Ascensores to Paradise

We managed to wake up and follow our agreed upon schedule this morning. Breakfast, packing, and check-out were all completed by the desired time of 10 a.m. with the added bonus that Doug was able to fit in some Duolingo. We then were on our way to Pajaritos metro station to catch one of many possible buses to our next destination: Valparaiso, a colorful town on Chile’s coast.

At Pajaritos, using our minimal Spanish (we like to think it’s getting better but it’s still very poor) we purchased 2 tickets on a 10:35 Turbus to the coastal city. It should have been smooth sailing from there, but we ran into a bit of an issue. The information screen did not list a 10:35 Turbus to Valparaiso. There was a 10:30 and a 10:40, but no 10:35. Assuming the 10:30 might be ours we approached the guy handling the boarding process for that bus and pointed to our tickets, asking a tentative, “Aqui?” All we got in return was “No. Un otro.” Hmm. Still confused by all this we went back to the counter where we purchased our tickets and attempted to relay our confusion but only managed to make the counter lady think we didn’t know we should be looking for a Turbus. Still confused and a bit worried we once again looked at the screen and noticed a Turbus to Vina del Mar at 10:35. Maybe that one was ours? Still unsure, and running out of time with it now being 10:33, we approached some Turbus staff handling the boarding process for other buses and attempted to get help confirming our bus, but just as he was taking a quick glance at our tickets, a Turbus pulled into to an empty bay and he pointed to it and said “Aqui a Valparaiso.” So, in the end we found our bus, but we still don’t know if it was the one heading to Vina del Mar or just unlisted. So, thank you Mr. Turbus man!

The bus station madness.
The bus station madness.

The ride was nicely uneventful through some of Chile’s hills and wine regions. Doug spent the time sleeping with his mouth so open he may have caught some flies while Lynn watched the landscape roll by. At one point she spotted a pile of freshly picked watermelons the size of their backyard – most definitely the highlight.

i see you, grapes.
i see you, grapes.

We rolled into the hustle and bustle of Valparaiso right around noon suddenly taken aback by the size of the place. This wasn’t quite the quaint town we had been imagining but hills upon hills upon hills of housing. Valparaiso is most certainly a city.

We opted to walk the 25 minutes to our hostel with the hopes of getting a feel for the city and to be honest we weren’t so excited by what we saw. It just seemed like any other city, full of people, trash, and a lot of graffiti (tags more so than artwork). We figured we just hadn’t hit the good stuff yet. Our walk took us up and up and up Mariposas Hill and with the help of a fellow hostel-goer managed to find our home for the next two days. Here we were given a 30 minute in-depth overview of the city by the hostel’s American owner, Kent, where we learned that we could return by colectivo to avoid the hill, take the train to Vina del Mar or walk there, and that we must avoid “North Korea” at night, the area west of Plaza Sotomayor. Easy enough.

View from the deck of the hostel.
View from the deck of the hostel.

Our first mission was to get some lunch and after two failed attempts, one for empanadas recommended by Kurt (they seemed to be closed) and one for pasta that was outside of our budget, we settled on a cafe. Here we ordered two sandwiches, a raspberry juice drink for Lynn, and Fanta for Doug and agreed that we didn’t get it. Why do people come here? The view from the hostel couldn’t be better, but the flat area around the port where we were now was just disappointing. All the buildings seemed in disrepair, there were graffiti tags everywhere, and everyone, besides Kent, just seemed worn down. We were hoping that our 3 p.m. walking tour would reveal more.

We met Tours4Tips in Plaza Sotomayor and began our tour with Mattais who brought us to the port to explain why Valparaiso even got on the map (hint: American Gold Rush). From here we saw some more sights, such as the first fire station in South America and where to go for nightlife and not to go (hint: “North Korea”). We also learned that we are very disappointed in Chilean cuisine. The reason being is that Mattais’ food recommendations included hot dogs (i.e. completos), beef sandwiches (i.e. churrascos), and chorrillanas (i.e. heart attacks on a plate). C’mon, Chile! You have such good basic ingredients! Why are you making them (and our stomachs) suffer?!

Plaza Sotomayor
Plaza Sotomayor
The port doing its job.
The port doing its job.
The "charm" of Valparaiso.
The “charm” of Valparaiso.

