From the high desert of Chile, we flew to Santiago and caught a bus to the port city of Valparaiso. Santiago was surrounded by snow-capped mountains and very cold, so we were glad to escape to the slightly warmer environs of the coast.
Valparaiso has been a port city for a long time – this was the first port that ships would encounter on the west coast as they made their way around the tip of South America. The glory days of the pace were abruptly ended with the opening of the Panama Canal.
This bit of history seems apparent when looking around the old part of the city – many old buildings, but the majority in some state of disrepair. It is a quite interesting place to wander around, with many alley-like stairways making their way up and down the steep hills, but for me calling it beautiful would be a stretch. The amount of grafitti is amazing, and the large number or dogs roaming the streets leave their decorations on the sidewalks. Of all of the World Heritage Sites we have visited, this was the first one we seriously wondered aloud “Really?”
That said, we did enjoy our time here wandering the streets detween downpours (had not seen rain since April in Ecuador), and eating way too much at the local cafes. We got up early one day and out to a local place to watch Chile play in the World Cup. We were the only people in the place who did not know everyone else there. It was a successful morning, as the Chileans won their first World Cup match in 48 years. Oh yeah and the food was great too!
One feature of Valparaiso we really did enjoy were the ascensors. These are a cross between a railway and an elevator, and are sprinkled around the city to help transport residents up and down the steep hills. Most were built around 1900 or before, so in addition to a nice view you get the added excitement that the ancient equipment might fail and send you hurtling down to the bottom.
This is our last stop on mainland South America. On to Rapa Nui (Easter Island)!