South American Adventure
"What are you going to do in Santiago?" I was asked a number of times before departing to Chile. "'Not sure," I replied. "I still need to do some research". "Well, make sure you allow time for a day trip to visit Valpariso," was the response...
I did a little bit of research, enough to tell me that Valpariso was 1 1/2 hours drive from Santiago, via the Casablanca wine region, on the coast and a world heritage site. That was enough to convince me that I had to visit.
Driving into the area is not that impressive- you come through a valley that had recently been destroyed by wild fire, impacting the vegetation and even some of the houses. Sloping down towards the Pacific Ocean, houses are packed in together along the hillside, some painted in bright colours and gleaming in the sunlight.
My driver wound his way through the streets, heading toward the home of Pablo Neruda, a famous Chilean poet, diplomat and politician. His home, named La Sebastiana, is perched high up on the Cerro Bellavista and contains a large eclectic collection of artefacts from around the world. This eccentrically-built, colourful house had amazing panoramic views of the port city below.
Valpariso is a cross between Rio de Janeiro and a run down version of San Francisco, a curious potpourri of elegant mansions and corrugated zinc structures dotting the many hills that make up the city.
Ascensores, or antique-looking metal funiculars crawl their way uphill at impossible angles. In the late 19th century, as development occupied most of the cities limited level ground, residential neighbourhoods started climbing up the cerros, or hills, surrounding the city. The ascensores were built to facilitate access to the various neighbourhoods. Soon after, however, they stopped being used. Many have fallen into disrepair and currently only a handful remain in operation.
A designated UNESCO world heritage site, Valparaiso’s quirky cobble stone streets are lined with murals and colourful graffiti on the walls, steps, pathways, and light posts. It seems like any available blank space is considered a canvas, & is promptly covered in vibrant local art.
Tucked into the streets, was an artists paradise as I started to discover galleries, jewellery and clothing stores. Mixed into this were small bustling cafes for the locals or holiday makers in the know, offering local delicacies and a vast range of regional vino. Exploring this was the perfect way to end the day!
AUTHOR: Sharmila Patel, Adventure World.
GET THERE: Adventure World Travel offer a range of tailor-made tours to South America. For more information contact us on AU: 1300 295 049 / NZ: 0800 238 368 or AU: CLICK HERE / NZ: CLICK HERE