Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Oh Valpo

I survived my 24 hour bus journey! It was intense at times, and I kind of hated myself for not spending twice the money on a two hour flight, but in the end money lasts longer than the discomfort.

And they played some alright films, so I barely listened to my iPod and I didn't touch my book. So I suppose that's a good thing. 

And it was absolutely worth the long trip to be here in Valparaíso. It is such a beautiful city. It's actually vying for the top spot of my favourite South American cities, which at the moment is held by Rio. I'll see how I feel in a few days, but it's close. 

Valpo is a seaside town about two hours west of Santiago. It's funky and arty, and full of interesting graffiti on the sides of multicoloured houses, opposite old colonial churches, all built into a hillside traversed by funicular trams overlooking the Pacific. 

I've fallen in love, and I've been here for seven hours. When I stepped off the bus, into the sun and fresh air (!), it seemed like everyone was smiling. There's a definite feeling of good vibes here, and I don't think that's just me being high off sea level air after coming down from the mountains. 

I've got tomorrow here as well, and then I'll rustle me up a bus to Santiago in the evening. A friend of a friend is meeting me at the bus station and we're going for dinner, and on Friday night I'm going to meet up with the French-Colombian couple I met in Bolivia. A nice final few days in South America. 

So while I'm lying on this very comfortable bed in a Valpo and cheap Chinese food-induced coma, I think I'll prattle on about Chile in general. Oh, but first, speaking of this bed - I'm staying at Casa Volante Hostel, and it's lovely. Very welcoming, great showers, kitchen and common room. And not too expensive either. There's a Miles recommendation for you. 

So Chile. I really like Chile. It's one of my favourite countries I've been to on this trip, up there with Brazil and Argentina for atmosphere and general buzz. 

The people are incredibly warm, welcoming and patient with foreigners who don't speak Spanish very well (ie me). Much more so than in Peru. I often found the average Peruvian seemed to have a bad taste in their mouth when they came into contact with foreigners, and it was the same in Bolivia. I wonder if there's a correlation between the wealth of the population and the friendliness towards tourists. There could be some disdain in the poorer nations. But anyway, that's not the case in Chile, because I've found Chileans to be the most open of all South American people. 

It's a country of incredible contrasts, with the north being enveloped in the world's driest desert, and the south bring home to Patagonia, a wonderland of snowy mountains, glaciers and perfect lakes. Unfortunately I won't make it any further south than Santiago, but I'm hoping that New Zealand will fulfil my need for fabulous scenery. And Chile doesn't have Mt Doom. 

Chile doesn't want you to buy anything. In shops that are any more specialist than an average corner shop, you'll have to tell the person behind one counter what you want, then take a ticket to another counter to pay, where you'll be given a receipt to collect your items from a third counter. Jobs for all! 

Chile is still a developing country, but the government is aiming to become a first-world country by 2020. And it's well on its way. It has a good infrastructure, helped enormously by the impressive Pan-American Highway that runs north to south. Things also seem to work here, which is nice after spending over a month in Peru. And Chile's economy is strong, which leads me to my next point. 

Chile isn't cheap. After coming from Peru, it was a bit of a shock. I haven't spent £10 on a dormitory room since Rio, but northern Chile seems to think rather highly of itself. But it is a nice country, so I'm prepared to spend a bit more to be here for a while before I jet off to the second "other side of the world" of my trip. 

In short... Chile. I'm a fan.

No comments:

Post a Comment