The most celebrated Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, fell in love with Valparaiso and summed it up pretty well, writing – ‘Valparaiso, how absurd you are…you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.’ It is clear to see why this line was written once you are here. The shambolic seaside town is guaranteed to make you smile, whether by looking at its colourful street art, the views over the Pacific or the sounds of local musicians drifting up the narrow streets. As I write this, Oscar and I are listening to a Saxophonist busking below our hostel whilst we sit and read our books, having spent the morning exploring the maze of streets and negotiating the incredibly steep hills back from the dock to our hostel!
Although I did just call Valparaiso a town, I think it is more of a city. Our expectation was of a small cluster of roads near the sea, but in fact it is a shipping port around which industry has gathered, creating a huge area of housing spreading up the hills behind the ship yard. The touristic area is still small and confined so that you can easily walk it in an hour, but the rest of the city is spread out, dirty and definitely not somewhere you walk at night. Valparaiso has a reputation still, as a bit of a red light district and the trip advisor reviews had plenty of tales of mugging and thefts BUT don’t let this put you off as it really is rather charming.
The port has kept us really occupied as it is really close and you can watch the containers being piled on, we can also see some of Chiles Naval fleet moored up which is interesting but has a lot less activity to watch! The bay is massive and in the far corner is the beach area where apparently, the wealthy residents of Santiago come at weekends through the summer.
I think the best part of Valparaiso has to be its amazing street art – we thought that Santiagos was brilliant (and it is) but here it feels even more a part of the city. Without it Valparaiso wouldn’t hold the same appeal to me as the easy, hippy vibe given off by the art sits in such contrast to the industrial port town with a shady reputation. It makes you feel more welcome and gives a fun and arty feel to the otherwise possibly unattractive town. The art work is all so colourful and imaginative, like the people here, it all makes you stop and have a proper look and we each have our favourite pieces. Mine is of an ‘under the sea’ landscape while Oscars is ‘many faces’.
After our short two night break in Valparaiso we are heading back to Santiago to get ready for our long flight home. I am not sure that I am ready to leave South America or being away with Oscar yet however, I think that we have chosen the best time of year to be heading back to England – Christmas! I can not wait to see all the festive lights and decorations and it is always a great time of year to meet up with friends which I am particularly looking forward to since we have been away. One of my closest friends is spending Christmas with my family this year and is coming from America for two weeks to be with us which is making me even more excited to be home and lessening the disappointment that our adventure in Chile, Bolivia and Peru is over for now.