Travel Journal

Valparaiso – Sin Photographs

(Saturday 9 April 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 238-9 4/2-4/3/11
There will not be any photographs posted because I lost my camera. Clearly this is Julie’s fault. If she was with me, this would not happen. Anyways, Valparaiso is called the San Francisco of South America and for good reason. It has a busy port, hilly terrain, brightly painted houses and fog. It is stretch along the coastline and climbed the hills like a vine tenaciously holding on through earthquakes and deterioration brought on by the salt sea air and poverty.
After arriving at the bus station, I considered trying to catch a bus but the distance was pretty far and I would certainly have to walk up a couple hills to get where I thought the hotel was so I splurged on a taxi. The hotel was willing to move my reservation up a day and when I asked about the FedEx delivery I got a blank stare. I tried as best I could in Spanish to explain the situation and the clerk understood but said the letter, if it was there, would be in the office which was locked for now so I unpacked and headed out to explore this section.
The funiculars are all over the hillsides but I believe only seven are still in operation. They really don’t go far but they are convenient for going up and down hills where roads and steps are not nearby. I traveled in three and though similar in principle and mechanics, each has their own unique style and they offer great views of the city and harbor. I spent the afternoon walking around and taking pictures (I’m so sad now!). The houses are very colorful and the city gives the owners free paint to redo their houses as the sea air makes them fade quickly. I remember a task on the Amazing Race where teams had to paint houses and found the street off Templeton where the preformed the task. There are a lot of colorful murals along Templeton and many hostels so there are plenty of backpackers here.
When I returned to the hotel, there was someone in the office and after ten minutes of explaining, I finally retrieved the FedEx envelope which had been opened, used for doodling and as an impromptu coaster. The card was there and I went and activated it at an ATM – thanks Chona!
The next day I went to the bus station and caught a bus to Isle Negra which is neither an island nor is it black. It’s a city about an hour drive away where the Nobel winning poet Pablo Neruda had a house. He named the house Isle Negra because of some black rocks in the surf near his house and the town renamed itself after his house. I am not familiar with his work and perhaps I should pick up a translation of his poems. Anyways, the house holds an ecliptic collection of whatever held Neruda’s interest. He loved the sea and boats but hated sailing so he had a boat placed in his yard that he would often sit in during parties in his yard. Inside, the house is jammed full of all things nautical. I counted at least seven bowsprits inside of the house. There are bottled ships, nautical maps, compasses and the interior of the house is made to look like the inside of a ship. There’s an extensive library, a collection of bugs, seashells, manuscripts, a tractor, yardarm, and many other things. I took some pictures of the exterior but no photos are allowed inside.
Getting back to Valparaiso was more of a problem. I had asked the bus driver when I came where I should go to catch the bus back and he indicated across the street. I waited awhile and noticed the company that dropped me off had buses coming but not going. Finding its bus office, a surly lady told me they don’t provide return service and I should look for this company and there are buses every half hour. Armed with this knowledge, I was able to flag down the bus and make it back to the Valparaiso bus station. Since I was there, I looked into the schedule for buses north to San Pedro de Atacama and was disappointed that the only bus they had the next day was at 10PM and went as far as Calama where I could catch another bus for the hour into San Pedro; however, the bus arrives at Calama at 8PM the next day and I would have to catch the San Pedro bus the following day. I went ahead and got a ticket though.
Since I would have to check out at eleven the next day, I was hoping to take a walking tour of the city to eat up some time but a group tour’s current schedule had none on Sunday or Monday. I booked my ticket back to the States for mid-May arriving at Miami and rented a car so I could visit Vizcaya before driving to Tampa to see my father (Hello, PK!). I left my bags and did a lot of walking around the city. It was foggy so my climb up to a vantage point was for naut. I did visit the cemeteries on the hillside although there was nothing remarkable in them. It was interesting to note that foreigners were buried in their own section and there were a lot of English and German people buried there. I forced myself to eat a couple of times but I am really not impressed with the Chilean food as I believed I mentioned before. It’s basic fare with not much taste. As it got later, I caught a bus to the station and walked around the park across from the station. It was quite lively here with speed chess matches going on, amateur singers holding mini concerts and a card club which I thought at first was bridge but after watching it for awhile I had no idea what they were playing. The cards appeared to have four different suits and I’m not sure if there were partners as tricks were kept by everyone and some had cards turned up next to their tricks. I took some photos which the members of the club were happy to pose for and put my camera away in my day pack which was stuffed with everything I would need on the bus as my backpack would be stowed in the baggage compartments and that was the last I saw of my camera 

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