Friday, January 23, 2015

Hola Santiago y Valparaiso

From Cusco I flew to Santiago, Chile for a few days of down time before I head to Patagonia for another adventure in wilderness wandering. Thanks to Eduardo and my AirBnB host Jessica I have quite a few tips for things to do around the city.

The best part about Santiago is that it's definitely summer here and I love it! It's in the 80s and warm all day long. The sun also sets incredibly late so it's not dark until well after 9PM. Definitely throwing me off considering that on the Inca Trail I was going to bed at like 830!

The city itself is pretty much just like any other city. There are quite a few parks and different neighborhoods to wander through. As expected there's lots of churches, old government buildings, and museums. Pablo Neruda's house and the Bella Vista neighborhood were highlights thus far.

Check out the pictures from the first few days here. For the adventures read below :)

The first evening after arriving I successfully navigated the grocery store and picked up a few things to have in the apartment. The ATM that I wanted to use wasn't open that evening so I had to wait until the next day to use it and get any cash. First error of Thursday was not reading closely enough on the ATM and mixing up dots and commas - I ended up with a lot more cash than I anticipated! I figure I'll just use as much as I can now and then I can also use it in again when I'm in Patagonia. When the exchange rate is like 625 Chilean Pesos to 1 US Dollar the conversion in my head is a little slow :) It also feels odd to have a slew of 10,000 denomination notes in my hand, just seems too much!

In addition to cash the other agenda item on my list was to figure out how to get coins so I could use the laundry machines in the apartment building. Starting with 10,000 notes and needing coins of 100 or 500 I was struggling! Once I got some smaller bills I found a vending machine. In lieu of an actual change machine I started buying gum and granola bars at about 250 each to break my 1000 bills. I was very proud of myself! I think people standing buy waiting in line to buy metro tickets thought I was crazy.

With detergent and coins in hand I headed down to the laundry room ready to get the Machu Picchu and Inca Trail stank out of my clothes. Little did I realize that there are two different sizes of 100 CLP coins. What the heck?!? Seriously? I hoped that the machine would just accept both, but of course not. Luckily I had enough to do the actual washing part; however, I'm not convinced that the detergent I bought actually worked so the clothes might just have been in water sloshing around for 30 minutes. Fail number two of the day, good thing it's hot and dry here!

With my clothes dry this morning I headed off to try and find the bus station (I'd failed yesterday due to thinking it was at at different Metro stop than it was - oops - I'll spare you the details on that one) and hop on a bus out to Valparaiso. Mission accomplished. I caught a bus shortly after 9 and about ~90 minutes later I was off in Valparaiso. I should have done a bit more research into where exactly to go once I got there, but alas I didn't. I walked off the bus, out of the bus terminal, and on to the street smack into a market selling every type of produce/meat imaginable. Not bad but I really had no idea where I was going and I didn't have a specific destination so I couldn't tell a cabbie where to take me. So I looked at the map and started walking. I had read before hand that it was about a 20-30 minute walk into the heart of it all from the bus station but it was a bit grimey at the start. Boy was that description correct!

It was overcast when I arrived so that didn't help my situation. I had on a dress and luckily I'd brought with me a towel (thanks Caz!) that quickly turned into an over the shoulder/scarf type thing. Quite fashionable. As I made my way towards where I thought there was stuff worth seeing I was not impressed at all and thought I'd wasted my time coming out here. I first ended up at the port/dock which was really nothing to see so I started to make my way into the Concepcion area which is deemed a UNESCO world heritage site. There's got to be something to see here, right?? I started heading up the hills and stairs and began to realize why I was here.

There are various hills across the Valparaiso area, lots of stairs, and also acensores or essentially cable car/ski lift type elevators that take you up the sides of the hills. They're really old and pretty awesome. I took a ride in one and it was slightly terrifying; it went a lot faster than I thought it would. As I made my way towards the top of the hills I started to get into the vibe of the area. Very bohemian with lots of cafes, restaurants, hostels, craft shops, colorful buildings, and street art. A little bit Mission/Haight SF, South Street Phila, and Melbourne. The artwork splattered across the walls was everything from graffiti to beautiful images and even actual paper origami birds. Once I found the good spots and the sun started to come out the day turned around. From various points you can look across the hillsides and see all of the colorful buildings, really was quite pretty. Also, if I'd have been hungry I would have loved to stop into a cafe and sit out in the garden or on the sidewalk but I grabbed an empanada while down in the grimey section earlier so I was full on that! Most of the photos from today are of buildings, art, and a few shots of the ocean.

Before heading back to the bus station I was determined to see the ocean up close. I'd been hopeful that there might be a near by beach to wander on but that didn't seem to be the case (another town up the coast would have been better for that). However, I wasn't going to leave until I got at least a bit closer to it. I walked through some construction zones and found my way to a walkway along the water. I walked for a bit and called it a day. I made my way to the bus station, inquired about when the next bus back to Santiago was and it was in six minutes - perfect!

Had delicious ice cream on my way back home at a place recommended by my AirBnB host (Emporio La Rosa) and a wander through part of the neighborhood I didn't see yesterday. Lots of cafes that I want to try out. I think tomorrow I may attempt to go for a run (which I haven't done in like 3 weeks, yikes!), check out one of the city parks, and do a lot of eating. I have Chilean sandwiches and cafe con pierdas on my list!

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