This post is for Sunday, October 3rd, 2010.We’d decided the next day to visit Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, as the walking tour in Santiago was on weekdays. So after rising we metro’d back to the bus station and headed off on a local bus (using TurBus) – an hour and a half to Valparaíso. Amusingly TurBus buses hav a speedo readout for all passengers to see, so that we can confirm that yes infact the driver IS speeding and really doesn’t care that we all know it.
Initially I’d heard Australians refer to Valparaíso as ‘Valpo’, and assumed it was a type of Australianism – much the same way they shortern Shepherd’s Bush to SheBu, for example, but apparently it’s known this way locally too. Valparaíso is a ‘small’ city of around 300,000 – although it feels much smaller. It’s known for its bohemian culture, colourful buildings and beautiful seaside views.
Our impression of ValPo was probably a little unfair. The tourist info center didn’t give us the best advice and we thought a walk around the beach to Vina Del Mar would be a good idea. Firstly, it was really cold and we were in shorts. Secondly, the ‘beach’ is the rail line and cargo and so on for a while, and while the initial streets were fun and full of random vegetable stores and fish markets, much more ‘raw’ compared to idyllic Mendoza, it quickly became quieter. We eventually came across the ‘beaches’, with restaurants and markets, but it wasn’t that full or busy. However finally reaching the beach meant that I’d now bussed right across South America from coast to coast, and we were only one ocean away from New Zealand. Bonus.
Vina Del Mar (Vineyard by the sea) is nicknamed ‘the Garden City’ which for the non-Kiwis reading this, is also the nickname for Christchurch, New Zealand. It takes about 2 hours wandering before you reach Vina Del Mar, and that was a shame as we were running out of time. Only slightly smaller than ValPo, it’s still hard to believe there are nearly 290,000 people in this place. We got some empanadas and took photos, including a colony of pelicans posing quite well. I preferred this town to ValPo, however. The beaches were real beaches, it was cleaner, greener and less busy. We then tried to catch the train back to ValPo, but my limited Spanish could only determine that the ticket check guy was insisting we needed to sign up to a travel card just to buy a single ticket, so we eventually walked, timing it quite well for our return to Santiago.
Upon return to Santiago, and decided to try a local Chinese takeaway for dinner. Small things can sometimes be unexpectedly difficult – it’s quite weird looking at a menu as an English person, written in Spanish, for Chinese food. Nevertheless we had success and turned in relatively early at the hostel, to rise for the walking tour the next day.
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