But, next is when we really staredt to see the charm of the city of Valparaiso when we took our first ascensore, (a funicular of sorts found all over the city), the Riena Victoria, into the old British colony. The steep incline was a bit terrifying, but according to Mattais an ascensore had never failed and this one had in fact been repaired just three days ago. Phew. Safe at the top we were able to get in some nice views of the port, enjoy the quaint pedestrian paths lined with craft shops and restaurants while he led us around Conception and Alegre Hills providing us with background on the settlements, what it means to be a UNESCO site, and the graffiti found everywhere. From up here in Paradise, Valparaiso was very similar to San Francisco and we were finally getting why people liked it here so much. The tour ended with us trying Chile’s version of Chicha, two types of wine blended together, and we both agreed that Chileans have a severe sweet tooth. Overall, it was a great tour and we agreed we would not have really appreciated this city without it, despite the folksiness that Mattais was fond of throwing in.

Our first ascensore!
Our first ascensore!
View from the top!
View from the top!
Doug tried out the slide at the top. His hips were juuuuuust the right size.
Doug tried out the slide at the top. His hips were juuuuuust the right size.
One of many murals.
One of many murals.
Conception Hill
Conception Hill
View from Conception Hill
View from Conception Hill
Cute neighborhood. You'll notice that the exteriors are made of corrugated steel. These are actually the remains of ships that had to navigate around Cape Horn. The ships would use these sheets to weigh themselves down to help with the dangerous seas of Cape Horn then discard them when they got to Valparaiso. So recycle!
Cute neighborhood. You’ll notice that the exteriors are made of corrugated steel. These are actually the remains of ships that had to navigate around Cape Horn. The ships would use these sheets to weigh themselves down to help with the dangerous seas of Cape Horn then discard them when they got to Valparaiso. So recycle!
Puppy relaxing in the sun.
Puppy relaxing in the sun.
"Did I invite you to live here?" was a very controversial statement made by the city's current mayor to a homeless women on the street after a major fire destroyed her home. As you can imagine, no one seems to like the mayor.
“Did I invite you to live here?” was a very controversial statement made by the city’s current mayor to a homeless women on the street after a major fire destroyed her home. As you can imagine, no one seems to like the mayor.
Back alley way.
Back alley way.
The ramifications of UNESCO. Anything on UNESCO's list must be rebuilt in the exact same way after damage. This home was burned due to faulty electrical wiring a long time ago but has not yet been repaired due to this stipulation.
The ramifications of UNESCO. Anything on UNESCO’s list must be rebuilt in the exact same way after damage. This home was burned due to faulty electrical wiring a long time ago but has not yet been repaired due to this stipulation.
These lowered paths were used by donkeys to bring goods up and down the hills. This allowed the owners to avoid stepping in donkey poo when they walked.
These lowered paths were used by donkeys to bring goods up and down the hills. This allowed the owners to avoid stepping in donkey poo when they walked.
An art museum in Algre Hill, once the home of an Italian opera singer and Yugoslavian mine owner.
An art museum in Algre Hill, once the home of an Italian opera singer and Yugoslavian mine owner.

We agreed that we needed to get some laundry done while we left here, so we went back to the hostel to throw in a load and rest a bit before heading out to dinner. Kent had recommended a Peruvian restaurant and we were all for it. We are in agreement that out of the four South American countries we have thus far visited, Peru’s food is by far the best. Chile’s only redeeming quality is its prevalence of ceviche which it took from Peru. Anyway, it turns out that there are several Nazca Peruvian restaurants in this town so we just chose the one highly rated on TripAdvisor. We seemed to have gotten there just on time too because after we sat down the place filled up. Together, we shared a trio of ceviches and pollo salteado. Both were delicious. While we were wrapping up we realized that we were sitting next to another couple from our hostel and we struck up a conversation to help them figure out whether or not they go to Machu Picchu or Patagonia. Having not yet been to Patagonia, we strongly recommended the former.

The stairs to Mariposas Hill.
The stairs to Mariposas Hill.
We made it to the top of the stairs!
We made it to the top of the stairs!
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We enjoy the door decoration that seems to be common in this area.

We chose to end our evening checking out an artisanal brewery mentioned on our tour since we are always in for a good beer. But, sadly, the three we sampled were disappointing. Good beer is one of those things we are really looking forward to when we are back in Texas.

Daily Walking Mileage: 10

Fun Facts:

  • According to Kent, colectivos are the original Ubers. Unlike Uber, but similar to a bus, they have a set route that they stick to for a set price. In Valparaiso, people use these cars to avoid having to walk all the way up the hills.
  • Valparaiso is made up of 47 hills, or cerros, only 2 of which are designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites (Conception and Alegre).
  • Alegre Hill was named not because of the colorful homes that inhabit it or the gardens that accompany the homes, but instead for the former inhabitants that once entertained the sailors that would come to port. 😉
  • The reason why it is recommended that we avoid “North Korea” at night (i.e. the port neighborhood) is because it was the area most damaged by the 2011 earthquake and it has not yet been repaired. This includes electricity which makes the area very dark at night.

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