Trip Start Jun 16, 2007
41Trip End Nov 13, 2007
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Caught a bus first thing from Mendoza, Argentina to Valparaiso on the coast in Chile. Bus took 12 hours up and back over the Andes. This journey was spectacular as heavy snow was falling at the highest points and we journeyed past many ski resorts and mountain villages in the snow. Entering Chile was lengthy as Chilean´s are the most thorough at border crossings, trying to prevent any ham sandwiches or bananas entering the country. Glad we weren´t in a truck as the truck queue tailed back about 10 miles, tourist buses seem to have priority over everyone else!
Arrived in Valparaiso which is a coastal city with a working port about an hour and a half north of Santiago, and the home of the Chilean navy. The downtown city was busy with trucks to and from port, and the hillsides (´cerros´) were covered in brightly coloured houses and narrow lanes. The hills are really steep and there are 15 ´ascensors´ which the locals and tourists both use to access the suburbs in the hills. These are similar to the lifts in Lynton and Lynmouth, but bigger and rather more rickety! A couple of burnt out lifts stuck halfway up the hill on disused line left us wondering if we should walk instead!
We stayed in a hostel at the top of a hill, close to some lovely restaurants and bars. The hills are quite Bohemian with lots of students and artists. There is even an open air museum of murals painted on the side of houses and buildings though out the hills. All the houses are brightly coloured too and the hillsides have been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO . We met some interesting people at our hostel and had a couple of lovely evenings in a small local bar and ate in delicious restaurants.
Spent one day doing a walking tour of Valparaiso which involved lots of map reading through the maze of streets, hill climbing, and eating cake in the many cafes. The next day we caught the metro (super clean and efficient!) to Vina Del Mar, apparently a leading Chilean seaside resort, and described by our hostel owner as "like Miami". The place was a dump. Loads of tacky restaurants, busy main roads, and a big casino. However, we did see some big Pelicans! Headed back to Valparaiso after a quick stroll along the seafront.
The next day we were to catch the bus south to the Chilean capital of Santiago.......