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Travel Adventure - Backpacking Latin America's Gringo Trail Backpacking Latin America starting in Cuba, then travelling from East to the west coast of Mexico before making our through Central and finishing in South America.

Street art in the city of Valparaiso

CHILE | Wednesday, 30 September 2015 | Views [406]

Our plane landed in Santiago airport and by the time we cleared customs and collected our bags etc. it was about 12am. We had booked a hostel but decided on the plane we were just gonna sleep in the airport! Funds were getting low on the last part of our journey, haha! It would save money and also save the hassle of finding the bus, then walking around trying to find the hostel in the middle of the night, just to sleep a couple of hours to get up early in the morning to then catch a bus to Valparaiso which is where we were aiming to get to. And what's backpacking without sleeping in the airport at least once! We got a trolley to put our bags on, which was a lot easier to push than carry and walked around the airport a couple of times to try to find a good lounge. I think we were so tired and delirious it took us a while to make a decision as we were a bit like zombies. We went to the rest area where there were a few seats and a couple of people waiting around. It was a little cold in the section so we rugged up with jumpers, socks, beanies and I pulled out my large sarong I bought on Rio beach and used as my blanket. We were back to Andes cold weather which was probably about 0 degrees outside after coming from Rio which was 37 degrees as we left the airport. It wasn't the comfiest and I woke up a couple of times but at least we got a bit of sleep. We got up at about 6am and went upstairs to a breakfast buffet place and tried to use their wifi to book a hostel for tonight in Valparaiso but we couldn't log on. We then went to the info desk and asked how to catch the bus to the main bus terminal. She explained where to go and what stop to get off at but by the time we got to the bus, I couldn't remember the name of the station, so I asked the drivers assistant (who I thought was speaking English) where to get off. He said to take it all the way to Downtown which was the last stop. As we started travelling and going past bus stations, I think he may have mislead us. When we got to the last stop we asked the driver where the bus terminal was and he didn't have a clue what I was saying. It was a bit annoying as we only have a day in Valparaiso and wanted to get there as early as possible. We started walking and I went in to a hotel to ask for help with directions. He was very nice and spoke English and guided us where to go after 3 stops on the subway. We were there! Finally and booked a bus to Valparaiso leaving at 9am. It was only a 2 hour bus ride and when we got off at the station we went to the tourist desk to ask for hostel recommendations and we also booked a bus the next day to Mendoza. We jumped on the bus which was fairly simple to catch to our stop and although the street signage was a bit weird it was easy to find the street our hostel was on. As we walked up one street towards it we walked past another which had a huge mural painted on it and looked very cool. I recognised photos of it from HostelWorld called Hostel Po. We rang to door bell and they had availability for the night. We walked up the staircase and also the walls were also covered in cool paintings and artworks. Valparaiso is a very arty place and is known for all of the street art which covers the city. When the girl at reception was showing us around the hostel we bumped in to Connor and Lou again (Bridget's friends from Cusco!) who were also staying at the hostel. I'm gonna miss this traveller life where random things happen, it's easy to make friends and everyone is on these amazing adventures like us. It was now about 12pm so we only had the afternoon. We were thinking of doing the street art/graffiti tour but after speaking to Connor he recommended the walking tour as you see a lot of artwork on this anyway. We got some empanadas across the road for lunch and ate them on our hostel rooftop before going to the plaza to meet our 'Where's Wally' tour guides. 

