Monday, April 25

South America, Day Three: Valparaiso

The buzz was felt pretty much as soon as we got off our early bus to Valparaiso. Compared to Santiago, this was a place with character, colour and charm, and even the weather seemed to be on our side.

As expected we had arrived pretty blind - although we had a single night booked in a hotel we had no idea how to get there or how far it was. While wandering around trying to find info about transfers and taxis, we were approached by a friendly girl who turned out to be a tour guide: and she didn't have to try to hard to sign us up for one that morning. This worked out quite well for us - in recent times I've learned to appreciate the value of local knowledge under certain circumstances (like a lack of time or exposure) so we happily paid the relatively expensive fee in return for transport, getting our luggage to the hotel, advice on bus tickets for the next day and of course being shown all the interesting bits of Valpo in the most efficient way possible.

The tour was actually pretty good anyway. Our guide, Mario, was as friendly and funny as you would expect someone in this business to be, but he was also flexible to our needs while managing our time brilliantly, somehow creating time out of nothing. We were taken up Cerro Conception to see the views and schizophrenic architecture of Valpo, we inevitably took a ride up and down one of the many elevators in the town and grabbed a fish lunch with a view of the docks and bay (although some random fog had started to creep into land by that point). The final hour or so was spent in the neighbouring resort town of Vin Del Mar, which was worth going just to see how strikingly different the two places were.

In fact we were so taken by Valpo that we decided to leverage our lack of a plan and stay another night. In hindsight this was mainly as a way to compensate for Santiago; I got talking to a couple from Sao Paulo who gave us some good tips for the Brazilian leg of our trip, and after thinking about it a little more we decided to stick to the original plan of leaving the next day in order to allow us some breathing room at the later date. The couple themselves were holidaying in Chile but there was a chance that we could meet at some point later on in their home town.

The place we were staying was so fittingly charming that I have to give it a mention here. Hotel Brighton was situated on a hill overlooking the bay, and although I have no doubt that the view wasn't particularly unique it was pretty amazing to be able to sit and chill with that in the background. I was going to spend some more time walking around the hills that evening, but instead spent it on the hotel balcony chatting to (another) couple from Buenos Aires, once again grabbing some essential tips which I knew would come in handy, including which area to stay in. We booked our hotel there and then.

It turned out that the people of Santiago who were missing were in Valpo over the Easter break, and as such had returned once we arrived here ourselves. It's worth noting (perhaps) that the women were noticeably hotter in Valpo, while Chile as a whole seemed awash with young couples just hanging out and enjoying the company of each other - this is clearly a very romantic country in population if not environment. The universities in the area also ensured that there was a visible student presence and the whole place had a very carefree and lightfooted vibe to it

Nevertheless, we had had our fill of Valpo that day and so it was time for us to move on. And besides, that fog still hadn't cleared completely.

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