and you’d miss them’ way are 15 amazing vernaculars (Damn auto-correct! Funiculars – thanks Natalia). Obscenely steep and they don’t exactly give you total confidence in their structural and mechanical effectiveness (dating back in some cases to the late 1800s) but they are a welcome rest from the steep streets and are dirt cheap at 12p to 36p.
For the third time in a week we fail to get out on to water in Chile in a boat – not wind this time, but just a strangely disinterested approach from the harbour tourist boats. I think we are jinxed!
Evening consists of dinner in a local italian (Black pudding aka ‘morcilla’ ravioli) and catching up with my Dad on FaceTime. I find out that Oldham have won again (!) and catch him up on our latest travels. On hearing where we are this evening my Dad replies “These places all sound so foreign”.
Well they are Dad, we are in Chile!