30 01 2010

I’d always planned to go and stay in Valparaiso for a couple of days but after the wine tour I’d decided to go horse-riding on the Sunday because there were another group of people going then and no one was doing it on the Saturday. My flight on Tuesday to Easter Island is leaving at 09:30 and I didn’t really want to go from Valparaiso to Santiago at some ungodly hour of the morning with all the accompanying risks.

I really thought I’d messed up my arrangements and that I was going to have to rush off to Valparaiso on Sunday after the horse-riding; stay there one night; and then come back for the Monday night. It was only when I was chatting to Aussie Dave about it in the bar before he had to leave for his early departure, that he suggested the blatantly obvious solution of going there on a day trip: it is after all just an hour and a half from Santiago.

So after breakfast I decided to head off to Valparaiso for the day. Before I left the hostel I extended my stay for another night (I’m still sure it is 2) and put a load of laundry in the wash.

The nearest metro station to the hostel is Cumming which is on the green metro line but the bus goes from Universidad Santiago on the red metro line. You can access the red metro line from the green either by going west to San Pedro or east to Baquedano. I decided to head west but when I got there San Pedro was not accessible for the red line – I assume this was mentioned somewhere on the Spanish signage; perhaps weekend work on the line – so I had to head all the way back and then finally got to the bus station around 10:30. I looked at my phrasebook.before I got to the counter so that I knew what the word for return was “vuelta” and since I knew the word for today was “hoy” I was able to answer the questions by combining “Si” and the universally understood language of Pointese.

I hadn’t expected to actually have to book an individual bus and seat but I managed to get myself on the 10:46 and a return on the 20:00 – mostly because I knew the number ocho.

After panicking at the bus stop a bit because the 10:50 was there but the 10:46 was nowhere in sight, I finally got on the late arriving 10:46 and headed off on the direct bus to Valparaiso. Since I’d had another bad night’s sleep at the hostel I then promptly slept for most of the journey. This was probably a shame because I think some of the landscape was stunning.

On arrival in Valparaiso I had absolutely no idea where I was and really wanted to stop off in a bar or café to get my bearings. However, nothing along the main road looked like the sort of place that I’d really want to visit (perhaps myself or my belongings wouldn’t have made it out intact) so I kept wandering along with lots of glances at the map in the LP.

Eventually I worked it out and discovered that I was at the opposite end of town from where they suggested to start a walking tour. I started to get a bit lost and decided to get an ascensor up the hill to get me closer to my destination. There are lots of these funicular railways dotted across the town and they’re very cheap – from 100CLP to 300CLP (20-60US¢). I still wasn’t sure of the charm of the town. Yes there were lots of polychromatic houses perched precariously on the cliff-tops but  the ubiquitous telegraph poles and cables marred the idyll – as did the graffiti and more slummy looking accommodations.

The multi-coloured houses of Valparaiso

Near the top of the railway there was a very nice restaurant Le Filou de Montpelier recommended by the guide with a fixed price daily menu. As you can guess from the name it wasn’t authentic Chilean cuisine but French. I decided it was probably a good idea to fill up on food at lunch since I would be returning to Santiago so late. So I thoroughly enjoyed the everyday fare of choux pastry with ham and béchamel sauce; chicken with a red wine, prune and mushroom jus and cous cous; ending with a strawberry barvois and chocolate sauce.

After lunch I then headed off in the wrong direction and went completely off the map through some rundown (and hilly) barrios before finally ignoring the book and following the street signs to Plaza Sotomayor. This unscheduled detour cost me a few hours and much enthusiasm for the town.

I finally made it to pier area but didn’t take any photos because the guide said that photographing military vessels was strictly prohibited and they were all around the port area. I then followed the rest of the walking tour (a bit scared that they kept making passing comments to people get robbed in this and that area) but still kept getting lost. This was not helped that one of the map locations of the museum didn’t match where the guide said it could actually be found. So I missed that too. After some fruitless searching and a few more ascensor rides I finally decided to head along the ocean since then I wouldn’t get confused by more of these hilly trails. By this time it was only 5 o’clock and I was already nearly by the bus stop area and I couldn’t really work out what to do with myself for 3 hours.

So I went to a bar. Probably one of the ones that I’d declined to visit earlier because it looked too scary. There I ordered a litre bottle of beer for about 3 dollars and managed to make that last for a bit over an hour. The bartender scared me by telling me to keep a close eye on my wallet which was admittedly bursting at the seams with newly acquired pesos and a fistful of dollars. I then decided to head over to the bus station armed with the newly looked-up words for “change” and “early”. Although I couldn’t string this together into a sentence – unless handing over a ticket and saying “change early” is really valid Spanish – I was able to complete this operation; again resorting to my fluent Pointese. When the guy asked me “when?” I just looked at my watch with a look that I think translated as “get me out of this place asap”.

I managed to get myself on the 18:45 bus back to Santiago and once again slept for most of the journey. I then woke up to see that we’d stopped at a metro station – I quickly rushed to the front of the bus – and asked the guy where we were. I thought he said Baquedano but he actually said Parajitos (I know they sound alike!) – which was at the other end of the metro line. Thinking I was practically home I rushed off the bus and then had to endure the long metro ride back to Cumming.

Since I had so much time I studied the metro map more closely and realised that I could short-cut the trip by catching the yellow line for one stop between Los Héroes and Santa Ana. Santa Ana was just one stop removed from Cumming and was a good route. I could even have walked from Santa Ana if I’d known where to go.

I finally made it back to the hostel and after my day’s experience I was actually quite glad that I hadn’t overnighted in Valparaiso. The hotel bar was pretty deserted as usual although I did meet my dorm-mate Ed again – and we had a game of pool; which he won unfortunately. Since he knew a lot of the staff at the hostel from all the time he’d spent there he then headed off to one of their leaving parties. In the meantime a few more people moved into my dorm, including an English girl (I guess it’s a mixed dorm then) – I definitely didn’t have the dorm to myself tonight.

Around 11:30 I decided to call it a night and headed to bed so I’d be well rested for the horse riding the next day.