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.
This entry was posted on January 26, 2012 by Rick. It was filed under South America Circumnavigation .
I wonder where you got the British lecturer from. The people who feel Pinochet prevented communism were rife during Thatcher’s day, but not so much the past 10-15 years. Particularly since Pinochet was arrested over there and spent some days in house arrest. Makes me wonder about the standard/age of other lecturers on the boat. I thought the time of the Chicago Boys in South America had been more-or-less discredited.
Nice to see the level of posts you have here, but you seem a bit disappointed — on average — so far. Is that correct? You seem to have gotten out and about a lot.
January 26, 2012 at 2:05 pm
The British lecturer is the travel director for the cruise. He is probably a little older than we are, and he is quite knowledgeable & articulate. He ate dinner at our table one night (which is great, because when a staff member is assigned to your table there is unlimited wine all around on the house) & he was a very nice & interesting fellow. He used to teach in secondary school in England. He acknowledged his views of Pinochet would be controversial, and he even suggested that Pinochet was rather protected during his time in England because he was a favorite of Margaret Thatcher. His favorable opinion was based entirely on his perception that Pinochet had set the country on course to develop what is today a very successful capitalist economy, and his view that Allende was such a pal of Castro & Brezhnev that he would probably have taken Chile into hard-line communism. I think he’s pretty much wrong on the last point (he had seen pictures of them together looking friendly!), and he sort of downplayed the police state aspect, although he did acknowledge it in passing. I was just happy to hear from an actual Chilean that they apparently don’t share that view. Some of the other lecturers have been pretty bad, but there is a lecturer on geology who has been quite good & a new guy, a retired engineer from NASA lecturing on space, who also seems quite good. I don’t know how you could have gotten the impression we are disappointed. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have had a great time, are seeing lots of fascinating stuff, have learned a great deal about South America we didn’t know before, have had some great food & met some enjoyable friends. And we still have two-thirds of the trip to go! I’m glad you and Barb had a good time in Mexico, and am also glad you are home safe & sound.
January 27, 2012 at 8:05 pm
OK, I obviously got hold of the wrong end of the stick. But you used disappointing a few times in your posts, so I guess I fed off that. I am corrected.
Mexico was, indeed, great. The place itself was small but very laid back and (after surviving the drive from the airport to the town) I got to relax very quickly – could have been the 3 margaritas that evening, at least for the first day, but the others were also very relaxed. Great music also. All around, a very good experience.
They’re already talking about having the event again next year, so we’ll likely be there for that also.
Keep up the good blogging, and keep enjoying yourselves. Will you get to go on the ice when you get to Antarctica?
January 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm