Valparaiso is the “Boho” area of Chile. Graffiti is ubiquitous. All this started as a means of making political satirical statements in Chile’s difficult times. It has now become the city’s identity. Most of the street art is of a very high standard. it gives the city an air of amusement and frivolity.
Planning is highly regulated. The old facades of wood and corrugated iron are maintained sometimes ‘hide’ very modern interiors.
But Valpo, like everywhere in Chile, has two sides. As I showed yesterday there are many,many substandard dwellings and evidence of great poverty side by side with all this spectacular fun graffiti.
We returned to Cafe Arrecife and Walther for our breakfast. He had agreed to open early to serve us as we had a bus to catch at 10.30. We had scrambled eggs and toast and freshly pressed juice. Walther joined us with his coffee and told us a little of his family. His maternal great great grandfather had left Germany after the first world war and come to Argentina. They had not managed to make their fortune there so moved on to southern Chile where they settled in Pucon. We talked about the beauty of Pucon. It was where Walther had got his love of nature while holidaying there as a child. His maternal grandfather was Danish. But Walther is one hundred percent Chilean and so proud of it. He and Francesca, his wife, are aware of Chile’s imperfections but they are immensely proud of their country and rightly so.
This is a country with amazing potential. This country is once and a half times the size of France with a population of seventeen million while France is home to more than sixty million people. Chile has so many forests and these seem to be well managed. As tracts are felled they are replaced. We passed many saw mills with huge stocks of planed planks. One thing we noticed, in a couple of places, was mountains of saw dust. It is not evident that the Chileans use this for, if anything. They heat their houses with stoves so it seems possible that this saw dust could be made into pellets. These could also be exported. But there is probably some very good economic reason for not doing this. Apparently most of the wonderful hard wood trees have already become extinct as they were used to make paper pulp. These paper producing factories are apparently responsible, or partly so, for the huge reduction in Chile’s wild life. What is surprising is that with all this wonderful wood the quality of building is so bad. The two main tree crops seem to be Monterey pine and Eucalyptus.
We left Pichilemu with sadness. It is a beautiful place. Up on our bus for our last long distance trip. It is 256kms by the route we had chosen to Santiago. There are two possible routes north to Santiago. One route is longer and is along the motorway. It passes through our horror town Rancagua. Needless to remark we chose the cross country route through a place with the wonderful name Melipilla. This trip crossed Chile’s coastal range. These mountains are lower and gentler than the Andes but nonetheless very beautiful. We were fascinated by what was being grown on these hills. We passed huge forests, vast vineyards, great fields of fruit trees, strawberries, corn, grain crops and then vast waste areas. We spotted majestic condors flying overhead. We were a little puzzled by the quality of this road until we arrived at a great dam. The road was probably built to service the dam.
The flora and fauna along the route was so familiar. Tree lupins and Californian poppies were everywhere. Globus buddleia, the buds of which are used to make tea, and huge cactus growing almost side by side. The gardens of the houses along the route were ablaze with roses, rhodendrons and all the other spring flowers we know.
On arrival in Santiago we made our way to our, now familiar, Los Amazonas hostel. This is like a real hotel. We have a great big room with all the facilities. Of course the price reflects it…. The guests are a European mixture, mostly German, so unlike the places we have stayed along our journey. But it is good to be winding back up to a normality.
Santiago is a huge bustling city, home to six million people all rushing about, like their counterparts in any other big city. But one welcome difference is that Chilean parents have not forgotten to instruct their children in good manners. At our age one is almost never left standing on the metro, for example. Some young person jumps up and offers you their seat. This also holds for mothers OR fathers with small children. They are offered a seat immediately.
There is a big police presence on the streets here and most restaurants have security. The city has no air of menace but I suppose like most cities it has its trouble makers. We decided to have a culture packed day today, Sunday, because museums are closed on Mondays. The museums are housed in really impressive buildings. The quality of the exhibitions was excellent. We were most impressed by the Centro Gabriela Mistral. This is a performing arts centre with a huge exhibition space. The building reminded us of a gigantic version of the new Skibbereen Arts Centre. It had an outer layer of rusty metal….. But there the comparison stops! The size and space within were gigantic. There is a lovely forecourt which was hosting a photographic exhibition of aerial images of Santiago by two different photographers. The quality was good but the subject becomes a little boring. Inside there is an exhibition of holocaust survivors who came to Chile. These portraits were very striking.
From our cultural experience we headed for the Mercado Centro which is an enormous market. This market is mostly covered with a new building and several old or some very old buildings. Everything is on sale here. It is a heaving mass of humanity The fruit and vegetable was beautifully displayed. There was a whole building for meat – a little overpowering…. There was fish of every variety on sale. There were many, many restaurants which Walther suggested as offering the best food in town. However I was a little wary of the hygiene and was not really hungry after my big Amazones breakfast. The whole area is a mad, action packed cacophony of noise, people and technicolour presentations.
