Valparaiso & Santiago, Chile
On Tuesday, January 24, we arrived in Valparaiso, Chile’s third largest city with close to a million people (we think). We were on a bus tour to Santiago, Chile’s capitol, which was to leave at 7:15 AM (!), so we got these pictures of Valparaiso harbor just before sunrise.
Valparaiso is built on a number of steep hills (heard that before?). It has cliffs not far back from the harbor and a whole series of funiculars to carry people to the upper city. We were told that only 4 of them are currently in working order.
Santiago de Chile, the capital, is in a valley in the Andes mountains about 100 miles east of Valparaiso. It was an early Spanish outpost & now has some 7.5 million people spread out for many miles. They told us it never rains there in summer & never snows there in winter, although the surrounding mountains get plenty of snow. Most of our tour was, sadly, spent on the bus. On the way there we saw vineyards in several mountain valleys (Chileans are very proud of their wine, which is supposed to be first-rate).
Now for some pictures as we drove around Santiago. The train station with, if you look very closely behind the pole at the right, a carousel (not great, but the bus was moving). Then an unusual red church, a wall with graffiti (we have seen a lot of graffiti in Chile), a clock tower near the central plaza (where we couldn’t get out because someone was robbed there on our guide’s last trip, which she blamed on Peruvians who hang out there), and the Palace of Justice (which I assume is like a Supreme Court).
We did get out to see the Presidential Palace. We were pleased & surprised to see a statue of Salvador Allende there. Our guide’s favorite word was “nice”; everything was “nice” except two things: the earthquake two years ago & Augusto Pinochet (she pronounced the “t” at the end). She said he took away all freedoms & passed laws to benefit himself & his supporters. This was a welcome change from our ship, where we heard two lecturers (one British & one American) praise Pinochet for saving the country from communism & establishing a strong capitalist economy (although the British guy acknowledged that “some people disappeared”). I guess a bloodthirsty police state is OK for some (who don’t live there) so long as free enterprise is protected. There is no statue of General Pinochet at the Presidential Palace.
Before lunch we went up to a scenic overlook on the side of a hill that had great views of the Andes & Santiago in the valley below. Unfortunately there was a blanket of smog that interfered with what would have been quite a picture.
After visiting a disappointingly overpriced artisan place in Santiago the bus took us back. We slept most of the way back but our guide detoured us at the end through a resort town next to Valparaiso called Vina del Mar. Apparently, there is a beach house there for the President and government officials & rich folks from Santiago go there to swim. Tough to get pictures from a moving bus (& we were sitting on the wrong side for pictures).
Finally, some views of Valparaiso as we sailed away, the harbor pilot leaving the ship, and yet another towel animal.
I guess that’s all for now. We are headed south to Patagonia right now & it has been a very bumpy ride since yesterday, almost like a roller coaster. And we haven’t even gotten to the really wild water yet! To make it just a little scarier, the ship creaks a lot (it’s pretty old for a cruise ship; built in the early 80’s,). But so far we are holding up pretty well. We have 2 port days in a row, so it will probably be a few days until we post here again.