12.02.2017 - 05.03.2017 29 °C
I have to stop starting the blogs with what day it, first because they are starting to blur together (and yes it is likely due to the fact we are single handily boosting the Chile wine industry) and second my wifi access is limited and my roaming charges are obscene already (sorry Kevin).
Today (Thursday, February 16) we headed out of Santa Cruz to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, coastal towns northwest of Santiago. We drove ~350 km through the rolling hills and vineyards, through San Antonio, Chile's largest port (and we can vouch for the thousands of containers) into a charming city situation on the hills. Today's travel day solidifed my first impression, Chile is very well developed versus Peru and Ecuador (or at least where we were in them). The highways are every bit as good as home, very little litter and everyone has good infrastructure (water, power etc). You could easily rent a car and travel through this country on your own.
We rolled into town right around lunch time, checked into our cute boutique hotel (where we all got dubbed the Millers and now the ladies both want to be Jennifer Aniston) and waddled down the hill to source some food (and wine of course). Today's fare was ceviche for me (the seafood and lime here are amazing while the rest of the group embraced the Chilean love of sandwiches), yum!
After some adding some fuel to our bellies we met our local guide off for a tour of the area. We started in Viña del Mar the coastal resort city northwest of Santiago, Chile. It’s known for its gardens, beaches and high-rise buildings (think of it like Invermere to Calgary only instead of a lake it has an ocean). A brief stop to confirm there are sea lions in the area and witness the odd sand dunes (really sand that blows up and covers the bedrock) we continued on to see the only Moai outside Easter Island that was purportdly gifted (and not stolen, either way it saved us a trip to Easter Island)).
From Viña del Mar we continued along the shore front to Valparaiso, Greater Valparaíso is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. Valparaiso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, as a magnet for European immigrants, when the city was known by international sailors as "Little San Francisco" and "The Jewel of the Pacific". In 2003, the historic quarter of Valparaíso was declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
It is one of the most unique places I have ever seen (colours and hills of Cinque Terre, streets like San Fransisco and graffiti/murals everywhere). It is bursting with colour and the streets are narrow, steep and cobblestone. Our guide was a local girl born and raised in the city and was fantastic. We bombed around the city, poking our head in interesting buildings and even rode one of the 9 Veniculars still in operation.
We are now reflecting on our day, sipping a Sav Blanc (local of course) and staring out at the Pacific Ocean listening to the dogs bark (there are a lot of stray dogs in this country and I mean a lot (1 or 2 per block). We are still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that minimum wage is $400/month and a good salary is $2,400/month (USD) but the standard of living seems relatively high (few homeless, no one is pushy towards tourists, cleanliness etc). I am hoping I have more time in the next few days to contemplate this.
Okay, we are hungry (but just finished two bottles of amazing Sav Blanc) so off to source some food.
Until next time,