- Published on Wednesday, 04 July 2012 19:33
I left Argentina and being the country next door I decided to come to Chile. I had and still have no real plan for this width challenged Republic. The only thing I know about Chile is that it is full of mountains, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Sounds great! The road from Mendoza to Santiago was spectacular. High in the Andes I traversed the curvy highway on a double decker bus. I had the very first seat on the top level looking out strait ahead through the windshield. The great thing about this seat is obviously the views that it affords you, but on the other side of the coin their is greater chance of death in event of a crash. But I do not let such things bother me. Arriving into the capital city of five million I set off walking into the unknown.
At the bus terminal I grabbed a map, hit the subway, and ran across a hostal that turned out to be probably one of the nicest places I've stayed at ($CLP 8,000). Happy House Hostel was the name and even though my standards have been lowered considerably, this joint really was top notch. I was't planning on spending any great amount of time here in Satiago, partly because I have had my fill of big cities of late, and partly because I have an end date in South America looming over my head and I still have a lot I want to do before I exit. So the next day after a good night's sleep I went to see the sites of the city. The weather was grey and rainy. Can't win em' all. First stop was Plaza de Armas in the heart of the city which like any plaza in South America is dominated by a cathedral. Here whilst on a park bench people watching I witnessed a large hawk swoop down in front of me, pick off a pigeon, and carry it to the tree above me for lunch. Nature at its finest, even in the big city! Living in Colorado I've never seen this. Go figure. Very exciting and entertaining at the same time.
After all of this excitement I continued my tour of the city and went to the capitol building for the Republic of Chile. Here I came across a massive protest led by tens and tens of thousands of students. Apparently they are upset about the privatization of education in this country (valid point). The public education here is really bad, so unless you are rich in Chile you will never get a decent education. It was so invigorating to see the passion in the eyes of the youth here. They care. Americans do not. We are full of apathy. This protest was loud and intense. There were riot cops everywhere and I reveled in the energy of the chaos. However, once the rocks and bottles started to be thrown at the cops and I saw a few beatings at the hands of the military police I thought I should keep my distance lest I be mistaken for a disgruntled youth. Then when I saw my first real life Molotov cocktail I hightailed it out of there and continued my walk in a less volatile environment.
One of my last stops I rode a cable car to the top of the a mountain in the city to get a bird's eye view of the metropolis. As much as I could anyway with all of the fog and clouds. Santiago was a cool city and had I had more time I would have stayed for a few more days taking it all in. Either way I was glad to at least see a little part of this up and coming capitol city. My next stop was the little little bohemian port city Valparaiso.
A quick (and cheap $CLP 1,500 or $3USD) two hour bus ride out of Santiago I arrived back to the Pacific Ocean (every time I see the Pacific it is special for me, brings me back to my time as a kid in California) in the little port town "Valpo" as the locals call it. This town is built from the port and extends extremely steep up the surrounding hillsides. Walking is a serious chore around here and being that I walk 90% of the time my work was definitely cut out for me. Maybe I'll be able to skate faster when I return home. Valpo is known for its "bohemian" culture with a heavy populace of artists, musicians, etc. The city is covered in urban graffiti artwork on the walls and all of the houses are of Easter Egg color. It was fun to just stroll around and the views from my hillside hostal Casa Kreyenberg ($CLP 8,000) - despite the fog - were pretty sweet.
The streets here are so steep that part of the public transportation system consists of these old school wooden cable cars to take you up the hillsides to different neighborhoods. Good times riding up and down on these cars and take in the views.
Again, I just kind of blew through this town and I really do not have a whole lot to write about. I basically just walked around and snapped some photos. One of the highlights I did have was visiting the Easter Island Museum. Being that I do not plan on going to Rapa Nui this was a welcome alternative. The exhibit was very thorough and I enjoyed it very much. Whilst in town I got to talking to a local about Northern Chile. He suggested I take a look at a place called the Elqui Valley. The valley is home to the Pisco Industry (Chile's national liquor) and is also famed (or rumored) to have a magnetic energy in the mountains connected to Tibet, new age energy and ideals, and multiple star gazing observatories where UFO's have been repeatedly spotted. It all sounded very strange to me and I don't really believe any of it, but being as my only plan in Chile is to head North this seemed like a place to stop at.