We started by walking to the port where all the boats/ships come in. Valparaiso used to be one of the major cities in Latin America before the Panama Canal was established as it was the time of the gold rush in California and people from Europe had to cross the water as a half way point before then going to USA. We then jumped on to a trolley bus (tram) and had a short ride around the block and along a street. We then stopped to look at a mural on the wall. There is amazing street art everywhere! Some graffiti but mostly fantastic painted artworks and murals covering the walls, buildings and streets of the city. Some huge covering the side of buildings and some small, just a small random artwork on a random seat or something. It's definitely a very visual city to walk through.  This particular one we were looking at had three artist paint three different paintings on and were the three most famous in Valparaiso and showed off their three distinct styles so we could recognise them around the streets . One was of a hummingbird by artist Charqui Punk, the other of a portrait of a woman, with a signature pink nose by La Robot de Mabera and the other of a doll which looked very abstract and Peruvian style by an artist named Inti who is apparently Chilean's favourite artist. I really liked his style. We were now going up to the hills and caught a little carriage that took us up. From far away these buildings kind of look like the favelas in Rio as they were all colourful and scattered over the hill but walking through the streets the buildings were beautiful and it was a really lovely area. I think there are about 45 hills which are mostly residential and where the local Valparaiso people live. We were in a part just above the flat area and this area of the hills was mainly touristy with beautiful boutique hotels and restaurants etc. we got a good view looking back over the hills and all the houses and down to the ocean. There were also three churches which he explained a story about but there was a lot of info I was tuning out for a lot of it and was more captivated by the visual surrounds. I think they were the first churches built in Latin America, with and without a cross on top. The one without the cross was the very first one built but they had to hide that it was a church for some reason. We saw more street art (the streets were just filled with it! ) and were explained how it originated because of political reasons by Frida Kahlo's husband (the Mexican folk artist who's museum we saw in the very first city we stopped in on our trip, all that time ago in Mexico City!). We saw a guy play the guitar and sung a song for us and also met one of the street artists who's office is on the street where he paints and sells artwork. I really liked his style aswell, looked abstract using watercolours and black outlines. He then explained how people in the hills have a tight community and help each other out as it's far to get the flat area and a long walk back up. We were going to meet a guy who lived in the hills. We walked up some stairs through an alleyway and knocked on a door. A man came out and we had to say 'Hola (his name, which I've forgot and don't think I pronounced right when we met him anyway)' and he came out with homemade traditional biscuits for us to try that were coated in chocolate and had dulce de leche in the centre. Yum! A lot of the buildings had really beautiful, interesting architecture and the guide also explained why some of the buildings were covered in iron sheets. They collected from old ships that came in from the port which helped stabilise the house during earthquakes. Because iron rusts they then painted the iron to protect them from the weather and used paints that the ships used which were all bright colours so they could be seen at sea. Hence why a lot of the buildings are colourful and make the city look very pretty. We ended the tour in a building a famous architect designed back in the day. The interiors were grand inside but we're now looking quite old and run down. Here the guide gave us a typical drink to try called chi Cha! It was like a very sweet wine. I didn't mind it. A good tour and great way to see the city considering we only had the afternoon to see Valparaiso. 
We need to get US money to hopefully exchange again on the black market when we go to Mendoza and back to Argentina. All the banks were shut by the time our tour ended and the ATMs didn't disperse US currency. We were worried (especially Matt) we wouldn't be able to get any out as the rate was so much better with this exchange. We ended up finding a money exchange place and withdrew Chilean pesos to change in to $US. It was now dinner time so asked the receptionist where a close place to eat. She said to just walk up the hill the end of our street our hostel is on and there were a few restaurants to choose from there. We went to a Chilean Restaurant which was nice and warm inside. The service and food was really good. Matt got cerviche and loved his and I had a vegetable gratin. Even though it was a nice restaurant we had to leave after a short dinner coz we still needed to book Mendoza accommodation and get some sleep for an early wake up to catch the bus there. We wanted to find some thing a bit nicer for our last destination and get a private room. A lot of the boutique vinyard accommodation was cheaper but too expensive for our traveller budget. We thought we would just book a private room in a nicer hostel, then Matt came across a cheap B&B but on the photos looked really nice. Situated a little out of the main town (but we are there for the vinyards and wine tours anyway) but I think it was on a small vinyard. Anyway we booked one night and it was getting late and just wanted to go to bed and then of we do t like it we can go somewhere else but hopefully we do because it will be nice to relax for the next 2 and 1/2 days instead of having to move around. After sleeping on airport seats last night I was excited to get some sleep in a proper bed. There was even no one else booked in to our 6 bed dorm so we had it all to ourselves, although we weren't really in there much. It would have been great to stay another day in Valparaiso instead of rushing it but lots of travellers we met talked it up (we actually didn't know about it before we left or were originally even going there ) we thought we'd better check it out for one day since it's so close to Santiago and then we can go straight to Mendoza from there afterwards. I'm glad we did, it was a very cool city and our hostel was really cool too :) 


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