In the afternoon we visited the Memorial Museum which is dedicated to the Allende coup d’etat and the subsequent Pinochet dictatorship. The building itself is amazing and the presentation so sensitively laid out. It is a tough place to visit and see what happened here. But well done to Chile for getting this together and making it available for all to see and learn what actually happened. Let us hope that by seeing what happened it will help to avoid a repeat of the terrible atrocities.
So today is our last day and this will be the last blog of this particular trip. Thank you for following us along the way, it has been an incredible experience. I will post some photographs when I get time to look at what I have.
When we arrived in the bus terminal of Pichelimu we spotted a little spot where we could have a coffee and a roll. We had had no breakfast so were petty hungry. It was sunny and warm but windy. There was four plastic chairs outside but no tables. Not a problem for us, we just popped our stuff on one of the empty chairs. But the cafe owner insisted on whistling up two tables from somewhere. He was a lovely young man. He really wanted to help us and to communicate. We needed his help to find a place to stay. So he called his wife on his mobile and handed the phone to Barry. She spoke excellent English. So Barry explained what we needed. She recommended a place and her husband agreed. Then he offered to walk with us to the place. Such kindness. This was an amazing place in the process of being built. But the part that was finished was really lovely. This was real luxury. We were really happy and decided, despite the price we were due a little spoiling after last night.
We emptied our backpacks, did the washing in hot water and asked if we could use the washing line. No problem. We got the WiFi code and the signal strength was great. Bliss. Then Jonah, our host knocked on our door and announced we would have to leave as he needed us to stay 4 nights!!!! We explained we could not as we were due in Santiago in two days. He was SO Sorry but we would have to leave…… I had seen him take a call on his mobile and suspected he had had a request for both rooms for 4 nights. I was furious but Barry felt he was just taking a business decision. He offered to drive us to another place. We were really fed up and tired so took it. It was at the other end of the luxury spectrum. But we decided to accept. The young landlady was pleasant, the room basic, the bathroom even more basic but the view was to die for so we were happy(ish). We had left our clothes drying on landlord number 1ˋs washing line so had to return. He had invited us to do so and we accepted as we had no desire to take down our wet washing.
After this slight hiccup the day got better. The wind was up the surfers were out on the waves, the sun was shining. We walked along the beach and found a place to eat watching the activities on the water. As I have said before most people seem to eat at lunch time. We had a long lazy lunch and returned to collect our washing. Sure enough both rooms were occupied in the luxury place….
We had a late siesta and set out about 7.45 for dinner. Everything was barred and bolted. No one about, no life in the streets. We assumed that this was because we are outside the season. We continued on down the beach for a walk and were working out how we could survive on a few biscuits. I decided to ask the landlady for hot water for tea and coffee which we carry with us at all times. As we were making our way home we saw four young people in front of us. They turned off into a restaurant we had tried a quarter of an hour before but found to be closed tight. They just pushed the door open and in they went, we followed close on their heels. Within a quarter of an hour the whole place was full to bursting. Pizza or pizza, beggars can’t be choosers…. I don’t thik I will eat eaither pizza or lemon meringue pie for a very long time…
We had decided to visit the surfing point about 6kms along the coast today. We went to the bus terminal and the bus was about to leave. On we hopped and off we went bumbing and bouncing along the coast road. When we asked what time the bus returned the driver seemed a little unsure!!! About 2 o’clock….. But we decided to worry about that later. This is an amazing place which boasts the biggest waves in Chile. It was absolutely fantastic.., throbbing with young surfers. The waves rolled around the headland and the surfers tried to catch them. Some of them were unbelievably good. We met two Argentinians who had come for a weeks surfing. One of them told us we were going to see amazing surfing – and so we did. Watching is almost addictive. One wills them to catch the wave and surf down it or up and down it. The different standards of the surfers was evident although we know absolutely nothing about surfing.
It was such a beautiful day we decided to walk the length of the Playa back to Pichilemu. We were the only people on the beach bar a few dogs and numerous birds. Pelicans were flapping lazily over our heads. The beach was pristine. Pichilemu is apparently the play paradise for the rich of Santiago. The houses here are definitely evidence of richness.
We wandered about to find somewhere to eat lunch. It was already 2.30. I spotted a billboard down the road so we decided to give it a try. What a find. We were attracted to it by its cheerful colours and overall air of cleanliness. I had one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted, Barry had an empanada and freshly pressed orange juice. We had tea and coffee and the most delicious brownie I have ever had. We were served by the young couple’s charming 7 year old daughter. They were a delightful couple, both chefs, who had decided to leave the rat race of Santiago and try to make a go of their little restaurant in Pichilemu. They both spoke excellent English. We chatted on and on and once again I was treated to a lovely warm hug on leaving. What wonderful people.
We can only wish them every success. Their facebook is
Give them a like – they really deserve it.