After hearing good things about Valparaiso from other travellers and locals, we decided to get the 1.5/2 hour bus from Santiago. Costing only 12.000 pesos (£12), it was a comfortable and easy trip. Having both fallen asleep quickly for the whole journey, we were there in an ‘instant’.
What caught our attention first were the old trolley-buses. As a piece of history still functioning in present times, Valparaiso immediately had that ‘seaside town’ characteristic of when time has stood still.
Encountering many people selling fish on the streets with their insides on display made me nauseous, but Si was happily taking photos, so we meandered through until we stopped for a coffee. Again, even the cafe had the look and air of age about it.
Wondering where all of the colourful buildings were that we had seen in pictures, we decided to head upwards into the valley of houses. With each step, and around every corner, colour and artwork was coming into vision. Houses wound up above one another, perching on the very edge to be a head above the next. Like snakes and ladders, steep steps carved their way through the houses, and where they could not, the roads coiled around.
What greeted us nearer the top was an endless, beautiful scene of the sea, and the splattering of multi-coloured houses that flicked upwards into the hills. Taking a break to have some food in a little park, we watched Valparaiso go about its day.
Satisfied with our exploration, we decided to find the Melbourne Cafe for a guaranteed good coffee. After some zigzagging, we realised it was near the Almarda de Chile (navy building) in Plaza Sotomayor, where we had already been. After a delicious latte, we headed back to have a look at the port. It’s not particularly scenic around there, but serves its purpose! Unfortunately there isn’t a beach to walk along, so we walked along the main road alongside the sea.
We found a great place for lunch, although I forget the name now. Situated along the beach road, we could see the sea out of the window and had refuge from the traffic – perfecto. Offering 241 on grande mojitos, they were up there with the best we’ve had. On the coast, seafood was a must, so I had salmon and Si got shrimp, which was pretty tasty.
Plaza Victoria has a swirly, smooth floor that just begs to be glided on in any way possible! Young chicos skateboarded, little niños peddled about on tiny replica vehicles and Si had a slide across its inviting surface – oh the joy of the simplest things. We also had the pleasure of seeing the buildings, highlighted perfectly by the sun from this happy, whirling spot.
Heading back through the main town centre, it was still heavy on the traffic front and the narrow roads wedged between buildings kept the fumes concentrated. Diesel fumes are a powerful presence in places that should otherwise feel fresh! We have unfortunately found this to be the case in most of the urbanised places throughout our travels.
A day trip in Valpariaso was enough for us to get its essence, and it was rejuvenating to be at such closeness to the ocean.