Happy, Happy New Year!

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
Trip End Mar 16, 2009

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Where I stayed
Hostal NuevaMente

Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

 When we plan to visit a new city or destination we always try to do just enough research so we know what we are letting ourselves in for and so we know what we have to look forward to. We also make sure we don't over research a place and spoil any future surprises or take some of the adventure of it. So from this research we picked up that Valparaiso was one of the best places in South America to celebrate the New Year so we didn't hesitate to book a few nights in the city of the New Year period.
Since it was so popular we imagined Valparaiso to be a modern and flashy upmarket beach city, so we were pleasantly surprised to find something very different we arrived. Firstly Valparaiso is not that well known for its beaches at all, but rather its historical buildings built on steep cliffs often requiring cable cars to access them. The city was a contradiction in many ways from its brightly coloured shanty homes to grand old colonial buildings, to crumbling roads used by every dog as a lavatory to quaint cobblestoned streets lined with arty shops, to ugly pointless graffiti on next to beautiful murals.
Everywhere you looked there was something beautiful and unsightly side by side. I found it particularly strange how magnificent old colonial buildings we hidden behind literally thousands of lines of telephone cable and how beautifully designed parks filled with statues and enormous trees were littered with graffiti. Besides the colourful additions to the parks attractions the people frequenting the parks were just as colourful. We encounters people from all walks of life from the individualistic / must be different punks to hippies selling all sorts of junk/jewellery, to vagrants who clearly spent more time than most in the parks, to gracious old gents playing cards on rickety wooden tables. And lastly, the parks, in fact whole city was inhabited by hundreds of dogs, most of them stray looking.
The reason everyone flocked to the little coastal town was for its legendary New Years party and one of the biggest fireworks displays in South America. The famous fireworks show runs from Valparaiso and continuous for 21km along the beach and kicks off shortly after midnight in one synchronised explosion!

We along with all the other residence in the hostel were kindly invited to join the owner and his wife for a party at his friend's house, where apparently there were great views of the fireworks. It seemed that almost all guests in the hostel took up this offer and soon there were 24 of us joining the party.
It turned out that the party wasn't actually "at" his friends house, but was rather out in the street near his friends house. I wasn't quite sure if this was decided when the friend saw the amount of people that rocked up for the party from the hostel and realised his house was too small. Either way we set ourselves up on the pavement, and soon a fire was lit and the BBQ got going.
The owner of the house was kind enough to let us use the only toilet but asked that we contribute a little to cover the cost of the water etc. We happily did this but then found a few minutes later the door to the house had been locked and the owner now refused to let anyone in, go figure! Hope his door was waterproof.....
Before we knew it, it was almost midnight and we made our way down to a view point we were would be able to see all the fireworks, obviously we weren't the only people who had this idea and found the little deck packed with hundreds of people. We tried our best to get a good view but ended up behind a little building but when the fire works started we realised it didn't really matter that much as the fireworks were going off all around us. For a solid 30 minutes the show went on for as far as we could see down the coast, like nothing I had ever seen before!
After the show the real party began! Lucky for us, right next to the platform where we watched the fireworks was a live band that was set up on the edge of a very upmarket hotel. The music was fantastic and dancing broke out all around us, most of the time the band members were playing to the crowds on the deck and not the guests at the hotel. The party and dancing went on for as long as I can remember and when we decided to head home it was long after 3am.
We started out by walking with the intention of getting a taxi the rest of the way but it seemed we were not the only two people with that idea. At that time of night everything looked the same and we soon got hopelessly lost in the back streets of Valparaiso. The great thing was that there was a party on almost every street corner but we eventually lost interest in the partying when the neighbourhoods started getting a little rougher. After more than an hour of wandering the streets we managed to flag down a taxi who obviously charged us a fortune to drive us the final few kilometres to get home.
It was a fantastic party and well worth the effort for anyone travelling in South America over New Years. After the great night out we had one more day to chill out and explore in Valparaiso before we got back on the bus to the countries vibrant capital, Santiago.
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