A 1,5 hour bus ride from Santiago lies Valparaíso, a city with a reputation. A good one that is. About every Chileno we’ve met spoke highly of this colorful city on the hills. Christophe carried a picture of it as it’s cell phone background. It was time we found out if it could live up to its reputation.
In Valparaíso you speak of Cerro’s in stead of barrio’s – hills in stead of neighborhoods. Our hostel was on Cerro Alegre – the Happy Hill. Getting there was interesting. Our puzzling looks made many Chileno’s jump in with help. We finally found the right bus, which came with the most rude bus driver ever. Although the buses look old here, they certainly don’t lack the power to climb the hills. To top it off, the bus driver must of thought he was driving for the Dakar Rally, we certainly felt like we were winning the race. We safely made it to the hostel in what felt like a few seconds later, still shaking.
Valpo, as it’s also called, made us happy. Our “happy hill” has paintings on every wall, colored staircases and beautiful viewpoint. The famous, century old cabel cars are everywhere, most of them working exactly the way they did many decades ago. Most of them where build in the years 1900-1920, the oldest was built in 1883.
On the touristic map of the city we found a 2-day tour that we were happy to follow. We walked the many tiny streets and enjoyed the views of the port and the colorful hills.
We took the escalators and drove what is supposed to be the oldest driving public bus in the world (we tend to question that title).
We also visited the house of Pablo Neruda, a Nobel Prize winning Chilean poet. We wouldn’t mind living there, although I would prefer it without all the junk the man collected over the years.
By accident we found the Chilean ViaVia: we decided to eat cheap that night so we could afford a nice LaChouffe and refreshing Kriek.
When talking about Valpo, the conversation inevitably turns to the neighboring city of Viña del Mar. During the summer holidays this ‘Lloret de mar’ of Chile attracts thousands of Chileans to the beach. We figured we could handle this on a weekday, out of season. As expected, the beaches were empty, the people sober.