After our final free breakfast at the Ecohostel we took a wander to the metro and hopped on it over to the bus station. The ticket over to Valparaiso – or Valpo to the locals – was cheap and the journey short and painless despite all our luggage.
Valparaiso is coastal and a major port. It was once even more significant – particularly during the California Gold Rush – but these days plays host to a number of government offices and courts tourism thanks to its unique layout. It’s surrounded by hills on all sides many of which can be surmounted via ascensores. I’ve seen these called funiculars, hill railways, and elevators but they’re like 2 cable cars that run up and down rail tracks using each other as counterweights to assist in ascent / descent. Add to this the myriad of multi-coloured houses and an array of amazing murals and street art and you have place that’s worth a few days wandering.
We checked in at Valpackers which despite the to-the-point name felt like an authentic South American hostel complete with lots of wood and colour. With a good chunk of afternoon left to us we took a wander to the tram caught a ride to the port. Valparaiso is a very busy port and a fair bit of the Chilean naval fleet is docked there. Despite this it wasn’t as photogenic as we’d hoped but we took a few snaps anyway and set off back through the city as the sun set over it. We wandered through markets and plazas before eventually reaching a restaurant at the top of our street. I ordered the steak and it was huge and tasty despite looking a lot like road kill and being a bit flat and a smidge chewy. Suitably stuffed we returned to the hostel and sat with our hosts Jose and Karen while we watched some Big Bang Theory and supped our first Malbec in South America for which there was much rejoicing.
Breakfast was once again included though I wasn’t a fan of the scone like bread – but hey, it was free, so I can’t complain. We decided to use the port as our starting point again and this time set off in the opposite direction.
Like most cities Valpo has no-go areas for tourists and this was really hammered home to us by the guidebook and our hosts. That said we were – as far as what we’d been informed – well away from that area when we first started to get locals coming up to us and warning us to be careful with our cameras and where we walked in general. We eventually reached a point to turn off up to an ascensor that we were under the impression was in a safe neighbourhood only to be met by Jamil, and old gent out for a wander who was adamant that it simply wasn’t safe. Despite our limited Spanish and his limited English we got the message and he then set about guiding us to another ascensor back the way we came. He dropped us at the door of it and said his goodbyes before going on his way – this sort of kindness isn’t always forthcoming and while we’ve been lucky enough to see a fair bit of it over our travels this was stand-out.
Atop the hills the views were amazing and the walls were emblazoned with all manner of art from the rare mundane to the more frequent amazing. We wandered from street to street, down hills and up ascensors throughout the day before finally returning to our hostel just prior to sunset and getting back on the wine for the evening.
We got up early the next day and took off over to Vina Del Mar to visit a museum with Rapa Nui artefacts along with odd taxidermy & Chilean history. Vina Del Mar has a reputation as a more beach & holiday destination though on the day we visited it was all grey. The museum was a bit crap really and afterwards we grabbed a coffee, Fi indulged her shopping habit and then we decided to head back to Valparaiso. Our hosts had recommended a vegetarian restaurant so I switched off the carnivore in me and decided to give it a go. As it was Indian food all was well – the Veggie Dahl with Cauliflower Bhaji’s tasted as Indian as anything else does under the veil of spice so went down a treat.
We’d been invited out for the evening by our hosts who were heading to a club. This was to be our first experience of South American night life so despite our general laziness we decided we’d go for it. The thing about night life in this part of the world is that it starts much, much later than back home – while I’ve had the occasional ad-hoc late start to an evening most of the time they’re in full swing by 9pm and these days I’m lusting for bed by midnight save for the odd special occasion where the adrenalin kicks in and I’m good till the early hours. These occasions are becoming more and more special these days. Our night was due to start at 11:30pm – and in this neck of the woods that’s early. This made me tired just thinking about it.
We ate late and cleaned up as best we could. We all got together and hopped on a micro (minibus that does a set route for almost nothing in terms of fare) that drove like we’d just robbed a bank over to the other side of town. We got a deal in terms of admission (well, everybody got a deal except for the white male gringo…) and the next thing we know were in the Chilean equivalent of fabled old Bradford rock club Tumblers. Result!
We’d had no idea what to expect so were pleasantly surprised. I set about getting into the swing of things and started the beers rolling. Later there was a bit of confusion when I returned with a huge beer that’s usually shared amongst large groups all for myself – recognising my etiquette faux pas I acquired 4 glasses and unwittingly started a round. We switched rooms and the DJ started making consistent mistakes by playing more and more 80’s music. I kid not, Rick Astley was played without it being a joke. The night got interesting when the projector screen at one end of the room raised to reveal a DJ spinning some more contemporary fare. As the night wore on I got drunk and busted out my best drunken-girl dancing before later being advised about the horrors of Reggaeton. We all rolled in at ridiculous o’clock ready to suffer when we eventually surfaced the next day. It was a fantastic night with two wonderful people – thank you Jose & Karen for the awesome time!
The next day we survived on empanadas and headache pills, booking tickets to travel onwards to Mendoza and calling home.