South America, the final part.

Trip Start Aug 11, 2010
Trip End May 21, 2011

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Valparaiso and Santiago 20th October

The journey to Valparaiso involved our last long distant journey in South America, arriving just before sunrise. After a rather uncomfortable bus journey that deprived us of our sleep, we decided to take a taxi in search for a hostel. After being ignored in 4 hostels and avoiding the high costs of one more, our stressful morning finally stopped as we embarked upon a beautiful hostel called Residencia en el Cerro, high on the steep hills with sea views in the far distance. Valparaiso or "Valpo" as the locals refer to it, was one of my favorite towns to date. The hills were crammed with tall mid 19th century buildings, painted in bright, peeling colours proud of their history. Most of the street's bare walls became canvasses for street art and all around were noises of musicians and singers practicing, all lending to a truly creative ambiance. I, Paul, loved our hostel. I didn’t want to leave the comfortable bed in the high ceilinged bedroom, I loved the fact that it was far from perfect but everything worked as it needed to. It is hard to describe why I liked it so much, even the old pipes, chipped mirror and worn stairs lent character to the building. I even wanted the cat! We dragged ourselves out of the hostel and walked along the steep streets, viewing the spectacular street art, celebrated by the local residents and photographed continuously by tourists. We rode in an old Acensor that was pulled up the slopes by old, thick cables and then later ate a “Menu Del Dia”, (set menu), at a little recommended French restaurant in the afternoon.

We walked along the dock and caught a local bus to Vina Del Mar to explore the area where Santiago’s rich frequent in the summer months. Though we found this beach-fronted district to be quite beautiful, travelling thus far had really caught up on us and we decided to return to the relaxing sanctuary of out hostel room to explore the film channels on the TV and wind down with an ice cream called “Crazy Flocas” and drink some left over Pisco. After spending 2 nights in Valpo, it was time to pack up and leave for nearby Santiago. The departure was strangely just as stressful as the arrival to the city, particularly due to the fact that we walked all the way to the bus station and that Eleanor was pushed by a drunk teenager with a gang in tow. After pressing on, we reached the safety of the next bus and within minutes were on our way to our final destination in South America.

Santiago is huge. With a population of 4 million it has all of the attractions of many large cities but with the bonus of snowcapped mountains clearly visible in the distance. There were many street performers displaying various weird and wonderful talents, the rescue apparatus from the mines was on display in the central plaza with queue’s of people waiting for a chance of a photo next to it, and an efficient metro system similar to that of London’s Tube took commuters effortlessly around the city. In the same day as leaving Valparaiso, we walked furthermore to find a no frills hostel just outside of the city’s central district. I haggled the elevated price down and we prepared ourselves for a day of double, triple and quadruple checking of our evening flight details and exploring the city before our departure.
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