November 6-8, 2015
A Shorts Stay & Earthquake in Valparaiso
Our night bus ride from Mendoza to Valparaiso was a 9 hour trip. Some of that time was spent crossing the border from Argentina into Chile.
Around 1:30 in the morning the bus arrived at the Chilean border. Everyone on board exited the bus and lined up inside to receive the exit stamp from Argentina and entrance stamp for Chile. While we waited about 30-40min in the immigration lines, our bags were taken from the bottom bus and checked by security and the bus was searched by police officers and a K9.
We finished with immigration rather painlessly- no hefty entrance fees for Chile- and entered a different room with our smaller carry on bags.
Everyone from our bus was required to place their bag on a long metal table and the police dog jumped on the table to sniff each bag. The dog was primarily sniffing the bags to check for produce- fruit and vegetables are not allowed to enter Chile from other countries and it comes with a steep fine.
We arrived at Valparaiso at 5:45 in the morning and walked through the empty, dimly lit streets for about ten minutes until arriving at our hostel. We knocked and rang the bell with no luck, and took a seat on a bench at the park for 40 minutes until trying again. An hour later we were in the hostel and happy to be in a comfortable bed. We napped for several hours before setting out to check out the town.
Valparaiso is built on hills over looking the coast. Bright colorful houses dot the hills and graffiti and murals line the streets. To get a good panoramic look at the town, we hopped on a local bus and headed up to a plaza with a nice view. We got off the bus and enjoyed the over cast view of the city and winded our way down the streets, admiring and the art and a couple more plazas along the way. We walked down to the port and watched the cargo freights on the water. We both were pleasantly surprised but how kind people were as we walked around. People on the bus helped make sure we got off at the right stop, another man saw us looking at our map and came up and asked us where we needed to go, a woman working at a convenience store made suggestions of places we should check out. Very friendly and helpful!
Next we headed for one of the cities many elevators- to help make hilly Valparaiso more accessible, there are many electric lifts, a small trolley like car that's pulled diagonally up the hills by wires. We took the quick ride and at the top, once again, enjoyed some panoramic views.
While walking through Valparaiso we were very surprised by the prices in Chile. We have been spoiled by the blue market exchange rate in Argentina! The prices high prices deterred us from many dinner options but we finally settled on some sushi- a nice change.
We were awoken the following morning at 4:30am by our bed bumping and the windows rattling. It was an earth quake! I woke up and stepped into the hall and was reassured by the hostel owner that it was a somewhat regular occurrence and that we were ok. Turns out it was a 6.8 earth quake centralized a couple hours north.
2 Days in Santiago
It was a short 1.5 hr bus ride from Valparaiso to Santiago. Santiago is huge! We are used to getting off the bus and walking to our hostel, but in Santiago we needed to take the subway. Santiago has a very clean and very efficient metro system.
We spent our first day in Santiago checking out the enormous 5 story mall. We walked around for several hours checking out each level, the top floor was a movie theater.
Our second day in Santiago took us all around the city. We walked along the river through a nice manicured park called Parque Forestal. The roads were closed in the morning for runner and bikers. We walked to Santa Lucia Hill, a green area in the middle of the city and hiked up all of the steps to a look out point. Not much to see, just buildings and over cast sky. We continued on to Palacio La Moneda and then the Pre-Colombian Art Museum. It was an interesting museum filled with artifacts from the indigenous tribes- utensils, artifacts, textiles. We checked out the Central Market next- filled with restaurants as opposed to small stands, and lots of fresh seafood- rather expensive though. Many of the stores were closed because it was Sunday and the streets were very quiet for such a large city.