Valparaiso

Mural by a wannabe Piccaso

Mural by a wannabe Piccaso

Dates visited: April 19, 2014

Our earlier plan was to spend three days in Santiago, but based on our interests, I realized we did not have enough things to do in Santiago. Thus, we decided to make a day trip to Valparaiso.

Valparaiso, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, means valley of paradise (as our guide told us). The city has a beautiful bay and the people are friendly, but given that it is largely poor, the infrastructure is in dire need of improvement. Most of the houses are built on hill (cerro) slopes and are so tightly crammed that it is difficult for fire trucks and emergency vehicles to reach them. I mention this because we visited Valparaiso just a few days after the April 12th fire that that killed 15 people and destroyed 2,000 homes. Over 10,000 people were evacuated. Our guide showed us abandoned houses from previous years that had been burned to the ground as the people did not have the money to rebuild them. But the touristy section of the city (Cerro Bellavista) was a different story—there were pretty, colorful houses with murals on them. There were very many fancy restaurants and you could feel a distinct difference in the vibe being here as opposed to other parts of the city.

We reached the hills by taking the few ascensores (funiculars) that are still in operation for tourists. Some seemed rickety and the operators filled in people with no regards to the maximum weight. It was particularly scary on Ascensor Reina Victorio that has a gradient of 52 degrees!

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